Monday, June 12, 2006

The Sacred Cow of Modern Academia

John Sanford, a longtime Cornell professor, provides some observations about Darwinian fundamentalism in academia, as quoted in this post. He is commenting on his book Genetic Entropy & the Mystery of the Genome:
In retrospect, I realize that I have wasted so much of my life arguing about things that don’t really matter. It is my sincere hope that this book can actually address something that really does matter. The issue of who we are, where we came from, and where we are going seem to me to be of enormous importance. This is the real subject of this book…

Modern Darwinism is built on what I will be calling “The Primary Axiom”. The Primary Axiom is that man is merely the product of random mutations plus natural selection. Within our society’s academia, the Primary Axiom is universally taught, and almost universally accepted. It is the constantly mouthed mantra, repeated endlessly on every college campus. It is very difficult to find any professor on any college campus who would even consider (or should I say – dare) to question the Primary Axiom….

Late in my career, I did something which for a Cornell professor would seem unthinkable. I began to question the Primary Axiom. I did this with great fear and trepidation. By doing this, I knew I would be at odds with the most “sacred cow” of modern academia. Among other things, it might even result in my expulsion from the academic world.

I think that he may overstate how much acceptance there is of what he calls the Primary Axiom in academia generally. I think there are plenty who would question it, depending on the kind of institution and the person's field of study. I think he is closer to being correct if he limits himself to the worldviews of those in the scientific community or among biologists.

On the other hand, I think that his fear of challenging Darwinian theory is shared by many.