In America today, and increasingly in other parts of the world, you can see the above-right image (a fish with feet) proudly displayed on car windows, bumpers and the like. It is intended to signify support for rationality over superstition in general, and in particular for the Darwinian evolutionary account of biological history over the wish by some people to bring in miraculous “explanations”. However, the image is also a deliberate subversion of a Christian symbol (the fish, drawn a certain way, as shown above left), so it also implies or suggests a piece of pure illogic.
Gregor (Johann) Mendel
There seems to be a bit of a tussle going on over who can lay claim to the work of Gregor Mendel, the Augustinian monk who pioneered the quantitative study of inheritance and thus genetics. Was he a religious man doing good scientific work, an example of the fact that the two not only go together, but the former can promote the latter? Or was he a deist, perhaps a closet atheist, making a pragmatic choice to go along with some irksome religious constraints in order to gain the leisure to practice science without any genuine recognition of the role of prayer, or of the leadership shown by Jesus of Nazareth? For example, in his book The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins (writing a brief statement on this) chose to say
Well, it is the evolutionary story, of course. The story of simple beginnings, and gradual development; the story of characteristics inherited through genes, with slight adjustments that accumulate over the generations. The story of finite lifespan in an environment offering limited resources, with the consequent filtering process known as natural selection. All this can be discovered by scientific research, and it has been so discovered by all the people who joined in with the mainstream scientific community.
But what is the story of this story? What kind of a narrative do we have here? Is it tragedy? Or a comedy of errors? Or a heroic epic? Or farce? Or is it a tale of boundless exploration? Or a triumph of the aggressive? Or a triumph of the adaptable? Is it the story of brute force? Or is it the story of courage in spite of brute force? A story of increasing depth of experience? Is it a good story? Is it a story of good? Is it good?
In the animated film Shrek ( PDI/DreamWorks 2001) there is a memorable scene in which the ogre Shrek asks if anyone knows where to find the ruler Farquaad, and Donkey jumps up and down shouting out “Pick me! Pick me! Me! Me!” It is memorable because Shrek does not particularly want to pick Donkey, and because Donkey is brought so much to life by the actor Eddie Murphy, in what must rank as one of the greatest ever animation voice-overs, and because we recognize the scene. It is the scene played out in classrooms, sports-fields, magic shows, family parties, toddler groups, wherever a bunch of eager children want to have a go at something that looks fun, though they don’t necessarily know what it may involve.