Paul Krugman thinks that Republicans are dumb, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals. In the not-too-distant future he sees a Republican half-wit delivering his acceptance speech as presidential nominee at the convention in grunts, beating his chest, and bopping his wife over the head with the a club as he drags her on to the stage by her hair.
Writing in The New York Times, Krugman says, “One of these years the world’s greatest nation will find itself ruled by a party that is aggressively anti-science, indeed anti-knowledge.
And, in a time of severe challenges – environmental, economic, and more – that’s a terrifying prospect.”
Terrifying indeed. What’s more frightening then the prospect of a bunch of underdeveloped orangutans with their finger on the nuclear button? But saying that Republicans are anti-science is about as accurate as saying that democrats are anti-religion, and one wonders which is more outrageous: the prospect of a primitive party of Republicans getting control of government, or a Nobel-prize winning columnist in one of the world’s most authoritative newspapers writing broad generalities about how they’re unlettered buffoons who hate learning and science.
What seems even more outrageous is the fact that Krugman’s ire was
piqued by Texas Governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick
Perry’s comment that evolution was “just a theory” and that it had “some
gaps in it.”
I am not a scientist. But beginning in about 1990, I started organizing
an annual debate at Oxford University on science versus religion where
the focus was almost always on evolution and which featured some of the
world’s greatest evolutionists, like Richard Dawkins and the late John
Maynard-Smith of the University of Sussex – then widely regarded as the
leading evolutionary theorist. While I moderated the first few debates, I
later participated in a debate against Dawkins at Oxford that he later
denied ever took place, forcing us to post the full video of the debate
online; in that video, it can be seen that Dawkins is not only the
principal proponent of the science side, but actually loses the debate
in a student vote. I later debated Dawkins again at the Idea City
Convention at the University of Toronto, the video of which is likewise
What I learned from these debates, as well as from reading extensively
on evolution, is that evolutionists have a tough time defending the
theory when challenged in open dialogue.
This does not mean that evolution is not true or that the theory is
without merit or evidence. It does, however, corroborate what Perry
said. Evolution is a theory. It has never been proven beyond the shadow
of a doubt to be true.
Indeed, Dawkins and the late and celebrated Harvard paleontologist
Stephen Jay Gould fiercely debated basic assumptions about evolution,
with Gould arguing that the large gaps in the fossil record make a
mockery of a theory of gradual evolution, which is why Gould advocated
“punctuated equilibrium” – a variation on Darwinism in which evolution
takes place in dramatic periods of change followed by long eons of
stasis. Gould maintained this position precisely because, as Perry said,
the theory of evolution has “some gaps in it” – in the case of the
fossil record, quite literally.
No scientist has ever witnessed evolution directly; science itself says
this is impossible given the vast amount of time needed for species to
Rather, evidence for evolution is found primarily in the fossil record,
and evidence for natural selection stems from some famous contemporary
observations. For example, prior to the Industrial Revolution, the vast
majority of peppered moths (Biston betularia), which can produce light
or dark offspring, were light in coloration.
However, with the rise in pollution during the Industrial Revolution,
the lichens and trees against which the light-colored moths habitually
hid from predators were darkened with soot, making the light-colored
moths conspicuous to predatory birds and allowing the dark moths to
A similar proof brought for natural selection is the Galapagos Finch,
which Darwin theorized was originally a single species but over time
changed very slowly in response to the demands of the environment.
For example, the large ground-finch had a big, powerful beak that seemed
well-suited to cracking open seeds, while the vampire finch had a long,
pointed beak, which allowed it to puncture the flesh of other birds and
drink their blood. In each case, Darwin reasoned, beak shape had
evolved over time to provide an adaptive advantage.
THE PROBLEM with both these observations is that they are manifestations
of horizontal, rather than vertical, evolution, as they document how
members of a species may change within the range of characteristics that
they already possess. No new traits are generated. Vertical evolution,
whereby natural selection can supposedly create entirely new structures,
has yet to be directly observed and is thus a theory.
Other challenges remain regarding evolutionary theory, most notably the
anthropic principle, which maintains that if the physical laws and
constants governing our universe were even slightly different, we would
not be here to notice it because the emergence of life could not have
The English cosmologist Sir Martin Rees argues in his book Just Six
Numbers that the values of six numbers determine to a great degree many
of the large- and small-scale properties of our universe, and if any of
these were changed, even slightly, the universe might not exist at all.
The second number, epsilon, which is roughly .007, describes, roughly
speaking, how durable matter is, because it tells us how much energy is
required to separate an atom into its constituent particles. If epsilon
were .006 – a difference of about 14% – the universe would consist
entirely of hydrogen. No other elements would form, because the process
of nuclear fusion could not occur. There would be no planets, very
little light, no nebulae, no comets and certainly no life.
The value of epsilon is one of the most profound mysteries of the universe.
Nobel laureate Richard Feynman, in his typically flamboyant way, said of
it: “It’s one of the greatest damn mysteries of physics: a magic number
that comes to us with no understanding by man. You might say ‘the hand
of God wrote that number...’” Many leading scientists, like Francis
Collins – described by the Endocrine Society as “one of the most
accomplished scientists of our time” – therefore believe that while
evolution may indeed be an accurate theory regarding the rise of life,
it still requires the guiding hand of a higher power in order to
Indeed, Dawkins himself said in a famous interview with Ben Stein that
the intelligent life in our universe may have come from “a higher
intelligence” consisting of space aliens that seeded our planet with
IN THE final analysis, however, the biblical account of creation easily
accommodates an evolutionary ascent, seeing as the narrative expressly
relates that God created the mineral, the vegetable, the animal and
finally human life forms in ascending order.
It would be wise of Krugman to remember that the very essence of science
is to question, and that stifling doubt is a sin of which religion has
been quite guilty in the past – one science should refrain from
repeating in the present.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is in the midst of founding GIVE, the Global
Institute for Values Education, and is the author of the upcoming book
The Church of Evolution. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiShmuley.