Thinking With the Wrong Head or, Richard Dawkins on Altruism

As many of you are well aware, the existence of genuine love or altruism is often leveled against the naturalistic worldview as evidence of its implausibility.  But those who buy into such pathetic argumentation simply don’t understand the richness of the Darwinian perspective.   You may be surprised to learn that the New Atheists, especially Richard Dawkins, are actually romantics at heart.  I dare say that the conception of altruism explicated so eloquently in his acclaimed work The God Delusion would move even the hardest of hearts to start composing Shakespearean sonnets! 

Like many great romantics, Dawkins begins his discourse on love with a rousing passage on the ontological foundation of love itself:       
“The most obvious way in which genes ensure their own ‘selfish’ survival relative to other genes is by programming individual organism to be selfish.  There are indeed many circumstances in which survival of the individual organism will favour the survival of the genes that ride inside it.  But different circumstances favour different tactics.  There are circumstances – not particularly rare – in which genes ensure their own selfish survival by influencing organisms to behave altruistically.”
In this stirring piece of prose Dawkins skillfully uncovers the underlying foundations of naturalistic anthropology.  Through it we learn that man is but a passive composition of matter blown and tossed by the mindless and purposeless wind of biology (please note that you should ignore the teleological language he employees; words like “tactics” and the like).  We see that, at its core, altruism is rooted in pre-programmed instincts involuntarily thrust upon us by our “selfish” genes.  From this foundation he weaves a beautiful tapestry of possibilities–sure to make many a fair maiden’s heart pound with passion:     
“We now have four good Darwinian reasons for individuals to be altruistic, generous or ‘moral’ towards each other.  First, there is the special case of genetic kinship.  Second, there is reciprocation:  the repayment of favours given, and the giving of favours in ‘anticipation’ of payback.  Following on from this there is, third, the Darwinian benefit of acquiring a reputation for generosity and kindness.  And fourth . . . there is the particular additional benefit of conspicuous generosity as a way of buying unfakeably authentic advertising.”
In order to fully appreciate the profundity of the kaleidoscope of Darwinian explanations offered here we must pause to consider exactly what kind of love is being presented to us. 

The Four Loves

Classically speaking, there are four kinds of love.  The Greeks distinguished between the different forms of love using four distinct words: agápe, éros, philía, and storgē.  Dawkins’ elaboration on altruism seems to fall within the realm of éros, and storgē–the forms of love that come upon us in waves of emotion entirely outside of our control.  For we undergo these forms of love as mere passive receptors.  They are the product of a diverse range of factors including our environment and, yes, even our biology.  Storgē is quite simply the feeling of affection that we have for our kin—e.g., the “fluttery” warm feeling experienced by a mother holding her child—and éros is the feeling of desire—e.g., a wave of sexual longing, or craving a succulent piece of steak.  While, according to the classical understanding, we can make choices that intentionally direct our lives toward things that engender these types of love, they are ultimately brought on by forces outside of our volition.  Thus, they stand in marked contrast to agápe (self-giving love), and philía (friendship) which are rooted in the will.
But Richard Dawkins, in a stroke of poetic genius, turns away from the classical veiw and paints a picture of a world in which true agápe and philía are but an illusion.  For him altruism can only be explained in terms of éros, and storgē: 
“What natural selection favours is rules of thumb, which work in practice to promote the genes that built them.  Rules of thumb, by their nature, sometimes misfire.  In a bird’s brain, the rule ‘Look after small squawking things in your nest, and drop food into their red gapes’ typically has the effect of preserving the genes that built the rule, because the squawking, gaping objects in an adult bird’s nest are normally its own offspring  The rule misfires if another baby bird somehow gets into the nest . . .”
He goes on to explain:  
“I am suggesting that the same is true of the urge to kindness – to altruism, to generosity, to empathy, to pity.  In ancestral times, we had the opportunity to be altruistic only towards close kin and potential reciprocators.  Nowadays, that restriction is no longer there, but the rule of thumb persists.  Why would it not?  It is just like sexual desire.  We can no more help ourselves feeling pity when we see a weeping unfortunate (who is unrelated and unable to reciprocate) than we can help ourselves feeling lust for a member of the opposite sex (who may be infertile or otherwise unable to reproduce).  Both are misfirings, Darwinian mistakes:  blessed, precious mistakes.”
In other words, true acts of love are glorious (?) mistakes; accidental properties of nature brought about by instincts and passions mechanically instigated by our genes.  Now, I don’t know about you, but this moves me to tears every time I think about it.  If you don’t feel the same, stick with me and I think you’ll change your mind.    

The Blessedness of Darwinism

Contrary to what some might think it’s clear that Darwinism, with its robust foundation of unintentional self-edifying desire, warm fuzzy feelings, and brute instincts, is a powerful platform upon which to build and explain deep, meaningful, expressions of love.  Take, for example, the Catholic priest in North Africa who is currently harboring nearly 700 Muslims in his church.  He’s literally risking his own life to protect them from an extremist group attempting to eradicate the Muslim population in their country.  Thanks to Dawkins we now understand that he is not intentionally laying down his life for his fellow man because they are made in the image of God and therefore intrinsically valuable.  And he is surely not acting in accordance with the virtues of courage or fortitude.  Rather, and I say this in the most beautiful and uplifting way imaginable, he is undergoing an evolutionary misfire.  Just dwell on that notion for a moment.
You see, in a strange and (to use the adjectives so aptly employed by Dawkins) blessed and precious quirk of fate this priest is mistakenly extending charity to Muslims.  Mind you, this is ultimately a meaningless and quit unintentional happening in the life of the universe–and I really don’t have to explain to you how heartwarming that fact is—but we can all appreciate the beauty of this utterly futile event!
Herein lies the real magic of Darwinism.  No matter how meaningless our actions are, we can make them sound nice by attaching uplifting adjectives like “blessed” or “precious” to them.  This is especially helpful when considering a variety of seemingly “self-less” acts performed my people every day.  Consider the gentleman who cared for and eventually married his invalid fiancé.  We all know the real reason he tenderly cared for her, after she had that unfortunate fall and became paralyzed from the waist down, is because of an irresistible sexual impulse built into him by his “selfish” genes.  You see, his brain mistakenly thought he needed to preserve her to bear children and preserve his genetic code (and possibly do his laundry).  The folk way of viewing love might have mistaken his actions as being actual acts of self-giving and service; sacrifices he intentionally chose because he valued her and recognized her personhood.  The folk way would even have us thinking he was acting in accordance with the virtue of charity.  But, in truth, he was just thinking with “the wrong head”—as my grandfather’s drill sergeant might have described it.  Now this might sound crass but there is really no need to despair because if we close our eyes and click our heels . . . we’ll soon see that this evolutionary misfire is the stuff of poetry.        

Intelligent Design and the Problem of Evil: A Problem

A while back I mentioned that I no longer support the intelligent design theory (ID). Most of my reasons are simply philosophical (though there are scientific errors within the theory, scientific errors can always be fixed whereas philosophical errors can sometimes require the ejection of an entire system of thinking). One of the biggest ones, however, is that ID is unwittingly problematic when it comes to the problem of evil.

Contrary to most straw-men arguments, ID theorists accept many premises within evolution, but simply deny that natural selection works as an explanation for everything. They believe that across time God has intervened in order to direct evolution or to create irreducibly complex organisms. But by stating that God has directly interjected within creation along the process of evolution means that God has done some pretty nasty things. It would mean that God, not natural selection (which can be attributed to the Fall, even prior to humans) caused multiple natural evils. Even once humans were sentient and in His image, it would mean that He, not natural selection, caused death and suffering in order to help the species evolve as a whole.

Overall, if God interjected along the evolutionary track then He necessarily had to cause evil and take part in evil. Furthermore, it would mean that God’s creation wasn’t up to His standards when it was originally created. Now, one who believes that God sustains creation could easily argue that God allowed creation to exist in a fallen state in preparation of the Fall, but that His standard remained perfect. In fact, this is what William Dembski essentially argues in the previously linked book. But a problem exists when God acts in order to cause an evil rather than simply allowing the evil to occur. Hence, ID poses a serious problem when it comes to the problem of evil. Along with many other reasons, I can no longer consider it a tenable theory for Christians (or theists) to rely upon.

Why P.Z. Meyer is Afraid

"Atheist Gothic"

Over at The Algemeiner, Rabbi Moshe Averick posted about the times he’s felt the wrath of P.Z. Meyer (which isn’t much of a wrath so much as it is a kid throwing a temper-tantrum in the middle of Toys R Us). The bigger issue that Rabbi Averick brings up is that atheists should really be embarrassed by the antics of P.Z. Meyer. After all, he openly calls people stupid, cusses out those who disagree with him, attacks the person rather than the argument (calling an argument “dumb” or “stupid” doesn’t really deal with the argument). One would think that atheists, who supposedly pride themselves on having a superior intellectual prowess compared to theists, would snub their noses at Meyer’s anti-intellectual approach to everything (including ID, where the argument Averick writes about, comparing ID to driftwood, is a weak argument).

Pictured: PZ Meyer Brute Squad

Yet, if you look to the comment section you’ll see that atheists not only aren’t ashamed of P.Z. Meyer, they’re in love with him and his tactics. Perhaps this is because Meyer released his brute squad on the website, but this begs the question of how his brute squad could be so big if atheists truly valued reason.

In fact, many of the comments go on to insult either the intellectual ability of Averick or just insult him as a person. But such tactics are becoming more and more common among atheists, to the point that one fears that if they were in the government they would be totalitarian oppressors, eradicating and removing the freedoms of anyone who is religious. After all, it’s not like fanatical secularism has cost the world millions of lives or anything. Of course, the greatest oppressor of the 20th century has been fanatics for secularism, which is what Meyer is, but we just haven’t learned our lesson.

At the core, however, what causes this blatant disregard for civility, understanding, and intellectual conversation? Certainly conversations can get heated or we can point to the ignorance of someone when speaking about an issue, but to start name-calling or using brute tactics in order to silent an opponent? Is that really intellectual? Other, more academic atheists, don’t seem to suffer from the same social disorder as Meyer does.

It’s not like disagreement should automatically cause people to be uncivil. For those who have kept up with my website, it’s no secret that I’m a conservative, orthodox Christian. Rabbi Averick and I would probably disagree on a few issues, namely the deity of Christ. Though I do not know Averick, I’d venture a guess and say that he and I could probably have a good discussion on the Deity of Christ (or lack of deity) without calling each other names or mocking the other’s belief. I could do this with a lot of Jews. I do have a few atheist friends where I could sit and talk to them about the existence of God without it ever turning into a series of ad hominem attacks. So it’s not as though disagreement itself requires us to insult those who disagree with us.

While I could point to certain philosophical underpinnings, I don’t think it would ultimately be helpful, for there are others who have the same underpinnings, but still act in a civil and respectable manner. So what is it that causes Meyer, Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and their followers to be just downright nasty towards those who disagree with them? It’s not just one thing, but a multiplicity of things; they have no reason to be civil, they don’t really know what they’re talking about (on a philosophical level), they live in a world that lacks proper mystery, but most of all, they’re afraid.

Now not all outbursts are due to fear. Sometimes they come from being frustrated (this is often the case for me) because the other side just isn’t getting it. Other times it may just be because it’s been a bad day. But when your entire career and style is based upon insulting others, it’s generally out of fear. So what do Meyer and the new atheists fear? Quite simply, they fear the rise of Christianity in academia.

Prior to the 1960s it wasn’t thought that one could be a committed theist, much less a Christian, and hold a spot in a philosophy department. While such people did exist, they generally held their beliefs as a matter of private views, something that couldn’t be proven or shown to be reasonable. But we now live in a post-Plantinga world; it is through the works of Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne, and other early theists that in the modern age theism – in philosophy departments – is once again viewed as a reasonable position. Even Christianity, via our Roman Catholic brothers and their Thomistic traditions, is starting to make a comeback among the academic elite.

And this has the new atheists scared. They don’t understand how someone could believe in a “magic sky fairy” or a “flying spaghetti monster” and then declare such a belief reasonable. It’s because they don’t really understand theism, nor do they understand the arguments behind theism. And as is common among humans, when you encounter something you don’t understand, but are also afraid of it, you lash out at it. Look at how many evangelicals deal with Roman Catholicism (or alternatively how many cradle Catholics deal with evangelicals). Look at how many people deal with Muslims, thinking every single one is a terrorist, but also look at how Muslims from foreign lands deal with those different from them. When we don’t understand something, yet are afraid of it, we lash out against it.

The new atheists are no different. Sadly, though they pass themselves off as intellectuals, they really aren’t. They don’t understand the arguments behind Christianity or Theism even if they feign that they do. Rabbi Alverick is merely a proponent of a theistic system (Judaism) that ultimately isn’t understood by the new atheists, but in their minds theism has caused the Crusades, the witch hunts, Hitler’s Germany (yeah, they actually make that argument…tie that one to RABBI Alverick), and a whole host of other ills. In his BBC “documentary” Root of All Evil?, Richard Dawkins implies that religion and theism, specifically Christianity, is the root of all evil in the world. So when Meyer goes after Alverick, it’s no surprise that he attacks Alverick as a person and calls him stupid and cusses at him rather than dealing with the actual intellectual arguments that Alverick offers.

Keep in mind that these new atheists, most of whom lack training in philosophy (even Harris’ undergraduate degree in philosophy is laughable when comparing it to the multiple degrees from those he attacks), are calling “stupid” men and women who are some of the most respected names in the field of philosophy. Meyer has even gone after Francis Collins, who is one of the foremost experts on genetics and one of the most respected scientists of our time. Why? Because Collins believes in God, which is something that Meyer just cannot understand and doesn’t seek to understand. It’s far more comfortable to sit in a room full of one’s own ideas, lashing out at any different ideas, than to encounter and be challenged by opposing ideas. And that’s fine, no one is saying that Meyer and the new atheists have to leave their comfort zone, but stop passing it off as intellectual. They should at least be honest and admit that they’re an emotional overreaction to the inevitable; the belief in God will continue to exist and will never die out, because as a species we simply know better.

Thank God for Michael Dowd: How the Capitulation of Religion to Science Will Transform Your Life and Our World

Michael Dowd is a self-described “evolutionary evangelist” who lies at the forefront of a growing movement known as “Christian Naturalism” or “Christian Darwinism”–a movement largely influenced by his popular book Thank God for Evolution.  There are a variety of things I could say about Mr. Dowd’s book, but, for now, I would like to focus your attention on its misleading subtitle.  It reads as follows:  How the Marriage of Science and Religion will Transform Your Life and Our World.

In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with this subtitle–in fact, I think it’s rather catchy.  My only real objection is that it’s printed on the cover of Mr. Dowd’s book.  Perhaps you disagree, but I subscribe to the school of thought which advocates that a book’s subtitle actually convey information about its content.  I carefully read and reread this manuscript in an attempt to find a “marriage” between science and religion but was left empty handed.  What I found, instead, was analogous to the fatal actions that a female praying mantis takes against her male partner after copulating–science biting religions head off!  A more accurate subtitle would read:  How the Capitulation of Religion to Science will Transform Your Life and Our World.   

The last time I checked, a good marriage was characterized by mutual love and respect.  Having been married for over five years I can attest to this.  The reason my wife and I are still madly in love is because we both value each other–we don’t demean each other, we take each other seriously, and, although we both play different roles in the marriage, we consider each other equal in value, dignity, and worth.  If either one of us were to change our attitude, to look down upon the other or treat the other pejoratively, our marriage would quickly deteriorate.

Rather than a marriage between religion and science, Mr. Dowd advocates something more akin to the relationship that a king has with his concubine.  In such a relationship, the concubines sole purpose is to pleasure the king and keep him company–she is not an equal partner sharing the same dignity, value, and worth as the king.  She is merely an object to be used and, if necessary, discarded.  In Mr. Dowd’s vision, science is the king and religion is his concubine.

Consider this statement in the introduction:  “Here is my vision:  Within the first half of this century, virtually all of us–believers and nonbelievers alike–will come to appreciate that evolution is a gift to religion and that meaning-making is a gift to science” (13).  Notice that he equivocates religion with “meaning-making.”  This is far different from saying that religion gives  meaning.  To say that religion gives meaning is to say that religion makes objective claims about that nature of reality.  To equate religion with “meaning-making” is to suggest that religious claims are merely subjective interpretations of reality.

I wonder how Mr. Dowd, and others, would react if I equated science with “fact-making?  I suspect they would not be happy with this label.  For, it would suggest that science does not discover facts about reality but, rather, makes them up as it goes along.  And they would be right to be upset–such a view is utterly preposterous.  Consequentially, he should not be surprised to discover that people serious about their religious faith are not appreciative when their views are reduced to that of “meaning-making.”

Mr. Dowd’s statements reveal the true object of his faith–naturalistic science.   For Mr. Dowd, science is the pillar and bulwark of the truth (in fact our only reliable source of truth); science alone provides us with objective answers about reality which are true for all men.  Religion, on the other hand, is merely a conglomeration of colorful fairytales which act as a sort of “opiate” for the masses:

What I and others mean by the Great Story is humanity’s common creation story.  It is the 14-billion-year science-based tale of cosmic genesis–from the formation of galaxies and the origin of life, to the development of consciousness and culture, and onward to the emergence of ever-widening circles of care and concern.  Science unquestionably provides the foundation.  For this tale to be experienced as holy, however, it must don the accouterments of myth.  Barebones science must be embellished with metaphor and enriched by poetry, painting, song, and ceremony (25, emphasis mine).

After reading this quote, taken from the first chapter, there is little to nothing worth discussing about the rest of the book.  If you have read Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett, you will find nothing new here.  He simply presents atheistic scientific naturalism donned with, “the accouterments of myth,” and “embellished with metaphor.”  Mr. Dowd truly seems to believe that simply attaching adjectives like “holy” or “sacred” to evolution actually make it holy and sacred.  In the same way that McDonald’s believes calling their burgers “deluxe” actually makes them deluxe.

I’m truly baffled that Mr. Dowd believes his portrayal of religion, as a placebo, will resonate with millions of devout religious people who actually take their faith seriously.  Does he honestly believe he has bridged the gap between science and faith by encouraging everyone to accept Richard Dawkins’ naturalistic worldview embellished with religious lingo?  This is tantamount to serving dog droppings smothered in whip-cream with the expectation that your cultured guests will find it palatable.   I see no reason why religious people should capitulate to the nefarious doctrines of scientism and naturalism–especially considering the devastating critiques of such views recently offered by such noted philosophers are Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne, John Lennox, William Lane Craig, Angus Menuge, William Dembski, and J. P. Moreland (to name but a few).

In the final analysis, I believe I was wrong to suggest that Mr. Dowd’s subtitle failed to relate any information about the book.  If his thesis turns out to be correct, if naturalism is true and science is our only reliable source of knowledge, then he is right–our lives truly will be transformed.  We must now come to terms with the unavoidable conclusion that we have no free will; that we are locked in an endless mechanical cycle of material causes and effects completely out of our control.  We must learn to cope with the startling truth that there is no objective meaning or purpose for our existence; and affirm that there is no such thing as good or evil.  If this is the universe we live in, perhaps Mr. Dowd is right–pretending life has meaning may be our best option.

[Dowd, Michael. Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion will Transform Your Life and Our World.  New York: Viking, 2007.  USA $24.95]

How Christian is Christian Darwinism? (Part 2)

In part one I argued that it is logically inconsistent, or oxymoronic, to embrace both orthodox Christianity and Darwinism.  The chief reason being that they represent antithetical views of reality–the former upholds a teleological view of reality and the latter upholds a non-teleological view.  To put it plainly, the truth of one view negates the truth of the other.  During the course of my argument I also distinguished between two groups of people:  those who hold a “warm and fuzzy” view of religion and those who are “authentic” regarding their religious beliefs.  

Those in the first camp reject–whether consciously or unconsciously–the notion that religion has anything objective to say about the nature of reality.  To them, religion is only a subjective experience.  Religious explanations are not to be taken seriously like scientific ones–because religious explanations are only meaningful to those who hold them.  To this end, they are apathetic regarding consistency between religious and scientific beliefs.  Conversely, those in the second group believe religion should be taken seriously.  In deed, they assert that religion makes objective claims about the nature of reality and that these truths can be known by man.  Part 2 builds upon this conversation . . . 

Readers who hold the “warm and fuzzy” view of religion may find my arguments, thus far, repulsive.  I apologize fore this inconvenience; unfortunately, I have little to offer you in the form of consolation.  On the other hand, readers who are “authentic” regarding their religious beliefs probably have mixed feelings about what I have written.  Some of you–namely, Young Earth Creationists–will find my arguments inspiring.  Others–Old Earth Creationists and those who refer to themselves as “Theistic Evolutionists”–are probably feeling a bit cautious.

The following is dedicated to those in the “authentic” camp who find themselves uneasy with what I have said.  Like me, you recognize the logical fallacy in trying to maintain two contradictory worldviews (i.e. Christianity and Darwinism), but are afraid of doing great injustice to biological science (i.e. completely discounting the theory of evolution).  Hence, you feel apprehensive about siding with my rather extreme “black and white” position.

The answer to your dilemma, however, is much easier than you think.  The problem you are having, is that you are equating Darwinism with Evolutionary Biology.  In spite of what Neo-Darwinists assert, Darwinism and Evolution are not synonymous.  Darwinism is a particular interpretation of and application of evolutionary theory which assumes, a priori, the truth of metaphysical naturalism.  While Darwinism necessarily includes a theory of biological evolution, a theory of biological evolution does not necessarily include Darwinism.  One can accept certain empirical facts about the world, such as, genetic mutations, natural selection, change over time, the effects of the environment on an organism, and a certain level of genetic plasticity within organisms (this list is by no means conclusive), without having to accept, a priori, the metaphysical interpretation rendered by Darwinism.

Everyone agrees that evolution takes place–even a staunch Young Earth Creationist will agree that organisms change over time and can adapt to their environments.  The real debate is over how one interprets the empirical data.  For the orthodox Christian, an interpretation of biological evolution, which is consistent with the faith, is necessarily teleological.  This is because the orthodox Christian believes there is a Mind behind the universe and that He is responsible for introducing the necessary information and setting the initial physical constants necessary for the advent of life.  From this perspective, the design we see in nature is real and not an allusion.

Essentially, this means that all orthodox Christians are proponents of Intelligent Design.  For, any theory which postulates that God intended for life to arise or inserted the information necessary for life to arise, or mystically guided the evolution of life, is a theory of Intelligent Design.  Such a theory, argues that their is an objective purpose or “end goal” for life and that everything, including biological life, is aimed at some sort of final cause.  Furthermore, such a theory recognizes that Design is a fundamental part of nature and therefore, empirically detectable.

Of course, there are a myriad of ways in which an orthodox Christian might interpret biological evolution within the framework of teleology.  Admittedly, even within this interpretive framework, it is entirely possible for us to arrive at conclusions which are unquestionably unorthodox.  Nevertheless, to operate within the bounds of a teleological framework, even with its potential difficulties, is far better for the Christian (and for the general pursuit of truth) than attempting to operate within the framework of Darwinism.

Sadly, this is precisely what those known as Theistic Evolutionists are attempting to do.  I have no doubts that many within this movement adhere to orthodox Christian doctrine and even uphold an authentic view of religion; but, due to fear, or some notion of fidelity to science, they also maintain a Darwinian interpretation of evolution.  Sure, they pay lip service to God’s role in the advent of life–but this hardly impacts their interpretation of the empirical evidence.  At the end of the day, Theistic Evolutionists simply accept Darwinism as the best, perhaps even, the only, interpretation of evolution.  While, in their hearts, many of theme are authentic Christians, their position does nothing but perpetuate the “warm and fuzzy” view of religion which plagues our society.

These words may not sit well with you, but you can not  ignore them.  If you are authentic about your religious beliefs I implore you, once again, to drop the Darwinist act and be consistent.  Your position is confusing, incoherent, narrow minded (if I dare use such a trite phrase) and misleading.  As I have clearly demonstrated, you can remain faithful to science without embracing Darwinism.  The myth of the war between faith and science is simply that–a myth.

How Christian is Christian Darwinism? (Part 1)

There are a considerable number of Christians today who profess to be Darwinists.  I must confess I find this situation a bit perplexing.  Calling oneself a “Christian Darwinist” is about as consistent as claiming to be a Muslim who rejects the existence of the prophet Mohammed.  But, who really cares about consistency these days?  It seems society, as a whole, has grown quite content with inconsistency–at least in the realm of religion and morality.  In matters of science we are objective metaphysical realists.  With religion and morality, on the other hand, the sky is the limit.

I can claim to be a Buddhist Christian who worships the Fairy Goddess living in my left index finger and no one will question me–that’s just “my point of view.”  Contrastingly, if I claimed that both the geocentric and heliocentric models of the universe were compatible and asserted to uphold the truth of both, I would be chastised for being a fool.  Why?  Because, logically, it is impossible for both models of the universe to be true–the truth of one negates the truth of the other.  They are antithetical views of reality which are wholly incompatible.

Why do we ignore the law of noncontradiction in the realm of religion and morality and uphold it with an iron fist in the realm of science?  The answer is simple: we don’t really believe in religion.  We dish out mindless platitudes regarding the importance of religion–we say that it is vital for establishing “meaning” and “purpose” in our lives.  However, this “meaning” and “purpose” is considered entirely private and subjective (this is code language for “fanciful” or “made up”).  I find this popular understanding of religion rather quaint–I like to call it the “warm and fuzzy” view.  Religion has nothing objective or real to say about reality–it just makes you feel “warm and fuzzy” inside!

Those of you who hold the “warm and fuzzy” view are probably wondering why I’m so perplexed by people who call themselves “Christian Darwinist.”  Such a claim seems entirely reasonable to you.  For the term, “Christian”, simply denotes something that makes a person feel warm and fuzzy inside–it is their own personal delusion (opiate) which gives them the sense of meaning and purpose they need in order to survive as a human being.  The second term, “Darwinist,” gives reference to objective truth about reality.  There is no contradiction–what’s the big deal?

On the other hand, if you are like me, you find the “warm and fuzzy” view of religion pathetic and weak.  After all, if “God is dead” then religion is just a crutch holding you back.  You are pathetic and weak for pledging your allegiance to a set of myths and fairytales which really aren’t objectively true.  You are also a liar and a fraud, because you claim to believe in something that you actually don’t.  Embrace reality for what it is and stop living a double life!

If you reject the “warm and fuzzy” view of religion what is your alternative?  Obviously, to accept that religion makes objective statements about the nature of reality which are true and can be known by human beings.   Also, to recognize that those who are authentic in their religious belief will be metaphysically consistent.  If you find that this is your position, you will be incredibly perplexed by those who claim to be “Christian Darwinists.”

Why?  Because, like the geocentric and heliocentric models of the universe, Christianity and Darwinism make antithetical claims about the nature of reality.  For starters, Christians hold a teleological view of reality–that is, they believe there is a final end or purpose to reality.  They believe that God created the heavens and the earth, that He ordered the cosmos and fine tuned the physical conditions on earth to sustain life.  In short, Christianity teaches that their is real design and intentionality in nature.  Darwinism, on the other hand, teaches something quite different.  Darwinism is fundamentally non-teleological.  It teaches that there is no final end or purpose to reality–matter and energy simply exist . . . period.  There is no real design in nature, just the appearance of design.  In short, Darwinism teaches that the universe is simply the product of brute physical processes.

These two worldviews are completely incompatible.  If God exists, and He played an active role in the advent of biological life—either by guiding the evolutionary process or setting the initial conditions or laws of the universe—Darwin’s theory of unguided, naturalistic, evolution is necessarily wrong.  Under the Darwinian framework, we are merely the result of chance and necessity—random variation (genetic mutation) and natural selection.  Any worldview which claims God intended life to arise or inserted the information necessary for life to arise, or guided the evolution of life, challenges this basic claim.  Likewise, if the physical/material world is all that exists, if reality is fundamentally non-teleological, if the emergence of life is the outcome of unguided brute physical processes, then Christianity is necessarily wrong.

I suppose this could be a sort of litmus test for orthodoxy.  Do you find the label, “Christian Darwinist,” groundbreaking and thoughtful or oxymoronic and incoherent?  If you find yourself in the first camp you probably hold a “warm and fuzzy” view of religion.  If this is the case, do us all a favor, and drop the Christian part (you don’t really believe in it anyways).  However, if you believe that Christianity makes objective statements about the nature of reality, if you believe that Jesus Christ is the Divine Logos (the reason and purpose behind all of existence) and that, “in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,” and that, “all things were created through him and for him,” (Colossians 1:16) stop pretending to be something you’re not and drop the Darwinist label.

Saving Giberson: How to Be an Intellectually Honest Atheist

Upon reading Karl Giberson’s book, Saving Darwin, I too became a disillusioned fundamentalist—disillusioned with Giberson’s naive assumption that philosophical naturalism is somehow compatible with the Christian worldview.

Never mind Giberson’s nonchalant dismissal of sophisticated arguments in support of Intelligent Design with “devastating” quips like, “I don’t think . . . [ID theorists] . . . have a good feel for how the historical practice of science has gradually . . . [led] . . . practicing scientists away from such explanations.” (159)  Forget the various theological blunders littered throughout the book—such as the stunning assertion that the Christian concept of hell is a, “secondary doctrine.” (38)  All such problems, while noteworthy, pale in comparison with Giberson’s patent refusal, throughout the book, to acknowledge the inherent incompatibility of philosophical naturalism with Christianity.

By philosophical naturalism, I mean the prevalent doctrine that the universe, as we know it, is a closed system of material causes and effects.  The idea that nothing exists beyond matter and energy; that the physical world is all there is.  This nihilistic doctrine constitutes the metaphysical foundation upon which Darwin’s theory of biological origins is predicated upon; and any attempt to detach Darwin’s brand of evolutionary theory from its naturalistic base inevitably leads one to adopt a non-Darwinian form of evolution.

Consider, as Giberson does in his book, that Darwin’s theory is touted by its proponents as being the conclusive argument against design.  They reason, that since Darwin was able to explain the origin of the species by means of an undirected, non-teleological naturalistic process, there is no longer a need to infer design in nature.  All such appearances, say the Darwinists, are merely an illusion.  Accordingly, those who posit any form of intelligent guidance or input within nature (Such as theistic evolutionists or deists) are essentially rejecting Darwin’s formulation of evolution.

If God exists, and if he played an active role in the advent of biological life—either by guiding the evolutionary process or setting the initial conditions or laws of the universe—Darwin’s theory of unguided, naturalistic, evolution is necessarily wrong.  Under Darwin’s framework, we are merely the result of chance and necessity—random variation (genetic mutation) and natural selection.  Any worldview which claims God intended life to arise or inserted the information necessary for life to arise, or guided the evolution of life, challenges this basic claim.

Therefore, I find it hard to understand how Giberson believes one can claim to be a Christian and fully accept Darwin’s theory of evolution without being a complete hypocrite.  Affirming the truth of two incompatible worldviews is simply oxymoronic.  Yet, this is precisely what Giberson’s insipid book advocates.

The dissonance in Giberson’s argument comes out clearly in chapter three, where he address’s Darwin’s “dark companions.”  In this chapter he attempts to disassociate the biological theory of evolution from its overarching metaphysical implications.  At the beginning of the chapter he states: “The connection between biological and social Darwinism is complex and troubling, and perhaps even suspicious, but there is no denying that it has always been there, even before evolutionary theory became known as “Darwinism.” (79 Emphasis mine)  After explaining social Darwinism’s role in the development of such atrocious social projects as Eugenics and even admitting its influence on the Nazi’s, he concludes:

Thoughtful evolutionists hasten to point out that no necessary connection exists between biological evolution, which provides descriptive explanations of how nature works, and social Darwinism, which suggests prescriptive guidelines for how society should behave.  It is far from obvious that eugenics, unbridled capitalism, relaxed attitudes about infanticide, or rampant militarism is implied by the theory that species originate through natural selection.” (80)

Thoughtful evolutionists seem to have forgotten that descriptions of how nature work are not done in a vacuum.  Perhaps the reason social Darwinism has always been attached to evolutionary theory is because it is predicated upon and bolsters a view of reality which does imply eugenics, unbridled capitalism, relaxed attitudes about infanticide, and rampant militarism; namely, philosophical naturalism.  One simply cannot separate Darwinism from it’s undergirding worldview.

If there is no overarching purpose or design in the universe, if God played no role in the development of human life, if nature is a closed system of causes and effects, then there are no objective moral values.  Furthermore, there is no sensible reason to believe that human life is intrinsically valuable.  It seems to me, then, that the social Darwinists are simply following the logic of philosophical naturalism to its ultimate conclusion.  They, unlike Giberson, are not being hypocrites; but advocating exactly what their metaphysics entail.  Sadly, Giberson appears to be willfully blind to these facts.

For example, he argues in chapter six that he wishes Intelligent Design were true; in fact, he goes as far as to say that, “all Christians . . . should wish it were true.” (155)  Why, because Intelligent Design coheres nicely with the Judeo-Christian worldview–a worldview that he admits becomes extremely questionable if Darwin’s theory of evolution is true:

I have a great appreciation for the counterarguments for God’s existence.  I understand how honest thinkers and seekers of truth like Daniel Dennett and Michael Ruse [both prominent Darwinists] can end up rejecting God.  Like that of most thinking Christians, my belief in God is tinged with doubts and, in my more reflective moments, I sometimes wonder if I am perhaps simply continuing along the trajectory of a childhood faith that should be abandoned. (155)

In spite of the troubling fact that Darwinian evolution poses a serious threat to his faith, Giberson stubbornly refuses to acknowledge its tacit metaphysical implications.  He refuses to consider the possibility that Darwinism is built upon a worldview which is wholly incompatible with his Judeo-Christian proclivities—he is willfully blind.

In a later chapter he laments the fact that, “virtually all the leading spokespersons for science—the ones on bookstands and public television—are strongly antireligious,” and argues against the idea that evolutionary theory has rendered religion superfluous mythology. (174)  His argument is that the silent majority of evolutionary biologists don’t think this way; that many, in fact, do believe in God.  What he fails to realize is that the silent majority of evolutionary biologists are either metaphysically confused or blatantly adhering to two contradictory views of reality.

I submit that the only Darwinian evolutionists being consistent to their worldview are the exceedingly antireligious spokesmen like Richard Dawkins and Carol Sagan.  Darwinism is predicated upon philosophical naturalism and the views they advocate so passionately are the logical outgrowth of such a view of reality.  As such, I can see no way in which Darwin can be saved.  Contra Giberson, there is no coherent way in which one can be a Christian and fully accept Darwinian evolution.

At the end of the day, the strongest rational Giberson has for maintaining his Christian faith, in light of Darwinian evolution, is one of pure practicality.  As he explains:

As a purely practical matter, I have compelling reasons to believe in God.  My parents are deeply committed Christians and would be devastated, were I to reject my faith.  My wife and children believe in God, and we attend church together regularly.  Most of my friends are believers.  I have a job I love at a Christian college that would be forced to dismiss me if I were to reject the faith . . . Abandoning belief in God would be disruptive, sending my life completely off the rails. (155-156)

Basically, the only reason he doesn’t reject the existence of God is because it would make a lot of people upset with him and he might lose his job.

While I sympathize with Giberson’s need for a job and his desire to remain in friendly fellowship with family and friends,  I think it’s time that he stop living a double life.   The idea that Christianity is compatible with a scientific theory predicated upon philosophical naturalism is nothing but rehtorical nonsense.    For this reason, I implore him to be consistent: either, Christianity is true, and Darwinian evolution is false or Darwinian evolution is true and Christianity is false.  There is no middle ground; for the truth of one means the negation of the other.