How Atheistic Is Darwinism?
Many evolutionary biologists argue that the theory of evolution is religiously neutral. Why then, does Nature, arguably the most widely read pro-evolution journal in the world, seem to go out of its way to glorify atheism and present religion as an evolutionary artifact? Clearly, whatever evolved as an adaptation by an unguided process cannot have any claim to Truth or correspondence to reality. Faith is contrasted with science, the closest thing man can ever come to knowledge of what is really out there. It goes without saying that this assumption leads to a completely atheistic view of the universe. Consider the latest issue:
- Rapprochement or human sacrifice? In an Editorial in the July 12 issue,1 Nature praised theistic evolutionist Francis Collins of the Human Genome Project for “reaching out, from an exalted position in the world of science, to the realm of faith” in his new book, The Language of God (Free Press, 2006). While calling his overture a “laudable ambition,” the editors also expressed anti-religious sentiments when criticizing the moral positions of religious leaders who oppose presumably scientific positions about stem cells and condom use:
They also irritate or enrage those (probably comparable in number) who are agnostics and atheists. After all, to many people, including scientists, the world simply makes more sense without the existence of God, and religious interventions are either offensive or irrelevant.
In response, some scientists are tempted either to publicly dismiss religious belief, or else to argue stridently against it. The latter approach is valuable in that it exposes religious dogmas to rational consideration and leads to their abandonment where they conflict with reality. But it is damaging if it fails to acknowledge the inability of science to deal with many of the issues that people face in their everyday lives.
No such qualification was provided against naturalistic or atheistic theories when they conflict with reality. It seems clear where the editors’ religious inclinations lie.
The editorial also pointed out Collins’ book was “unsparing in its criticism of both creationism and intelligent design,” but then was not impressed by his case for a Creator of any kind: “Even so, his reasons for believing in God and for becoming a devout Christian are unlikely to sway anyone who doesn’t already believe.”
- Tactics vs. Truth: Erika Check reported on Collins’ book in the same issue.2 Her opening lines were not particularly friendly to religion:
Is it really possible to combine dedication to science with belief in God? In a new book, prominent US scientist Francis Collins sets out his case for combining a strong religious faith with a zeal for the scientific method. But his views have already sparked debate, with critics suggesting that more talk of religion is the last thing that science needs.
After summarizing his position on theistic evolution, Check was quick to provide the counterthrust:
Many scientists disagree strongly with such arguments. Some suggest that science is on the defensive today – not just in the United States – and that society needs exactly the opposite of what Collins suggests: less talk about faith and more about reason. Religious concerns are largely behind the US law restricting federal funding of stem-cell research, for example. And many feel threatened by the influence of intelligent design in science education.
How many, and why, is not stated. As is common in atheist rhetoric, “faith” is contrasted with “science,” as if no religion cares about observable, historical evidence, and as if no scientists in their theories about the unobservable past ever employ faith.
Erika Check continues by quoting P. Z. Myers (see 7/09/2006), who calls Collins’ position “nonsense.” Staunchly anti-religious evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins gets the stage next. He is allowed to state without rebuttal, “I cannot see how this could be good for science – supernaturalism is fundamentally anti-scientific. Scientists work hard at trying to understand. Supernaturalism is an evasion of this responsibility. It’s a shrug of the shoulders.” While acknowledging that there might be good “tactical reasons” for trying to “get on” with religious people (particularly in the United States), Dawkins claims that “That is a perfectly reasonable political stance, but it has nothing to do with truth.”
Eugenie Scott’s ending comments seem tame by comparison. The staunch advocate of evolution-only in public schools thinks Collins’s approach is “helpful” to make a case for the compatibility of science and faith. Not that religion might have any validity does she say this, but merely to point out that the Dawkinses and Dennetts don’t speak for a “fairly sizeable proportion of non-theists who are not out to destroy religion.”
- Brain Dead Faith: In a book review in the same issue,3 Crispin Tickell spoke glowingly of a new book with this theme: “Religious belief can be viewed as an adaptation that was favoured as the human brain evolved.” The book is Lewis Wolpert’s Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast: The Evolutionary Origins of Belief (Faber and Faber, 2006). In the book Wolpert argues that at some point in primate history, a “God gene” became an essential part of the human condition, “Whether its products are true or not”. A bone is tossed to Richard Dawkins’ meme theory of religion. Criticizing those who make medical and life decisions on “faith” Crispin praises Wolpert for standing up for “science.” His paean to science sounds like a throwback to the days of logical positivism:
Wolpert firmly goes for science. Although science can be counterintuitive (he refers to “the unnatural nature of science”), it provides the only fundamental explanation of how the world works. It is in constant evolution as knowledge accumulates, it is self-correcting, and it is universally valid without cultural bias. It is much more than the kind of relative social construct suggested by some sociologists, and if we need a basis for belief, it is the best available. As Wolpert concludes, we have to respect the beliefs of others, but it is their – and our – actions that ultimately matter.
“Faith” (i.e., as Nature portrays it, the sum of all non-atheistic positions on anything) of course, gets no such respect (see either-or fallacy).
See also the op-ed piece by Albert Mohler on Daniel Dennett’s latest pro-Darwinist, anti-religion book Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. Mohler arguest that the “strident and condescending atheism of Dennett and Dawkins is actually the logical conclusion of the Darwinian project.”
1Editorial, “Building bridges,” Nature 442, 110(13 July 2006) | doi:10.1038/442110a; Published online 12 July 2006.
2Erika Check, “Genomics luminary weighs in on US faith debate,” Nature 442, 114-115(13 July 2006) | doi:10.1038/442114b; Published online 12 July 2006.
3Crispin Tickell, “God is bred,” Nature 442, 137(13 July 2006) | doi:10.1038/442137a; Published online 12 July 2006.
So here in one issue of the leading pro-evolution science journal in the world, you get three polemics for pure, unadulterated atheism, without any rebuttal or counterarguments. The only experts quoted are all atheists. Francis Collins is held up only for dismissal. Though he embraces complete evolutionary universal common ancestry, his insertion of the finger of God at the beginning immediately rules him out as having an intellectually valid position. Theistic evolution might be tactically astute for calming down the rabble of lunatics out there who don’t understand the Truth of Science, but don’t think for a moment of taking it seriously. That’s the message.
However unfair and despicable their unbalanced reporting might be, it is kind of sad. This is 2006 and they still are embracing logical positivism. This is the Information Age, and they still think it’s the Age of Reason. Don’t they realize that reason went out the door with Darwin? And that Darwin went out the door with the discovery of information as the fundamental basis of life? The Darwiniacs are exhibiting themselves as intellectual atavisms to a more primitive past when people who didn’t know better held the now-discredited faith position called the myth of progress. Carrying on as if nothing happened since 1859, the Tribe of the Clueless, oblivious to the merciful pleas of the missionaries trying to rescue them from intellectual darkness, still cling to their Victorian animism with chest-pounding and threatening grunts. An armed mind fears not the wroth of the People of Froth (10/24/2005 and 09/26/2005 commentaries),
Student Exercise: Judge which of two debaters is more likely correct on grounds of reason alone. Debater A claims that the religion of B evolved by unguided processes of natural selection. In support of his claim, he argues that religion is an emergent property of matter in motion. Debater B contends that the atheism of A is a corruption of the internal knowledge of God implanted in him by his Creator. In support of his contention, he argues that nothing comes from nothing, so the capacity for mind must come from Mind or else reason is an impossibility. Is A right, or is B right, or is neither position defensible on the basis of observation and reason alone? Write a short essay and support your position. As a footnote, decide if Nature was justified in its promulgation of position A to the complete exclusion of the case for B.