Meet the Materialists, part 1: Eugenie Scott, "Evolution Evangelist"
Modern Darwinists like Richard Dawkins notwithstanding, there is nothing new in the effort to offer completely materialistic explanations of human beings and human culture. For more than two millennia various thinkers have been trying to reduce human beings to mere meat in motion. Many of these thinkers figure prominently in my new book Darwin Day in America, and over the next several weeks, I will be describing some of them here.
I start today with Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, and self-proclaimed "evolution evangelist."
When talking to the mainstream media, Scott goes to great lengths to argue that Darwin's theory is perfectly compatible with religion and to distance herself from the fervor of anti-religious zealots like Richard Dawkins. Indeed, Scott's group has gone so far as to develop a curriculum to promote evolution in churches and has even helped design a tax-funded website that attempts to persuade teachers that Darwin's theory is good theology!
Since most Americans believe in God, these efforts undoubtedly represent clever public relations on Scott's part. Whether they represent more than that is questionable. Like most leading evolutionists, Scott herself is certainly not personally sympathetic to religion. A few days ago, for example, she was a featured speaker at the "Crystal Clear Atheism" conference sponsored by the Atheist Alliance International. There she shared the podium with such atheist attack-dogs as Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens.
Scott's PR campaign to smooth over the tensions between faith and Darwinism has drawn the ire of some fellow evolutionists. Biologist Massimo Pigliucci, for example, has accused Scott of being "intellectually dishonest" on the religion issue because she seems to argue publicly that modern science has no problem with a belief in "a personal god [who] intervenes in every day events." In Pigliucci's view, this is precisely the sort of religious belief that Darwin's theory does refute, and he suggests that Scott is being less than candid in her public comments by not saying so. According to Pigliucci, Scott herself indicates that she is a philosophical naturalist who does not believe in God, but she says she embraces that position for "personal" rather than scientific reasons. Relying in part on personal correspondence with Scott, Pigliucci found Scott's explanation wanting because the "personal reasons" identified by Scott turned out to be "her deep understanding of science and of evolution in particular."
But one doesn't need to rely on private correspondence to ascertain Scott's real views on religion and evolution. In 2003 she signed a public document called the Humanist Manifesto III, which celebrates "the inevitability and finality of death" and proclaims that "humans are... the result of unguided evolutionary change." By specifically citing "unguided evolutionary change" as part of its case for "a progressive philosophy of life... without supernaturalism," this manifesto clearly suggests that evolution properly understood contradicts belief in a personal God. Did Scott fail to understand this document when she signed it along with such anti-religious zealots as Richard Dawkins and Michael Shermer? Do I really need to answer that question?
None of this is to deny that there are theistic evolutionists who sincerely believe that evolution and faith are compatible. Perhaps the most prominent of these theistic evolutionists is Roman Catholic biologist Ken Miller at Brown University, author of the book Finding Darwin's God. For an examination of whether Miller's arguments for the compatibility of Darwinism and faith are any more convincing than Scott's, you can read chapter 10 of Darwin Day in America.