Evolutionary Theorizing: Only Atheists Need Apply
Simon Conway Morris is a thorough-going evolutionist and anticreationist. You would think that would make the editors of Science happy, but on Dec. 5 they printed a scathing review by Douglas E. Irwin1 of his recent book Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe. Though Morris accepts the full story of Darwinian common ancestry, he retains enough of a veiled deistic perspective to propose that humans, instead of being the product of completely blind, directionless, purposeless natural causes, were somehow predetermined from the start. For this, he gets almost the same boot as the worst idiot enemies of science–the creationists:
Many biologists, particularly those who have valiantly fought battles against creationists and other know-nothings, may fling this book across the room, convinced that Conway Morris is providing aid and comfort to the enemy. The author’s position is, however, considerably more nuanced, as he attempts–though not particularly successfully–to chart a path simultaneously opposing creationism, Stephen Jay Gould, and Richard Dawkins. Indeed part of the sport of the book lies in watching him attempt such implausible intellectual gymnastics. (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Harsh words, indeed. Irwin ridicules this view as “The Goldilocks Hypothesis.” Simon Conway Morris leans heavily on the ubiquity of convergence in the natural world to make his point, and also discusses the anthropic principle as evidence for some kind of purpose for our existence. Irwin is not amused:
Evolution will not fall nor creationists triumph because another evolutionary biologist has proclaimed that he finds natural theology personally appealing as a way of understanding the complexity of the world. The ubiquity of convergence does raise real issues for evolutionary biology, but that is hardly a novel observation. Life’s Solution remains an artfully constructed retrospective fallacy: that we are here is so improbable that our presence must signify a purposeful universe. Perhaps, although I doubt it, and with n = 1 the evidence is insufficient to make any judgment. Life is wonderful, whether we understand it in a metaphysical sense or not. Ultimately, all our presence may signify is that we are here–for the moment.
1Douglas H. Irwin, “The Goldilocks Hypothesis,” Science Volume 302, Number 5651, Issue of 5 Dec 2003, pp. 1682-1683.
The Charlie parley is getting snarly. Join the club, Simon. Sit here with Henry, the other Dr. Morris, and let him nurse your wounds. I hope this teaches you a lesson. The evolutionary science establishment has no tolerance for compromise. You might as well become a young-earth creationist and you would get more respect. As it is, you are acting like the proverbial pacifist wearing the Union jacket and the Confederate trousers. You’re getting blasted from both sides. At least the creationists try to be civil and fight like gentlemen.
To his credit, Irwin admits to the problems of convergence and complexity. He can mildly tolerate a position of ignorance, that our lack of understanding of convergence and anthropic parameters might mean we cannot understand the world and have to leave it at this: “We’re here because we’re here.” (This could also mean, “We’re here because we’re not all there.”) But even this concession is consistent with pure atheism. What is not tolerable is any hint of purpose or direction to the evolutionary process. Utter a peep on that and you are a “know-nothing” at best, and “the enemy” that must be destroyed.
Eugenie Scott, director of the NCSE (the “keep creation out of the schools” lobby group), has stressed in her public debates with Phillip Johnson and other intelligent-design or creationist spokesmen that evolutionists are not at all hostile to religion. If you want to believe there is meaning and purpose to life, that is fine and wonderful. Science has no problem with religious faith. Why, even many evolutionists have their own religious beliefs, which is OK on their own time (just not in the science lab). She has been so emphatic on this point, she makes it seem like her opposition just doesn’t understand how nice evolutionists really are. In debate at least, she narrows her point to the “rules of science,” argument, that one must only study natural causes when doing science (methodological naturalism). Though there may be atheists who are evolutionists, she denies that metaphysical naturalism is a necessary part of Darwinian theory.
If that were true, why is that any time anyone, even a convinced evolutionist like Simon Conway Morris, tries to present even the slightest hint of design or purpose, he gets blasted? Look what they did to William Dembski (see 07/11/2002 headline), whose book No Free Lunch used only scientific and mathematical arguments to support the validity of design detection. Phillip Johnson has been one of the key debaters to see through the fraud of Scott’s false dichotomy of methodological vs. metaphysical naturalism. He shows that there is no difference in practice, because if you exclude intelligent causes from the outset, what is there for a Designer to do? If a Designer is not allowed to influence natural causes in any real sense, how can he be gainfully employed? Theistic evolutionists are kidding themselves. The Darwinists do not want God even to start the big bang, let alone direct anything, at any time, in any way. Johnson has also exposed the doubletalk of Darwinists who pretend that evolutionism has no impact on religious belief (see commentary from 01/14/2002 headline).
The only way you can satisfy the Darwin Party is to agree 100% with metaphysical naturalism: that nature is all there is, and that humans are the product of blind, purposeless forces that did not have them in mind. Can you name any book review in a science journal that has an ounce of toleration for anything other than 100% conformity to the reigning philosophy of pure atheism? Astronomer Owen Gingerich gets to speak his mind on occasion (see Feb. 12 headline), but usually only when talking about history, when people didn’t know better. Try to find a biologist in a science journal admitting to any kind of purpose or intelligence behind the process of evolution, and it will be a long search. Eugenie Scott is sending those who believe her disclaimer on a snipe hunt just to get them out of the way.
If nothing else, this kind of article should reveal the real agenda of the Darwin Party. It’s not about science. It’s about allegiance.