Darwinism and Religion

Yesterday I talked about the charge that intelligent design is not science but religion. Today I would like to look at the other part of the debate. Does Darwinian evolution function as a sort of secular religion?

Nancy Pearcey writes in her book Total Truth that “Darwinism functions as the scientific support for an overarching naturalistic worldview.” Today scientists usually assume that scientific investigation requires naturalism. But that was not always the case.

When the scientific revolution began (and for the next three hundred years), science and Christianity were considered to be compatible with one another. In fact, most scientists had some form of Christian faith, and they perceived the world of diversity and complexity through a theistic framework. Nancy Pearcey points out that Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, and others sought to understand the world and use their gifts to honor God and serve humanity.

By the nineteenth century, secular trends began to change their perspective. This culminated with the publication of The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. His theory of evolution provided the needed foundation for naturalism to explain the world without God. From that point on, social commentators began to talk about the “war between science and religion.”

By the twentieth century, G.K. Chesterton was warning that Darwinian evolution and naturalism was becoming the dominant “creed” in education and the other public arenas of Western culture. He said it “began with Evolution and has ended in Eugenics.” Ultimately, it “is really our established Church.”

Secular evolutionists may not have church services, but it is easy to see that naturalism and Darwinism have become the main pillars of a secular view of the world. That may explain why most debates about origins quickly become so intense. Expect more and more controversy as scientists and commentators challenge the theory of evolution.




Science or Religion?

October 3, 2013

The latest debate about science textbooks has surfaced a typical complaint about the scientific basis of intelligent design. Critics of intelligent design say that it is not science because it cannot be falsified. But nearly every critic then goes on to argue that intelligent design has been falsified. Obviously it can’t be both falsifiable and non-falsifiable at the same time. Such is the level of argumentation against intelligent design.

book coverBut there is another argument I find even more fascinating. It is that intelligent design cannot be considered science because it has religious implications. As I point out in my book, A Biblical Point of View on Intelligent Design, just because an idea has religious (or philosophical implications) shouldn’t necessarily disqualify it from scientific consideration. There are significant religious and philosophical implications for Darwinian evolution. Consider just a few of these.

Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins believes that Darwinian evolution provides the foundation for his atheism and claims that “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.”

Daniel Dennett says: “In the beginning, there were no reasons; there were only causes. Nothing had a purpose, nothing has so much as a function; there was no teleology in the world at all.”

Princeton bioethicist Peter Singer argues that we must “face the fact that we are evolved animals and that we bear the evidence of our inheritance, not only in our anatomy and our DNA, but in our behavior too.”

Each of these men draws religious or philosophical inferences from the theory of evolution. Does that disqualify evolutionary theory? Is evolution unscientific because there are religious and philosophical implications? No. Likewise, intelligent design’s possible implications should not render it unscientific.




Only Science Addresses Reality?

Would it surprise you to hear that churches may eventually be prohibited from teaching any ideas contrary to Darwinian evolution? “No way!” you say. “The Constitution guarantees freedom of speech! The first amendment guarantees that Congress can pass no law restricting or promoting any religious exercise!”

Well, yes the Constitution does that, but be patient with me and I’ll show why the answer to the opening question could be “yes.”

In the current issue of Nature, probably the most prestigious science journal in the world, a letter to the editor appeared in the August 28, 2008 issue on page 1049. Two well-known evolutionary biologists, University of Chicago’s Jerry Coyne and University of Manchester’s Matthew Cobb wrote the letter to complain about a previous editorial expressing hope that the Templeton Foundation, which funds research into the relationship between science and religion, might bring about some helpful resolutions.

Coyne and Cobb couldn’t disagree more:

We were perplexed by your Editorial on the work of the Templeton Foundation…. Surely science is about finding material explanations of the world—explanations that can inspire those spooky feelings of awe, wonder and reverence in the hyper-evolved human brain.

Religion, on the other hand, is about humans thinking that awe, wonder and reverence are the clue to understanding a God-built Universe…. There is a fundamental conflict here, one that can never be reconciled until all religions cease making claims about the nature of reality (emphasis added).

The scientific study of religion is indeed full of big questions that need to be addressed, such as why belief in religion is negatively correlated with an acceptance of evolution. One could consider psychological studies of why humans are superstitious and believe impossible things….

You suggest that science may bring about “advances in theological thinking.” In reality, the only contribution that science can make to the ideas of religion is atheism (emphasis added).

Coyne and Cobb clearly state that religion has no authority to make claims about reality. If science is allowed to persist in this audacious distortion of religion and science, then any kind of teaching that is critical of any aspect of naturalistic evolution would be considered a negative influence on society as a whole. Religion is seen as crossing its constitutionally protected borders.

Biology teachers constantly complain now that what they teach about evolution is contradicted by the churches their students attend. This is obviously quite frustrating. If science is the only branch of knowledge that is allowed to make claims about reality, then religious teachings should not be allowed to interfere.

You may still be thinking that I’m taking this too far. Consider though that the California state university system already refuses to give credit for high school science courses that include anything beyond naturalistic evolution. Many Christian private school graduates in California are finding that their science courses are not accepted at state universities. Essentially that means you don’t get in unless you can make those credits up by taking junior college science courses that meet the evolution-only standard.

State governments may easily decide that they need to help these religious school graduates out by requiring that these religious schools not be allowed to teach religious material that contradicts state-mandated standards. It’s a violation of the separation of church and state, after all!

If you ever questioned the importance of the evolution/Intelligent Design controversy, I hope you see the point now. Unless we can convince a sufficient minority in the science community that science is limited and the subject of origins is one of those limitations, we may not be able to legally teach students anything about creation or Intelligent Design.

While Coyne and Cobb certainly don’t represent all scientists, they are not alone! Trust me. I watched a video recently of Jerry Coyne making a presentation at a scientific meeting where he basically made the very same claim. NO one objected. He was applauded enthusiastically. Watch it for yourself here. While the whole lecture is worth watching, the last eight minutes when he presents a slide with just the word “Religion” is the key segment.

Coyne and others are trying to establish what Nancy Pearcey called the fact/value split in her book Total Truth. To Coyne science is based on fact. Only material explanations are allowed in science since religion is based on personal values and have nothing to do with facts. Therefore if you try to inject your personal values (Creation, Intelligent Design) into the world of facts (science) this is a violation of the rules of science. It’s not allowed.

According to Jerry Coyne speaking in the video, the only way to increase the acceptance of evolution is to reduce or eliminate the influence of religion. The two are incompatible! Coyne is unable to see that he also has a worldview, materialism, which influences how he interprets the data of science. He erroneously believes he is being objective about his interpretation.

This is a cultural battle as well as a scientific battle. For more information and resources from Probe to help you educate yourself and others about evolution and Intelligent Design see browse our articles at www.probe.org. If we don’t “tear down strongholds” like this, we may find ourselves behind impenetrable, silent walls.

© 2008 Probe Ministries