I know this will come as an enormous shock, but William Demsbski has – yet again – misrepresented what someone else has said on the subject of evolution. This time it’s Leo Tolstoy, for some strange reason. Dembski writes:
Leo Tolstoy’s last completed letter, dictated from his sick-bed at the Astapovo train station on November 1, 1910 (six days before his death), and addressed to his son Seryozha and daughter Tanya, included a warning that Seryozha should not allow himself to be seduced by Darwinism. Here is the relevant passage:
“The views you have acquired about Darwinism, evolution and the struggle for existence won’t explain to you the meaning of your life and won’t give you guidance in your actions, and a life without an explanation of its meaning and importance, and without the unfailing guidance that stems from it is a pitiful existence.”
Except that relevant passage doesn’t support his representation of it. He’s not warning his son not to be “seduced by Darwinism”, he’s telling his son – quite rightly, in my opinion – that Darwinism can’t answer every question for him. Evolution is not a “theory of everything”, it is a theory that explains the development of the biodiversity of life on earth. And that’s all it explains. We may well be able to learn things from the study about some of the primary inputs to human nature, but it will not explain the meaning of life to us, nor does it attempt to.
Evolution is descriptive, not prescriptive, so it cannot answer moral questions for us – and again, it does not attempt to do so (yes, there are philosophers who have attempted to build an evolutionary explanation for various ethical choices, but these are philosophical inferences drawn from the science, not intrinsic to the scientific conclusions themselves). Dembski has taken a perfectly reasonable statement about the limits of scientific inquiry and turned into a warning against such inquiry.