Tuesday, September 26, 2006

When worldviews collide

To most persons, nature appears calm, orderly, and peaceful. They see the birds singing in the trees, the insects hovering over the flowers, ... and all living things in possession of health and vigour, and in the enjoyment of a sunny existence. But they do not see, and hardly ever think of, the means by which this beauty and harmony is brought about. They do not see ... the constant and daily search after food, the failure to obtain which means weakness or death.

A.R.Wallace, "Darwinism"
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Jesus isn't talking about the struggle for survival here - he is pointing out to his followers that there isn't one. Hence the clash of worldviews.

Of Wallace's argument (which is also present in "The Origin of Species"), David Stove says:
Almost everything that could be wrong is wrong with this reply of Darwin and Wallace. First, as to its method. It is an unsatisfactory way of defending a scientific theory, when it is objected that what it predicts is not observable in one area, to reply that that is not a problem, because what it predicts is not observable anywhere else either.
Later on he says:
What would it be like, even, to meet a man who really believed that there is a Darwinian struggle for life among humans? Even this, as far as I know, never happens, and never has happened. Which is certainly a very great mercy. But it is not at all difficult, on the other hand, to imagine meeting such a person.

He would be a man who actually believed that he is struggling for his life, all the time, against his parents, children, wife, neighbours, the postman, the doctor, the Lord Mayor..., and also believes that everyone else is in exactly the same case. What could we possibly make of this most unfortunate man? His mental state, because of its obvious affinity with certain more familiar pathological states, might aptly be named paranoia darwiniensis. In any case it would be clear that he is in some extremely dreadful delusionary state. Nor would any cure seem at all possible, unless it began with someone's convincing him that Darwin's theory of evolution is false