A Point of Light
Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is a religious theory in the sense that it is based on powerful theological claims. Over the past four centuries these beliefs have influenced and even dominated science, and if anything have grown even stronger since Darwin. They form the foundation and ultimate justification for today's theory of evolution. As evolutionist Ken Miller rhetorically asked, would God "really want to take credit for the mosquito?" Evolution, in one form or another, must be true.
But theists are not the only ones using religion to mandate this rigid form of naturalism. Ironically, religious skeptics are just as capable of making God-wouldn't-create-the-species type arguments. David Hume is a well known historical example, though many of his ideas trace back to English skeptics from earlier in his century. Today, the likes of Richard Dawkins continue the tradition of atheists proclaiming theological truths in the name of science.
It is interesting that these sermonizing skeptics are not innocently drawing the necessary consequences of universal theological principles. Rather, these atheists apply naïve and simplistic metaphysical notions to deep theological issues. They think their atheism clarifies those deep waters, but they are just as wedded to the god of the philosophers as are the rest of the evolutionists, from Darwin to Miller. One of the great tragedies in the history of thought is that the great intellect of David Hume never rose above the pedestrian theologies of his day to arrive at a meaningful and lasting critique.
These nuances of today's origins debate are rarely discussed. That is why it was a pleasure to see science writer Jeremy Manier shine a light in this direction in his recent Chicago Tribune piece, "The New Theology." Of atheists and creationists, he writes:
In a curious way, Dawkins and his fellow scientific atheists espouse the same notion of God that drives their sworn enemies, the creationists who oppose teaching evolution in public schools. For both camps, the only God who makes sense is one who designed all life with exquisite attention to detail. Scientific atheists disavow such a religion; creationists embrace it.
What does it mean for atheists to embrace a particular religious belief rather than dispassionately survey the field? Apparently, though they are atheists, they nonetheless can describe the attributes of God. And that description, in turn, ultimately helps prove atheism. Is this the evil twin of Anselm's ontological argument?
Manier's piece went in another direction and, to be sure, is problematic at times. In a later paragraph he wrote that "[t]he union of Darwinian theory with genetics has shown that natural processes on their own can yield organisms and molecular machinery of stunning complexity." This is false and misleading, but not surprising. This is what evolutionists are saying, and so science writers repeat the mantra. For a moment, however, Manier's piece was a point of light in a debate where there usually is too much heat.