Richard Lewontin


In Evolution:A Scientific American Book, San Francisco: Freeman

Living organisms "appear to have been carefully and artfully designed."p114-125.

"Billions and Billions of Demons"

in the NY Review of Books, 1/7/1997

"Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.

It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated.

Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen. "
Cited by Neil Thomas, "Taking Leave of Darwin", p97.

This quote was in Lewontin's review of Carl Sagan's last book. It was cited by Lennox on p61 of Can science explain everything?

John Lennox makes an interesting observation about this quote on p35 of his "God's Undertaker".
"And what, in any case is the precise force of the word 'cannot' in connection with allowing a Divine foot in the door? If, as Lewontin says, science does not force us to be materialists, then the 'cannot' clearly does not refer to science as being incapable of pointing in the direction of a Divine foot. It must simply mean that 'we materialists cannot allow a Divine foot in the door'. Well, of course, it is a tautology to say that 'materialists cannot allow a Divine foot in the door'. Materialism rejects both the Divine foot and, come to think of it, the door as well. There is after all, no 'outside' for a materialist - the 'cosmos is all that is, was, or ever shall be'. But that rejection carries no implications whatsoever about the existence of such a foot or door beyond the mere unsubstantiated assertion that Lewontin personally does not believe in either of them."

A further quote from Lewontin's review: "The primary problem is not to provide the public with the knowledge of how far it is to the nearest star and what genes are made of .. Rather, the problem is to get them to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth."

Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA

New York: Nyrev, Inc, 1991

"Darwin's whole theory of evolution by natural selection bears and uncanny resemblance to the political economy of early capitalism as developed by the Scottish economists. Darwin had some knowledge of the economic survival of the fittest because he earned his living from investment in shares he followed daily in the newspapers. What Darwin did was take early nineteenth century political economy and expand it to include all of natural economy." p10

This is cited by Bethell in his "Darwin's House of Cards", p64 comments that Lewontin as well as Gould had Marxist leanings and were critical of natural selection because it resembled capitalism.

Testing the Theory of Natural Selection

Nature 236, no. 5343 (1972); 181-182
"For what good is a theory that is gauranteed by its internal logical structure to agree with all conceivable observations, irrespective of the real structure of the world? If scientists are going to use logically unbeatable theories about the world, they might as well give up natural science and take up religion. Yet is that not exactly the situation with regard to Darwinism?"
Scientists of Faith Opponents of Faith Other Commentators
  Reasonable Faith Go Back