A Darwinist Religious Experience Described
As millions of Jews celebrate Passover, and as millions of Christians gather to celebrate Easter, a Darwinist reporter was experiencing “existential vertigo” – a sweeping sense of dizziness as her imagination zoomed in and out of the implications of her faith. It may be the closest thing that a secular materialist can call a religious experience. And religious experience is an accurate description: it was the outworking of an all-encompassing world view, with ultimate causes, ultimate destinies, moral imperatives, and heavy doses of faith.
Amanda Gefter (see her previous attack on creationism in the 02/26/2009 entry), attended a four-day Origins Symposium at the University of Arizona and wrote up her impressions for New Scientist. The event offered four days of lectures and debates from “the world’s leading scientists” – Brian Greene, AC Grayling, Steven Pinker, Steven Weinberg, Craig Venter, and (in absentia) Stephen Hawking. “It’s funny how pondering our origins – the origin of the universe, of life, of mind – leads us to question everything we thought we knew about ourselves in the here and now.” Apparently, she did not question anything that was said at the conference, because they took her for a ride from ultimate origins and ultimate destinies, as a religion might, and she was transfixed: “throughout the four days, I felt as if I could see myself – a small, strange Earth-bound creature – through the lens of a camera zooming in and out through space and time.”
The wild ride took her from a fictional multiverse, to alternate dimensions, to an evolutionary history no human being has observed, to questioning her own existence. Somehow, as a religion might, it included a moral dimension. Quoting Paul Davies, Gefter agreed, “If we are the only life in the universe, we have an enormous responsibility, a cosmic duty, to keep the flame of intelligence burning in the universe.”
Along the way, though, the sermons brought enough starfire and damnation to send her soul into outer darkness and despair. Consider these lines:
- What’s that in the distance? Another copy of myself? An infinite number of me?
- Back in this universe, I am nothing but a speck of dust. “You are cosmically insignificant,” [Lawrence] Krauss says. “We can get rid of you and all the aliens and all the stars and galaxies and the universe would be pretty much the same” – a sea of dark energy populated by islands of dark matter.
- I am nothing but a vast colony of my single-celled ancestors operating in near harmony….
- In some ways, I learn, I am no different than a fruit fly, and by looking at protein-coding genes, one cannot tell the difference in complexity between a human and a hydra.
- Our unique cognitive abilities are an “emergent acquisition based on the history of brain evolution, but not predicted by that history,” says Ian Tattersall.
- What a delicate history it is; littered with accidents, defined by contingencies. The tiniest changes in our evolutionary past would have led to dramatically different life-forms – and certainly not my own.
- There [in Africa], helped in part by a seafood diet rich in omega-3s, their [early human ancestor] brains developed the ability to think abstractly. That ability, superimposed on ancient brain structures, has built us into creatures that live largely in our own imagined worlds.
- Zoom in: Today I am nothing more than a haphazard mosaic patched together by evolution and time.
- …the only ideology I can grab hold of is uncertainty in the vastness of space and time.
- If I do exist – as a hive of single-celled organisms and microbes, as a mirror image from another universe, as a lucky accident of the African savannah – I can’t help but think that I am nothing more than an extreme fluke.
- What a tragedy it would be, he [Paul Davies] says, if we destroy ourselves and our planet, and in doing so “destroy the one small corner of the cosmos where the flame of reason is alight.”
Amanda’s head was swimming after four days of this. “I leave with more questions than answers,” she said, clinging to any self-esteem she might have left. But then Lawrence Krauss hit that with a final knockout blow. “The biggest misconception about science,” he said, “is that we are happiest when we understand things.”
People need the Lord. You should be weeping for Amanda Gefter and her friends who floundered in the darkness of their own imagination there in Arizona. Their religion offers them nothing but loneliness, emptiness, chance, insignificance, questions and despair. They think they are wise, but they are fools. Is it uncharitable to say that? Not if it helps them wake up and face reality. We know that what they are saying is folly, because nothing in their religion makes logical sense. They have cut the foundation of reason out from under their feet; they are in sinking sand. Their cosmology provides no basis for confidence in anything – their own existence, their science, their logic, their self-perception. Krauss fools himself into thinking he understands things when the whole conference questioned their own existence and relegated themselves to “creatures that live largely in our own imagined worlds.” On what basis, then, can they say the whole conference was nothing but living in an imagined world? They need to escape to reality.
This foolish world view leads where only folly can: to despair. They need to read the book of Ecclesiastes, written for people like this. It would be a good wake-up call. Without remembering one’s Creator, without fearing God and keeping His commandments, the only conclusion is “vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. That godly fear causes one to listen to His word. That word takes the soul lost in darkness and provides a remedy: forgiveness, love, and a relationship with our Maker, paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ, whose death and resurrection is celebrated by millions today on the basis of historical evidence and prophetic fulfillment, not on imagined worlds of one’s own making. He is risen; He is risen, indeed! Now there is sense. There is a cosmology that leads to a real cosmic responsibility (read I Corinthians 15). Don’t skip that last verse which, having built on on the solid foundation of verifiable history discussed prior, provides the impetus for living a vibrant, active, fulfilling, abundant life that makes sense, has a purpose, and has a joyful outcome. Instead of lamenting “vanity of vanities,” the Christ-follower can say with confidence that his or her “labor is not in vain in the Lord.”