I was discussing about books with a fellow book lover. He had stepped into the airport book store to buy books are returned empty handed. On display was Richard Dawkins’ ‘God Delusion’ and I asked him why he didn’t pick it up. He said he did not like him much and said, “Many of his assumptions require a leap of faith on the part of the readers and I wonder why he criticizes faith in god. If he is so against faith and belief he should make sure all he says and writes are based on facts alone. These atheists are big hypocrites”.
I remembered another conversation which I had with another book lover. He said “ it makes sense that all scientist are atheist because religion and science are as opposite as things can.”.
Are all scientist atheist? All the famous one seem to be tending towards agnosticism, right from Einstein to Hawkins. But not all of them. Have you heard of Alfred Wallace? The first scientific paper on evolution by natural selection was presented jointly be Darwin and Wallace. In fact he is as much a father of Theory of Evolution as Darwin was.
However these two brilliant biologists differed on evolution of human beings. Wallace argued that human beings differed from animals in two respects in the context of evolution.
In the course of evolution human beings encountered a very powerful force called culture. Once language and writing was developed, we could just pass on the accumulated knowledge of the ages to our progeny thus making them more intelligent and more equipped to adapt to the environment. Culture propels human evolution making us absolutely unique in the animal kingdom. To survive in the Artic, Polar Bear required millions of years of evolution to develop a fur coat. Whereas a man learnt how to kill a bear and use its coat for protection and pass on this information to his children thus enabling them to survive in the Artic.
Secondly, Wallace said our brain is endowed with what he calls ‘potential intelligence’. It has much more capacity then what evolution can explain. If you take a tribal child who has always lived in the forest and give him a modern education, there will be no difference in his capacity for education and that of a child bought up in the city. A capacity for appreciating music or deciphering algebra is not something which was required for survival. This is very different from the way evolution operated. Evolution is by nature reactive. Any adaptation is a response to an environmental change. It can never preempt like what seems to have happened with the human brain. In fact, both Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon cranial capacities are larger than ours and it is possible that their potential intelligence was equal to or even greater than Homo sapiens.
How is it possible that such latent intelligence emerged in prehistoric brains but have only been realized / required in the last one thousand years? Wallace says “ It was done by god. Some higher intelligence must have directed the process by which the human intelligence developed”. And this is where Darwin and Wallace parted ways.
I don’t know what was Darwin’s counter argument was, but I would love to know your view on this subject.
Reference : Phantoms in the Brain by VS.Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee