Can We Let Them Rest in Peace?

Vladimir Lenin, leader of the revolution that brought Communism to Russia 100 years ago, died in 1924. Since then, his body has been on display in a mausoleum in Moscow's Red Square. Scientists, using chemical baths and processes, have preserved the empty shell of his corpse—its brain and all its organs have been removed. Every now and then, they must "freshen up" the corpse with another treatment. Earlier this year, for the centennial, Lenin was fitted with a new set of clothes.

In 1991, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russian President Boris Yeltsin favored burying Lenin. That didn't happen for various reasons. The government refused to pay to maintain the corpse, but private donors stepped in. In 2011, in an online poll by Vladimir Putin's Russia United Party, 70 percent of respondents thought Lenin should be buried. Yet in 2001 Putin had opposed reburial as implying that generations of good Soviet citizens had supported false values. In 2016, the government set aside 13 million rubles to maintain Lenin's corpse.

Lenin's ideas about Communism, though now discredited, still linger in the shadows. Similarly, his corpse is still displayed in public, for it cannot be retired without the admission of grave failures.

This all reminds me of Charles Darwin. His unproven theory has been convincingly challenged, but few want to bury Darwinism by saying he was simply wrong about the origins of life and human beings. Few want to say that generations of good scientists supported false conclusions. So Darwinism lives on, supported by devoted scientists (and non-scientists) who occasionally freshen him up with new fossils or skulls or theories such as "memes." But the number of dissidents to Darwin's grand theory grows.

In 2012 Thomas Nagel, an atheist professor of philosophy at New York University, published Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. Nagel argued that human consciousness and mind are incompatible with Darwinian explanations for them; thus, he disbelieves Darwinism, though he still doesn't believe in God.

Last year, journalist and novelist Tom Wolfe roasted Darwin in his book The Kingdom of Speech. Wolfe, like Nagel, discerns a great chasm between animals and man because man has a mind—not just a physical brain. Citing "The Mystery of Language Evolution," a 2014 article in Frontiers of Psychology, he notes that even "heavyweight Evolutionists" are "throwing in the towel" on the question of how language evolved. The eight co-authors of that article conclude that "the most fundamental questions about the origins and evolution of our linguistic capacity remain as mysterious as ever." Not only that, notes Wolfe, they sound ready to abandon all hope of ever finding the answer.

Wolfe himself concludes that "to say that animals evolved into men is like saying that Carrara marble evolved into Michelangelo's David."

Even scientists who believe in evolution in some form have been throwing shovelfuls of dirt on Darwin's theory. Biologist J. Scott Turner has just completed Purpose & Desire: What Makes Something Alive and Why Modern Darwinism Has Failed to Explain It. He writes, "Modern Darwinism . . . is hollow at its core. It is an echo chamber" and has led our understanding of life to a scientific dead end. He also admits, "A deep intelligence is at work in life, its working, and its history, and it cannot be denied."

Also this year, Discovery Institute has published two more books against Darwinism. Tom Bethell, in Darwin's House of Cards, a provocative history of contemporary debates over Darwinism, depicts it as a 19th-century idea past its prime (see "The Darwin Tales"). And Jonathan Wells relates how old, discredited evidence and arguments for Darwinism are being resurrected and desperately rehashed. Like Lenin's handlers, those responsible for such ploys are trying to freshen up a corpse. Wells's book is appropriately titled Zombie Science: More Icons of Evolution (see "Zombie Killer").

Thus, Salvo comes to help bury, not to praise. . . . You are invited.

is the executive editor of Salvo and Touchstone magazines.

This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #42, fall 2017 Copyright © 2019 Salvo |