express the fervent wish that we set ournsails to pass safely between the Scyllanof willful blindness to such cultures asnthat of China, in the hope that suchnxenophobia will help us restrengthennour fraying Western roots, and thenPhysicists & PublicistsnAfter isiting England in the earlyn18th century, Voltaire reported innhis Letters Concerning the EnglishnNation that the entire country wasnabuzz with talk about the genius ofnthe man who had captured gravitynin a formula. Yet there were “fewnwho read Newton . . . owing to itsnrequiring much learning to be ablento comprehend him.” Een greaternerudition is required today to penetratenthe professional articles andnbooks written by leading researchersnin astrophysics or eolutionary biology.nBut just as bltaire popularizednNewtonian physics by translatingnthe equations into anphilosophical perspechve alien tonNewton’s own thought, contemporarynvulgarisateurs of science cannotnresist the temptation to smugglenin their own metaphysical conjecturesnalong the way.nThe Unfinished Universe by LouisenB. Young (New York: Simon andnSchuster; Sn.95) is a case in point.nYoung has made a career of writingnabout science for laymen as a scienceneditor and as author of suchnworks as Earth’s Aura and The BluenPlanet. She does a fair job of outliningnthe latest theories of the BignBang, of explaining new ideasnabout evolutionary dynamics, andnof coNcring the debate among cosmologistsnover the final fate of thenunierse. Aside from the inevitablenoversimplification, the chief problemnwith the book is Young’s attemptnto pass off her own quasireligiousnBig Picture as scientificallynrespectable. Young finds it distastefulnthat the Second Law of Thermodynamicsnis as stern as thenProphets in promising that “thenheavens shall vanish away likensmoke, and the earth shall wax oldnlike a garment.” This gloomy no-nCharybdis of undiscriminating empathynfor other religious cultures, in thendesperate hope of relocating Ithaca (ornseveral Ithacas!) elsewhere. For thoseninterested in other cultures today, thengreater of the two dangers appears to benREVISIONSntion is “blocking the developmentnof more positive views of the physicalnworld.” Young wants “positivenconcepts . . . capable of bringingnabout a resurgence of belief in ourselves.”nThe creation as a DalenCarnegie course!nLike most modern pantheists,nYoung wants to have it both ways.nShe denies that evolution has beennsupernaturally directed towards anynpredestined end—that would benthe heresy of orthogenesis. Yet shenwants to believe that order andnprogress are somehow inscribed innthe heart of the atom. Christianitynproved useful by providing a “doctrinenof positive change” essential tona theory of progressive evolution,nbut Christian transcendence mustnbe discarded, even if that meansnthrowing out every plausible explanationnfor mind, consciousness, ornsin. ‘To hear Young tell it, the evilsnof a Stalin or a Hitier are one withnthe inconvenience of tapeworms ornviruses.nTo her credit. Young does turnnmany cold scientific issues into engagingnhuman questions. At timesnshe writes with a passionate appreciationnfor the beauty and wonder ofnnature. Pantheist devotion is oftennmore appealing than materialistnskepticism: John Keats is a betternread than Herbert Spencer. Butnmost readers will eventually tire ofnthe untidy sentimentality.nUnfortunately, Young is rightnwhen she complains that most scientistsnare “specialists, dealing withnvery narrow segments of the physicalnworld, and they do not regularlynconcern themselves with broadnphilosophical problems.” This insouciancenabout first principlesnprevalent among scientists permitsnpopularizers like Young or ideologuesnlike Jeremy Rifkin to set thentone of public dialogue about thennnnot intolerance, but, on the contrary,nintoxication with the differences at thenexpense of responsible explorationn(such as that initiated by C.S. Lewis)nfor the ground of common belief.nsciences. We need only turn to thenwork of Stephen Jay Could or R.C.nLewontin to see how far sciencenmay be politicized, and any numbernof otherwise sober biologists endnup echoing the half-baked ideasnabout progressive evolution promulgatednby tenderminded publicists.nThis careless and secondhand approachnto philosophy leaves distinguishednphysicists and molecularnbiologists open to the attack MarynMidgley mounts in Evolution as anReligion: Strange Hopes andnStranger Fears (New York: Methuen).nMidgley admits that the “distortions”nof evolution into a substitutenreligion are typically confinednto “remarks [that] appear in thenopening or closing chapters ofnbooks,” usually trade books, andnthat the scientists who write thisnstuff regard it as mere “flannel fornthe general public.” It is somewhatndisingenuous of her to extract onlynthe purple passages from otherwisencareful and useful books. But she isnjustified in exploring the implications.nWhy do rigorous scientistsnpick up their vision of human destinynoff the supermarket magazinenrack? What it reveals, in fact, is thenreligion of evolution, a system ofnsuperstition older than Darwin.nIn fact, the mystical “evolutionism”nof a Teilhard de Chardin is atnodds with the ruthless materialismnof natural selection. The roots ofnDarwinism go deep into the historynof science—back to Aristotie andnEmpedocles—while evolutionismnis the fanciful creation of progressivenoptimists like Condorcet. Thenformer must be judged critically: Itnwill stand or fall by the evidence.nThe latter, however, is a moral andnspiritual heresy which deserves tO’nbe extirpated by the gentie methodsnof the Inquisition.nAUGUST 1986 / 29n