Published in GralsWelt special issue 21/2008
After one hundred and fifty years of controversial discussion about Darwinism, we ask how the theory of evolution is received today and what its significance is.
This question is asked not only in relation to biology, but also in relation to the self-image of humans in the modern world.
Darwin's selection theory has initiated many other developments, some of which we should consider that were not sufficiently discussed in previous chapters:
The dynamic of life
As we observe, nothing in nature remains unchangeable, static, rigid. Everything is subject to constant change. Living beings too either have to evolve or their species will perish.
“Intelligent life on a planet reaches a state of maturity when it first realizes the reasons for its existence. Should more highly developed organisms from space ever visit the earth, then in order to assess our level of civilization they will first ask the question: 'Have you already discovered evolution?' Organisms had lived on earth for more than three billion years without knowing why, until finally one of them began to see the truth. His name was Charles Darwin. " Richard Dawkins
“History teaches that a theory that contains too many inconsistencies and arouses too much controversy will, at some point in the process, be subject to selection. The Ptolemaic worldview, according to which the earth is the center of the universe, fell victim to Galileo's superior theory at some point. What do the gloomy clouds that have drawn together over the theory of evolution mean? Could it be that we are facing a fundamental reformulation within the next generation? " Kevin Logan
This knowledge of the continuous change in nature also influences the self-assessment of humans, not only in relation to their environment. Knowledge of the ongoing changes in living things has an impact far beyond natural research and also requires a changing understanding of the world:
Because the compulsion to develop - analogous to natural evolution - also applies to all areas of human life. But where ongoing development seems essential, everything that already exists has to be questionable.
In keeping with the philosophy of the Enlightenment, religious revelations, for example, often no longer see eternal values, but moral norms that are to be understood in connection with the time of their creation and may need to be reevaluated.
Religions must constantly be examined, criticized and even questioned for their truthfulness.
Authoritarian forms of rule and social hierarchies are no longer considered God-given.
Many foundations that were believed to be secure, such as Christian ethics, are no longer common property; they have even faltered. So z. B. measure the unchallenged Christian basic truths that have been valid for centuries with Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Confucian, Taoist and other religious teachings or with other ethical principles.
Many people's attitude towards life is burdened with a feeling of insecurity, which is always associated with (too) rapid change. The usual authorities, so to speak, no longer comfortably relieve you of responsibility for your own decisions.
The compulsion to progress applies particularly to economics. Since the industrial revolution of the 19th and 20th centuries, and today in the age of globalization, every country has had to and must develop at an increasing pace. Only nations that keep pace with the rest of the world through technical innovations, economic adjustments, flexible citizenship and political reforms appear to be able to meet the challenges of the future.
From the 17th to the 19th century, the Age of Enlightenment was characterized by sometimes hostile disputes between science and the Church.
Because religious communities refused to accept obvious facts, scientists were driven - often against their will - into opposition to the entrenched dogmas. The associated anti-church tendencies are interpreted by clerics as atheistic.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the churches still had an apparently unshakable bulwark against the rampant materialism: The origin of life! Here natural scientists groped in the dark, while the Bible can come up with a creation story, which explains the existence of all beings through an act of will of God.
This line of defense of the faith was also shaken by Darwin. Just as astronomers can calculate the movements of planets without referring to God, so now also biologists have recognized the mechanisms - variation and selection - that seem to be decisive for the development of living things.
From now on every researcher had to concentrate on the actually observable facts; transcendent explanations were ruled out.
This limitation of the natural sciences to what can be known by earthly means is sometimes referred to as "systematic atheism".
Anti-church or atheistic endeavors - e.g. B. Ernst Haeckels Monism - interested a wide audience in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The churches seemed superfluous. Religions should be abolished as obsolete, as scientists like today Richard Dawkins demand. (See. "Better to abolish religions", Under" History of religion ").
A new self-image for people
In my opinion, the epoch-making ideological significance of Darwin's selection theory lies less in the fact that many of his contemporaries believed that he made God the creator superfluous. It is a question of faith that cannot be decided by scientific means.
Much more sustainable was and is that man was thrown from his throne as the “crown of creation”. The special position of man anchored in the Bible, called to rule over nature (Genesis 1:26), began to falter. The biblical mandate to rule the world is no longer binding! At least not in the form in which it has been understood for thousands of years.
A new self-understanding of humans as part of nature was forced: humans neither live on a particularly prominent star in the "center of the world", nor are they assigned a higher rank in the Darwinian worldview than that of a highly developed primate with a particularly large brain. One should not expect high moral standards or a pronounced sense of responsibility from an "intelligent monkey". Ruthlessness and willingness to use violence, on the other hand, can be explained as a consequence of the struggle for existence. (See. "The violent person, 'victim' of his development?", Under" History ").
This different image of man led - directly or indirectly - to a new view of living nature.
By Darwin biology has changed fundamentally. This is how the much discussed ecology came about today, a technical term that Ernst Haeckel coined.
For thousands of years people wanted to make nature available to themselves, to transform it according to their ideas. Clearing forests, cultivating soils, draining swamps were typical cultural achievements that improve the natural environment and create livelihoods for many (other) people.
Today there are z. B. in Central Europe hardly an untouched piece of nature. Almost everything is covered with houses, streets, fields, pastures, meadows, gardens, commercial forests. Even in mountainous regions that are difficult to access, there is hardly any space left for wild plants and animals that cannot adapt to the cultivated landscapes.
Ecology is now examining the diverse interactions in a habitat and recognizing the need for natural diversity, which is endangered by human interventions all over the world.
The human urge to make nature subservient is opposed to the assumption that every living being is important in nature, that even the absence of such forms of life, which we would like to do without, can have unforeseeable, serious consequences.
The old classification of animals into "useful", "harmful" or "indifferent", which can still be found in natural history books from the first half of the 20th century, is just as wrong from this point of view as the word "weeds" (today "weeds") ). There is nothing superfluous in nature. And humans are dependent on plants and animals, which in turn could get along without them.
Nature conservation is more than just a buzzword: Sufficiently large, natural habitats in all climatic zones are a prerequisite for the preservation of biodiversity and thus also for the future survival of mankind!
The Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess (born 1912) developed the deep ecological approach in 1973. He formulated a radical criticism of anthropocentrism, the millennia-old belief of the Abrahamic religions that people are at the center of everything that happens:
“Deep ecology ... is a movement in which one does not only do good for the planet in the interest of people, but also in the interest of the planet itself. That means, one regards the globe as a unit and speaks about the individual ecosystems, one tries to live them to receive as a value in itself. That is, in their own interest, how to do things for their own children or their own dog, without thinking of the dog as a means for their own enjoyment. Deep ecology starts from the philosophical or religious point of view that says that all living things are valuable and therefore need protection from destruction by billions of people. " (4).
at Naess every living being has its value. After all, all living beings are related to all other living beings because they carry the same genes! Accordingly, everyone should also get their rights to life. Ecosystems are to be preserved for their own sake, regardless of whether we humans can benefit from them or not. In this way, deep ecology approaches ancient Asian teachings with their universal respect for life.
From this line of sight appears homo sapiens through his behavior as the great troublemaker who massively threatens ecological equilibrium worldwide.
Occasionally it is from one "Eco-Malthusianism" spoken, who calls for the shrinking of the world's population; not only to maintain tolerable living conditions for humans in the long term, but especially in the interest of all plant and animal life, which owes its existence to the same Creator as we do!
The Gaia Hypothesis
The Gaia hypothesis developed at the beginning of the 1970s also requires a comprehensive view of our earth as a living space James Lovelock (born 1919) and Lynn Margulins (born 1938), about which we already spoke in the Grail World: (cf.Gaia's revenge", Under" Book Reviews "):
The Gaia hypothesis (from Gaia, the Greek name of the earth goddess) regards the entire planet as a living being. She assumes
"that life on earth actively regulates the surface conditions in such a way that they are favorable for the ensemble of organisms that currently inhabits them. Initially, this idea ran counter to school wisdom that life had adapted to planetary conditions and that both had developed separately. We now know that both the original Gaia hypothesis and that school wisdom were wrong. The hypothesis developed into today's Gaia theory and school wisdom developed into geosystem science."(3, p. 234).
The Gaia theory, with its holistic view of life on earth, goes far beyond the individualistic approaches of Darwinism, which focus on the survival of individual species or certain genes.
Today's attitude towards evolution
· For natural scientists, the - in many ways improved and expanded - evolution theory in the form of "synthetic theory" is one of the fundamental scientific findings that it is no longer possible to imagine life without.
· Philosophers have to incorporate Darwinism - whether they like it or not - into their worldview.
· The creationists' doctrine of creation, which conforms to the Bible or the Koran, is mostly perceived in the scientific world as an outflow of religious fanaticism that should not be taken seriously.
· Proponents of ID (Intelligent Design) theory can point to large gaps and serious shortcomings in the modern synthetic theory of evolution. Their approach to recognize extra-physical, intelligent, driving, creative forces as the cause of evolution is rejected by most of the established scientific authorities and has so far remained without a major response.
· Theologians, shocked by the naturalistic atheism initiated by Darwin, are forced to adapt their spiritual teachings. So z. B. in theology a place for animals (and plants) can be found and the question answered whether animals also “go to heaven”. If one sees animated beings in animals, it seems logical that an animal soul continues to exist after the body has died. Currently denied z. B. the Catholic Church nor the existence of animal souls. (See. Darwin Part 6 “The Dispute of the Century„).
· Religious communities become implausible if they continue to insist rigidly on literal interpretations of the religious doctrine of creation. Religions should no longer avoid reinterpreting their scriptures; they must find a convincing synthesis between natural history and z. B. the very condensed biblical description of divine acts of creation. Because this old revelation was intended for people of the first millennium BC and corresponded to their understanding of the world.
The future of Darwinism
It is uncertain whether a Darwinian-based development history will still be taught at the end of the 21st century. We have discussed some of the many, sometimes serious, objections to this influential theory in previous chapters.
Perhaps our quest for knowledge will move in the following direction in the 21st century:
· Can the most serious gaps in the fossil record be closed in a satisfactory manner in the course of further research and thus provide unassailable evidence of the progressive development of life in the course of natural history?
· Can the emergence of new species and genera through mutation and selection in nature be observed or reproduced in experiments? Which would clearly prove the Darwinian theory.
· Can an improved ID theory be integrated into evolutionary theory? Similar to how heredity became an indispensable part of neo-Darwinism.
· Does brain research meet the human soul sooner or later?
· Does the worldview of the future find a harmonious synthesis of materialism and spirituality, of science and religious experience? The first approaches in this direction seem to be evident in quantum physics.
· Can ideas of natural beings, other higher beings, or even of God be brought into a scientific worldview?
· Will a purified, spiritually constructive religion, far removed from all striving for power and all oppression, become an important crystallization core of human culture?
What will remain of Darwin's work?
In my opinion, people of the coming centuries will see in the great Englishman a scientist who has provided new facts and given important food for thought. Our current scientific worldview is inconceivable without Darwin.
Perhaps one day this worldview will be as outdated as Ptolemy's cosmos is today, but it remains a part of Western cultural history. And the name Darwin will be called with the same respect in the future as it is today Aristotlewhose physics has long been refuted (cf. "The most powerful invention in world history - The big blocker ", under" History ").
(1) Dawkins Richard, The Selfish Gene, Spectrum, Heidelberg, 2007.
(2) Logan Kevin, Crash Course Creation and Evolution, Brockhaus, Wuppertal, 2004.
(3) Lovelock James, Gaias Rache, List, Berlin 2007.