This other day I read Nick Spencer’s article “The big fat lies of evolution” (you’ll have to read it to understand the title). He talks about the way a layperson – not a scientist – casually used an evolutionary mechanism to explain obesity. He concludes:
But the use of this narrative [i.e. the evolutionary narrative], by someone who is not by profession an evolutionary biologist … does show how deeply such evolutionary Just So stories have penetrated into our culture, neatly bypassing our cognitive faculties and settling down into the comfortable positions of reserved for received wisdom.
Oscar Wilde once remarked that “everything to be true must become a religion”. Just so with evolution, as it accumulates the myths and legends that no respectable religion would be seen in public without.
I found this fascinating. I’ve been thinking about this a little bit recently – how it seems that evolution has reached the “no-one is allowed to question it” stage, at least in wider society. Just this morning on Twitter I saw another round of creationist-bashing (although I imagine pretty much every second on Twitter, someone is ridiculing creationism – it’s apparently an easy target). Now, I’d just like to put my cards on the table and say I’m not a 6-day creationist. However – I wonder if there’s more going on here than meets the eye. The attacks on creationism seem to happen with a religious fervour you don’t find in other places. People rant and rave against it with a shiny-eyed religious zeal.
And I wonder whether the presenting problem of creationism contradicting evidence is actually only the surface representation of the underlying problem – that people simply think it’s crazy for the universe to have a creator. The metanarrative of people like Richard Dawkins – i.e. that evolution explains everything (which, as I understand it, is basically the message of The God Delusion) – cannot be questioned. In other words, evolution has come to mean more than simply a scientific explanation for origins, it has become a worldview in its own right – a worldview which does not include God.
Recently, pro-evolution Bill Nye debated the creationist Ken Ham (this is an unusual occurrence – many of those in the pro-evolution camp refuse to debate creationists, because they don’t want to lend creationism credibility). Afterwards, Al Mohler blogged about what was really at stake (and it’s worth reading the rest of the post):
…the argument was never really about ice rods and sediment layers. It was about the most basic of all intellectual presuppositions: How do we know anything at all? On what basis do we grant intellectual authority? Is the universe self-contained and self-explanatory? Is there a Creator, and can we know him?
On those questions, Ham and Nye were separated by infinite intellectual space. They shared the stage, but they do not live in the same intellectual world. Nye is truly committed to a materialistic and naturalistic worldview. Ham is an evangelical Christian committed to the authority of the Bible. The clash of ultimate worldview questions was vividly displayed for all to see.
… To Bill Nye, the idea of divine revelation is apparently nonsensical. He ridiculed the very idea.
If Nye is representative of the evolutionist viewpoint in general – and, from what I see on Twitter, I think that’s a fair assumption – his worldview doesn’t just stop at evolution as a biological process: it continues on to exclude God altogether. Evolution has evolved (ba-dum tsssh) from a biological process to the all-encompassing narrative which explains everything.
This narrative doesn’t just apply in wider society, it seems to affect the academy as well. James M. Tour, a chemist with peer-reviewed publications in scientific journals, has some problems with the theory of (macro)evolution. He writes in another article which is worth reading: “my recent advice to my graduate students has been direct and revealing: If you disagree with Darwinian Theory, keep it to yourselves if you value your careers.”
There are a few things that worry me about all this:
Firstly: as Nick Spencer’s article highlighted, these days evolutionary ‘just-so stories’ are pretty much accepted in society without question. The problem is, ‘just-so stories’ can be co-opted to support pretty much whatever you like. Do you want to support a master race? Hey, there’s a just-so story for you. Do you want to support altruism? Hey, there’s a just-so story for you. And so on. Denis Alexander warned of the dangers of believing just-so stories when it comes to religious belief, but I think the same applies to other areas of human life too (e.g. morality). They are speculative at best. If our society has accepted that the best answer for the question “Who are we?” as human beings is a just-so story, I don’t think that’s good news – especially when just-so stories are something of a wax nose and are basically unprovable.
Secondly: I don’t make a habit of reading creationist websites, however I saw a link on Twitter a few weeks ago and clicked on it out of interest. It was a list of questions for evolutionists. One of the questions really struck me: What aspects of science depend on an evolutionary understanding of origins? Can you name one single technology or medicine (for example) which depends on our understanding of evolution? Many scientific advances were made before evolution became generally accepted. Most modern science, as far as I am aware, does not depend on evolution.
The reason I bring this up is because it throws into sharp relief the dogmatism of many evolutionists: as I understand it you could pretty much have the entirety of modern civilisation, technology and all, without belief in evolution. Why, therefore, is it so important for us to believe in it? As I said before, this suggests to me the reason why many are so keen to push evolution in every respect is not simply because they believe it’s true (which I’m sure they do), but because they desire to displace a creator God.
Thirdly and finally: the idea of a creator God who created a rational and ordered universe was one of the foundational ideas which gave rise to modern science in the first place. Many of the earliest scientists (or ‘natural philosophers’, as they would have been called then) were believers. Much of modern science rests on the foundation of an ordered and rational universe – however there is no explanation given as to why this is the case: It just is because it is.
If evolution is becoming a religion without a God, to my mind it is undermining the very foundations which it is built on.
So in summary, let’s be clear about this: (1) I am not trying to say anything negative about evolution in this post. There are many Christians biologists who work in evolution (Denis Alexander – whote I mentioned above – for example, as well as Francis Collins – formerly director of the human genome project. To name but two examples).
(2) I am also not trying to defend creationism.
(3) My point is this: I think there are two definitions of the word ‘evolution’ now: evolution as the scientific theory, and evolution as the worldview built on the scientific theory – a worldview which goes way beyond the remit of the theory. This ‘evolution worldview’ seems to be godless and our society is coming to accept it more and more. This is what worries me.