In 2009 the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s The Origin of Species, which laid the foundations for the theory of evolution, revived the debates around Darwinism and the opposition it continues to arouse. In this article Jacques Arnould shows that the veritable crusade launched against the theory of evolution by a great variety of groups has to be taken seriously.
In the first two parts of his article, he points up the “intellectual” origin of the opposition and shows, in particular, that the relatively strong creationist upsurge in the United States has also spread to the Muslim world and has for some years now been carried forward by a more subtle school of thought dubbed “Intelligent Design”. Whereas creationism was religious in origin (in American Protestant and conservative movements), it would seem that the advocates of Intelligent Design do not all argue in religious terms grounded in biblical interpretation. Arnould examines the scientific character of this approach, which he regards as a misguided and unjustified alternative to the current theories of evolution.
Even if a tradition of secularism protects French society in a way from the excesses of American-style creationism, Arnould takes the view (in the third part of his article) that we in Europe must take the debates around Darwinism and creationism seriously, since the hostility of certain groups to evolutionary theories carries with it an erroneous understanding of the sciences, in which ideological presuppositions are involved. Moreover, teachers cannot avoid raising the question of origins and its philosophical implications (and this is also true for theologians).
Arnould thus advocates a “philosophical approach to biology”, in order to avoid dogmatic, reductionist or fundamentalist excesses. The question is an important one, given the increasing role of the life sciences in our societies.