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Monday, February 12, 2007

From the American Scientist's bookshelf: What Darwinism really means to its supporters

A friend directs me to the American Scientist bookshelf, which features a number of recent books addressing the intelligent design controversy from a materialist perspective - the reviews are an education in themselves:

Richard Bellon, a books columnist at American Scientist writes , about Michael Ruse's Darwinism and Its Discontents
The secular skeptics of natural selection form a more heterogeneous group, and, perhaps inevitably, Ruse's engagement with them lacks the momentum that drives his discussion of creationism. In many cases, as Ruse concedes, critics are responding, understandably if unfortunately, not to Darwin's core ideas but to the ideological uses to which evolution has been put: "Some dreadful stuff has been fobbed off under the umbrella of evolution, and even when it is not that dreadful, some very shaky assumptions have been incorporated." His strategy relies on demonstrating that Darwinism, properly understood, does not really stand behind any of the often-noxious philosophies that have claimed its authority. Despite well-documented abuses, Ruse argues persuasively that "there is no good reason to think that . . . the professional side of modern Darwinism . . . is simply an excuse for promulgating the values of modern (or past) society.

That, of course, is nonsense. Modern Darwinism is about materialism - the idea that the mind is an illusion and humans are just big-brained apes. That is the point of it all, rammed home in so many "cutting edge" books, breathless articles, glitzy TV programs, and dodgy textbooks.

As another American Scientist reviewer Robert J Richards, patiently explains, dismissing Francis Collins' entirely dismissible Language of God ,
Despite Collins's irenic efforts, the well-confirmed results of modern evolutionary theory and genetics do endanger the faith of the religiously minded. Or at least these results should make their religious convictions more precarious.
Collins maintains, as did Darwin, that the moral impulse is an essential component of our humanity. Yet if our various other human traits—reason, personality, emotional responses and so on—have arisen over the millennia through natural selection (which Collins believes to be the case), why is it that only our moral traits require divine intervention? Does not the ability to do science, to create art and to appreciate the beauty of nature also constitute what it means to be human? If these abilities have evolved, why not also moral judgment?

In other words, all those liberal clergy signing the Darwin pledge (I do! I do! I do! believe in Darwin) and even preach on the subject are useful idiots - at best.

And, of course, there is Michael Shermer, an ex-evangelical, explaining to evangelicals why they should embrace Darwinist materialism. Reviewer James Robert Brown notes,
Shermer is quite aware that he's in a battle over culture as well as science, so he often tries to soothe the ruffled feathers of Christians, though not with complete success. After attacking intelligent design as utterly silly, he sympathetically quotes the theologian Paul Tillich: "God does not exist. He is being itself beyond essence and existence. Therefore to argue that God exists is to deny him." This statement strikes me as bordering on nonsense, and it almost inclines me to sympathize with fundamentalists appalled with the blither that often passes for liberal theology.

Well, in my view, anyone who is not appalled by the blither is either clueless or looking for a safe way to sell out.

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