Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Prophet George Jackson Mivart

Evolutionary paleobiologist Simon Conway Morris on the naturalist and Roman Catholic St. George Jackson Mivart, Ph.D., M.D., F.R.S., V.P.Z.S., F.Z.S., who "never doubted evolution but saw little merit in natural selection and became one of Darwin’s fiercest critics" — The Persistent Paradox of Human Uniqueness.

Prof. Conway Morris can be rather twitty, but his description of the debate between "Darwin's Bulldog" and the man 'whom Darwin styled the "distinguished biologist'" is insightful; in short: "While [T.H.] Huxley swooned over the primroses lining the path to his imagined utopian future, Mivart smelled the ovens of Auschwitz."

Other interesting points mentioned are atheist Australian philosopher David Stove's arguments "that all that makes us human falls far beyond any Darwinian explanation" and the author's suggestion that "it is no accident that when Darwin came to explain how matter became rational he lost his nerve."

[N.B.: Mivert's given name was "Saint George," he was not canonized. Indeed, the author notes, "he was effectively excluded from his beloved Catholic Church, and even denied a Church burial" (but not due to his "dogged adherence to the realities of evolution," but rather because he "accepted the doctrine of Hell but did not deny its occupants happiness." (He was reburied on consecrated ground.) If he were to be canonized, would he be Saint Saint George?]

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Omnes Sancti et Sanctæ Coreæ, orate pro nobis.