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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Darwinism as a religion and the courts

And what rough beast, his hour come round at last
Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?

- William Butler Yeats, "Second Coming"

The effort to recast Darwin as a religious man, more religious in fact than the common run of Christians and other believers, in the runup to the bicentennial of his birth is well under way in many quarters:
Darwin counted himself an agnostic, but in his reverence for the creative agency of nature we should count him a devoutly religious man. "There is a grandeur in this view of life," he famously wrote on the last page of The Origin of Species. The grandeur of which he spoke of has more of the divine about it than did the anthropomorphic idol who occupied the thoughts of his contemporaries.

This musing by Chet Raymo (April 22, 2007) is a typical encomium. Go here, here, and here for examples of ridiculous hagiography whose authors take it all quite seriously. For intolerance, unreasoning fanaticism, and belief in miracles, there is no religious bunny anywhere like the serious Darwinist.

But recently, my attention was attracted to Lifetime: Songs of Life & Evolution a musical by British composer David Haines, with somewhat catchy songs, sung by people "with a mission to spread the good word about evolution."
There are tributes to scientific thinkers like Richard Dawkins ("I'm a selfish gene and I'm programmed to survive") and the occasional evolutionary insight ("Water does for trees what my blood does for me"). The performance concludes with "Four Billion Years," an appeal for humans to honor our evolutionary heritage by preserving diversity.

It's unclear whether The Scientist reviewer Isani Ganguli (April 27, 2007), who promises that "The family that sings (about evolution) together, stays together" understands that "somewhat catchy" is damning with faint praise. But that doesn't really matter as much as it would with other musicals. The MIT performance, and/or others like it, stands a good chance of being fronted to captive school audiences, expected to applaud. Which raises an interesting question.

Despite the fact that Darwinists insist that their concerns are secular, it is painfully obvious that a religious agenda lies at the heart of Darwinism: As the creation story of a new materialist religion, Darwinism is advanced with missionary fervour in settings that are neutral and secular in name only. And its ablest exponents are hostile to the free exercise of other religions.

Now, if you ask what would happen if the courts got involved, two different answers must at present be given.
Read the rest here.


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