As a notorious critic of Darwinism, I enjoy reading a newsletter called Basis, which is published by an organization calling itself the San Francisco Bay Area Skeptics. These self-styled skeptics take a very dim view of anyone who suggests that the Darwinian theory of evolution might be an appropriate subject for skeptical inquiry, and on that account their editorial ire is sometimes aimed in my direction. A recent issue of Basis reported on a local meeting at which the featured speaker was a woman identified as “a religious person and science teacher at a Catholic school.” This science teacher was assuring her audience that despite the religious affiliation of her school, she taught evolution and not creationism in her science classes. A questioner from the audience put her on the spot by asking: “Do you think that evolution is directed?” The newsletter reports that this question was followed by a “dramatic pause,” after which the teacher replied with what it called a “battled ‘No.’ ” The reporter for Basis commented: “I would have expected a more rapid answer, but the battle between her curriculum and her beliefs had a few more moments of unrest left to settle.”
The appearance of that story coincided with the release of a new Gallup Poll, reporting on the state of American opinion regarding evolution and creation. According to this survey, approximately 47 percent of Americans can be described as creationists, in that they say they believe that God created mankind in pretty much our present form sometime within the last 10,000 years. (The wording of the question did not rule out a long period of animal evolution before the appearance of man, however.) Another 40 percent agreed with the following statement: “Man has developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process, including man’s creation.” Only 9 percent of the sample said that they accepted the naturalistic view of evolution, which in Gallup’s wording was that man has developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, with God having no part in this process.
Against that background of public opinion, we can see why the voice from the audience was asking exactly the right question, and also why we might expect a science teacher at a Christian institution to take a deep breath before answering in a quavering voice. When Darwinists speak of “evolution,” they mean the creed of the 9 percent. Science educators frequently obscure this point in order to avoid further arousing political opposition to the teaching of evolution as fact in the public schools, but they are perfectly explicit about it when candor suits their purpose. For example, one of the founders of the neo-Darwinian synthesis, Harvard paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson, explained the “meaning of evolution” in the following widely quoted language:
Although many details remain to be worked out, it is already evident that all the objective phenomena of the history of life can be explained by purely naturalistic or, in a proper sense of the sometimes abused word, materialistic factors. They are readily explicable on the basis of differential reproduction in populations (the main factor in the modern conception of natural selection) and of the mainly random interplay of the known processes of heredity.… Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind.
The literature of evolutionary biology contains countless statements to the same effect. “Evolution,” honestly understood, is not just a gradual process of development that a purposeful Creator might have chosen to employ. It is, by Darwinist definition, a purposeless and undirected process that produced mankind accidentally. By saying that she taught “evolution,” the Catholic school teacher had said only that she did not teach the sudden, special creation of each species. She was not with the 47 percent who (perhaps) reject evolution altogether, but she might still be with the 40 percent who think there is a compromise position that combines creation and evolution. From a Darwinist viewpoint, however, this soft form of creationism is merely a relatively advanced kind of misunderstanding. Did the teacher really explain to her students and their parents that biological evolution is not God-directed but rather a purposeless process that produced mankind by accident? If so, how could she or her superiors possibly reconcile this teaching with their official commitment to Christian theism?
Now, through an educational system insistent upon uncritical acceptance by students at all levels of the claim that purposeless material mechanisms were responsible for the creation of all forms of life, scientific naturalism is becoming the officially established religion of America. There is no mystery about why atheists and agnostics welcome this kind of education. What is mysterious, however, is the relative lack of opposition to the establishment of naturalism from Christian intellectuals. There are, of course, theologians who have embraced naturalism with enthusiasm and proceeded to try to “save” Christianity by purging it of supernaturalism and mythology; one can be a Christian, or at least a professor at certain liberal Christian seminaries or divinity schools, and be as opposed to the existence of a supernatural Creator as any atheist. But Christians and other theists, who really believe in a personal God standing outside nature and ruling it—how can they accommodate the dictates of a scientific establishment that absolutely insists that all creation resulted from undirected evolution?
Some people don’t accommodate, but simply reject the authority of that establishment in toto. Those who regard Scripture as more authoritative than scientific theories, and who are confident that they know the correct way to interpret it, may choose to defend the Genesis account as literally true and employ scientific argument to discredit the alternatives. Fundamentalist creationists of this kind make up perhaps half of the 47 percent that the Gallup poll defined as creationist. Unfortunately, the commitment of this large group to a literal interpretation of Genesis has confused and divided the Christian world, and even played into the hands of the evolutionary naturalists. Darwinists assiduously promote the notion that the only possible alternatives are six-day Genesis literalism on the one hand, and fully naturalistic, neo-Darwinistic evolution on the other. Given such an understanding of the alternatives, anyone who suspects that the cosmos may be billions of years old, or that life may have been created through some long-term process of development, becomes an “evolutionist”—who by definition rejects “creationism.” Under Darwinist auspices, science education, in the media as well as the schools, consequently aims to enlighten such persons about what evolution really means, and to wash the lingering effects of creationism from their minds. “Properly” educated people gradually learn that forces like mutation and selection were adequate to perform all the work of biological creation, and that the notion of a purposeful Creator is therefore superfluous, discardable without loss.
By controlling the terminology, then, Darwinists have given the world the impression that the significant divide in public opinion about evolution is that between the Genesis literalists and everybody else. This is a sorry misunderstanding. For the fundamental disagreement is not over the age of the earth or the method of creation; it is over whether we owe our existence to a purposeful Creator or a blind materialistic process. The 47 percent in the 1991 Gallup Poll who say that God created suddenly and the 40 percent who say that God created gradually are basically in agreement—in comparison to the 9 percent who say that God did not create at all. When the majority finally understands this, it will become possible to challenge the monopoly of evolutionary naturalism both in the media and the educational system.
What the situation requires is a critique of evolutionary naturalism that puts aside the biblical issues for the time being and concentrates on the scientific and philosophical weaknesses in the established Darwinist orthodoxy. Unfortunately, many of the most influential Christian intellectuals have themselves been so strongly influenced by naturalistic philosophy that they have tried to baptize it. Their position, which I call theistic naturalism, starts from the premise that God refrains from interference with those parts of reality that natural science has staked out as its own territory. Theistic naturalists concede to Darwinism the role of telling the true history of the development of life, and limit the Creator to activity in a metaphysical realm outside the reach of science. Theistic naturalism is more often implicit than explicit in religious discourse—as befits a philosophy so dominant in intellectual circles that people hardly ever have to think about it in any detail. Princeton Theological Seminary Professor Diogenes Allen’s 1989 book Christian Belief in a Postmodern World: The Full Weight of Conviction provides a particularly thorough and thoughtful explication of theistic naturalism. Allen explains the division between the realms of science and theology by saying that there are questions a naturalistic science cannot purport to answer.
Our natural sciences seek to describe and explain the relations between the members of the universe, not their origin. The existence of the universe and its basic constituents are taken for granted by our sciences.… When we consider the whole of nature, the relations we find within nature cannot tell us why the universe exists nor why it is the kind of universe it is. The continuing increase of scientific knowledge, which discovers the relations that exist within our universe, does not get us closer to an answer to either question.
The role of religion, then, is to explain the ultimate features of the universe that remain when science has done everything of which it is capable. Up to that point, naturalism in scientific explanations is not only permitted but actually required by a correct view of God’s role and nature. According to Allen,
God can never properly be used in scientific accounts, which are formulated in terms of the relations between the members of the universe, because that would reduce God to the status of a creature. According to a Christian conception of God as creator of a universe that is rational through and through, there are no missing relations between the members of nature. If, in our study of nature, we run into what seems to be an instance of a connection missing between members of nature, the Christian doctrine of creation implies that we should keep looking for one.
When the philosopher Alvin Plantinga expressed skepticism towards Darwinism in a lecture published in a special issue of the Christian Scholar’s Review, and proposed that Christians engage in a “theistic science” to counter the domination of naturalism, commentators employed reasoning similar to Allen’s to throw cold water on the idea. Calvin College physics professor Howard Van Till argued that “the world created by the God who reveals himself in Scripture” must be characterized by what Van Till calls “functional integrity.” This term denotes “a created world that has no functional deficiencies, no gaps in its economy of the sort that would require God to act immediately, temporarily assuming the role of creature to perform functions within the economy of the creation that other creatures have not been equipped to perform.” Notre Dame philosophy professor Ernan McMullin argued in the same vein that it is improbable that an omniscient creator would find it necessary to intervene in the cosmic order to “plug the gaps.”
This line of reasoning establishes a remarkable convergence of Christian theism and scientific naturalism. Consider, for example, the attitude that scientific naturalists take towards theories of chemical evolution, which aspire to explain the origin of life on earth. Until very recently, the popular and professional literature of this field tended to be wildly optimistic, suggesting that science was on the verge of providing a satisfactory theory of how life evolved from nonliving chemicals. The current literature is much more sober, and some commentators candidly describe the field as dominated by contradictory speculations and lack of experimental success. One of these commentators is New York University chemistry professor Robert Shapiro, author of the excellent popular book Origins: A Skeptic’s View of the Creation of Life on Earth. Shapiro realizes that a satisfactory theory of chemical evolution may be a long time coming, but his faith in naturalistic explanation is equal to the challenge:
Some future day may yet arrive when all reasonable chemical experiments run to discover a probable origin for life have failed unequivocally. Further, new geological evidence may indicate a sudden appearance of life on the earth. Finally, we may have explored the universe and found no trace of life, or processes leading to life, elsewhere. In such a case, some scientists might choose to turn to religion for an answer. Others, myself included, would attempt to sort out the surviving less probable scientific explanations in the hope of selecting one that was still more likely than the remainder.
The theistic naturalists seem to share this fervent faith that a naturalistic explanation for the origin of life simply must be there to be found. To suppose that God may have played some direct, active role in creating the first life on earth would reduce God to the status of a creature, would posit an impossible missing relation between the members of nature, and would deny the functional integrity of the universe. One might almost say that it would constitute blasphemy.
A basis for a convergence between theism and naturalism may be found in the writings of George Gaylord Simpson. Simpson, one of the founders of the neo-Darwinian theory, was a thoroughgoing scientific naturalist who derided Christianity as superstition. Nonetheless, he was willing to acknowledge that science could not explain everything, and that some kind of place for religion might be found in that philosophical territory which is beyond the reach of scientific investigation. As he put it:
There is neither need nor excuse for postulation of nonmaterial intervention in the origin of life, the rise of man, or any other part of the long history of the material cosmos. Yet the origin of that cosmos and the causal principles of its history remain unexplained and inaccessible to science. Here is hidden the First Cause sought by theology and philosophy. The First Cause is not known and I suspect it will never be known to living man. We may, if we are so inclined, worship it in our own ways, but we certainly do not comprehend it.
Simpson’s First Cause, like the God of theistic naturalism, is responsible for the ultimate origin and original characteristics of the cosmos, but thereafter leaves creation entirely to material processes that go their own way. Simpson thought that the First Cause could be mentioned and then forgotten, because he assumed that science would eventually explain nearly everything of consequence to human beings. The role left to the First Cause would then be so small, and so remote from human concerns, that only the incorrigibly religious would have any interest in it. Recently, the physicist Stephen Hawking has moved to take away even that vestigial refuge, predicting that physicists will soon discover a “theory of everything” that will permit them to “know [i.e., become] the mind of God.”
It is more likely, however, that there are important questions that can never be answered by scientific inquiry. For example, many persons who are adamant about the exclusive authority of science in explaining the physical world are willing to concede that questions about morality or the purpose of life have to be addressed in some other way. As the realm of science diminishes in our imagination, the potential importance of the First Cause correspondingly increases. All we have to do is take up Simpson’s invitation to worship the First Cause and it becomes the God of theistic naturalism, which is responsible for the ultimate origin of the universe and its initial boundary conditions, but which never intervenes to take a part in natural history.
But can this First Cause fill the role of “the God who reveals Himself in Scripture”? The biblical God seems to engage in a lot of creaturely behavior. The New Testament tells us that the Second Person of the Trinity was born as a human baby in a stable in Bethlehem, and after growing to adulthood performed some very immediate miraculous acts before dying a very creaturely death on the cross. He changed water into wine, healed leprosy and blindness, fed multitudes on scraps of food, raised Lazarus from the dead, and eventually rose from the dead Himself and ascended to heaven. Is this a God who would never, in Van Till’s words, “temporarily [assume] the role of creature to perform functions within the economy of the creation that other creatures have not been equipped to perform”? And how can so much supernatural activity be reconciled with a naturalistic philosophy of creation?
There are two schools of thought among theistic naturalists about how to deal with this problem. One approach, characteristic of the liberal theology that culminated in Tillich and Bultmann, is to interpret the miracles as mythology. This is at least consistently naturalistic, but it relegates Christianity to the role of a human ethical system or existential choice. The other approach is to treat the miracles as real events, but to restrict them to a “salvation history” that is walled off from the natural history over which science claims exclusive authority. Diogenes Allen takes this latter approach:
In general we may say that God creates a consistent set of lawlike behaviors. As part of that set there are the known physical laws. These laws apply to a wide variety of situations. But in certain unusual situations such as creating a chosen people, revealing divine intentions in Jesus, and revealing the nature of the kingdom of God, higher laws come into play that give a different outcome than normal physical laws which concern different situations. The normal physical laws do not apply because we are in a domain that extends beyond their competence.
A division of this kind is about the best a Christian theologian can do—if he wants to respect the authority of naturalistic science within its own sphere. From a biblical standpoint, however, it is not only the events of salvation history that create difficulties for any compromise with naturalism. One is faced not simply with the details of the Genesis account, but with New Testament passages that reflect the fundamental logic of Christianity. For example, the first chapter of Romans tells us that
the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men, who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles.
That passage does not speak of a nature that merely raises questions that a naturalistic science cannot answer, but of a nature that points directly and unmistakably toward the necessity of a creator. And if nature does no more than raise questions, how can men be blamed for coming to the wrong conclusions about what to worship? If God stayed in that realm beyond the reach of scientific investigation, and allowed an apparently blind materialistic evolutionary process to do all the work of creation, then it would have to be said that God furnished us with a world of excuses for unbelief and idolatry.
There is an even more important passage to consider. The most important statement about creation in the Bible is not in Genesis; it is in the opening verses of the first chapter of John.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God, all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.
The direct opposite of that statement is creation by purely materialistic, undirected evolution. Accommodationists can throw out a lot of nonessentials and still keep the substance of Christianity, but creation through the Word is one of the essentials.
Biblical considerations aside, theistic naturalism has a fatal logical weakness that stems from the fact that it attempts to reconcile two fundamentally inconsistent ways of thinking. Theism asserts that God rules everything; naturalism asserts that nature proceeds on its own, without supernatural influence. The two could be reconciled if we had some reason to believe that God chose to leave nature alone after establishing the initial conditions—except, of course, for the exceptional events of salvation history. It is hard to imagine any purpose for such a self-limitation other than the need to make a treaty of peace between science and theology, which is a consideration hardly likely to influence God. In any case, Darwinistic evolution would be a most peculiar creative method for God to choose, given the Darwinistic insistence that biological evolution was undirected. That requirement means that God neither programmed evolution in advance nor stepped in from time to time to pull it in the right direction. How then did God ensure that humans would come into existence so that salvation history would have a chance to occur? Once this logical difficulty is recognized, the attempt to reconcile Darwinism and theism collapses. Either God rules creation—which means that He somehow directed evolution to produce humans—or He doesn’t. The former isn’t Darwinism, and the latter isn’t theism.
Of course, God could make some use of random mutation and natural selection in a fundamentally directed creative process. God can act freely as He chooses: that is just the problem for those who would constrain God by philosophy. God could employ mutation and selection or act supernaturally, whether or not His choice causes inconvenience for scientists who want to be able to explain and control everything. Once we allow God to enter the picture at all, there is no reason to be certain a priori that natural science has the power to discover the entire mechanism of creation. Maybe science can discover how living things were made, and maybe it can’t. Consistent theists will therefore accept Darwinist claims for the creative power of mutation and selection only insofar as those claims can be supported by evidence. That isn’t very far at all.
It isn’t easy to assess the adequacy of the evidence, however, because Darwinists employ a vocabulary that systematically distracts attention from the central issue. “Evolution” is a thoroughly confusing term that may be used in a broad or narrow sense. As we have seen, it sometimes simply means no more than that creation took a lot longer than six days. In debates with those opposed to their views, Darwinists typically define the “fact of evolution” as meaning merely that “the earth has a history,” or that “change has occurred.” So defined, evolution is neither theologically important nor scientifically interesting. Having established this empty concept of evolution, however, Darwinists immediately go on to use the same term as if it meant neo-Darwinistic evolution, with an all-encompassing creative role for natural selection. Unpack the terminology and you will find the following illogic: change has occurred, and therefore mutation and selection caused the change to occur.
Darwinists use “evolution” to mean both minor variations and major creative innovations, and also both change that is directed by intelligence and change that is presumed to be undirected. That is why they think that domestic animal breeding, which employs purposeful human intelligence to achieve variation within the biological species, somehow illustrates how a purposeless material process created animals in the first place. “Evolution” in Darwinist usage stands for many different things, and an illustration of evolution in any sense proves the entire system. To get away from this tradition of confusion, we have to employ a terminology that keeps attention on the really important claim of Darwinism—which is that biological creation could and did occur by known material mechanisms without the need for supernatural assistance.
This central doctrine might be called the “blind watchmaker hypothesis,” after the title of the famous book by Oxford University zoologist Richard Dawkins. Dawkins begins his book with the observation that “biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” That sounds like a creationist argument, and indeed Dawkins is happy to concede that each and every plant or animal cell nucleus contains “a digitally coded database larger, in information content, than all 30 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica put together.” Undirected material processes do not write encyclopedias, no matter how much time is available. Of course, Dawkins is no creationist. He wrote The Blind Watchmaker to convince the public of something that Darwinists take for granted: namely, that the appearance of purposeful design in biology is misleading, because all living organisms, including ourselves, are the products of a natural evolutionary process employing random variation and natural selection. As Dawkins explains:
Natural selection is the blind watchmaker, blind because it does not see ahead, does not plan consequences, has no purpose in view. Yet the living results of natural selection overwhelmingly impress us with the appearance of design as if by a master watchmaker, impress us with the illusion of design and planning.
In short, the watchmaker is not only blind, but unconscious.
Is the blind watchmaker hypothesis true? From the naturalistic standpoint of Darwinists like Dawkins, the question really doesn’t arise. Instead of truth, the important concept is science, which is understood to be our only (or at least by far our most reliable) means of attaining knowledge. Science is then defined as an activity in which only naturalistic explanations are considered, and in which the goal is always to improve the best existing naturalistic explanation. Supernatural creation—or God-guided evolution—is not a naturalistic explanation. The blind watchmaker hypothesis is therefore merely a way of stating the commitment of “science” to naturalism, and as such the existence of a blind watchmaker is a logical necessity. If a critic doesn’t like Darwinism, his only permissible move is to suggest a better blind watchmaker. That a competent blind watchmaker doesn’t exist at all is not a logical possibility.
That is why Dawkins and other Darwinists never prove the blind watchmaker hypothesis: instead, they illustrate it. A Darwinist only has to imagine how some complex organ or organism might have originated by mutation and selection, and the theory has another confirming example. For example, Dawkins imagines that small tree-dwelling mammals might have survived falls more frequently if they happened to grow flaps of skin between their digits that slowed their descent. Over many generations, these flaps might have grown into wings as further mutations accumulated, and so four-footed creatures might become flying bats. That sort of storytelling counts as a scientific explanation in Darwinist circles, and no one expects the storyteller to demonstrate that such a process either can or did occur.
There is no doubt that natural processes produce a degree of variation in existing genotypes, as illustrated by the differences between island species and their close mainland relatives. The question is whether similar processes have the power to furnish the genetic information required for (say) bacteria to become complex plants and animals, or for four-footed mammals to change into bats and whales. Darwinian evolution of the genuinely creative sort can’t be observed in the field or the laboratory, or traced in the fossil record. Functional intermediates between distinct types often can’t even be imagined. No matter: by Darwinist logic natural selection had to do the job anyway, or we wouldn’t be here to carp at the lack of evidence. Critics may cite any number of objections, but at the end of the day the Darwinists still hold title to that term “science.” As long as their rules are in force, their theory cannot be unseated.
When people ask whether Darwinism and theism are compatible, they normally take the Darwinism for granted and ask whether the theism has to be discarded. It is far more illuminating, however, to approach the question from the other side. Is there any reason that a person who believes in a real, personal God should believe that biological creation occurred by Darwinian evolution? The answer is clearly no. The sufficiency of any process of chemical evolution to produce life has certainly not been demonstrated, nor has the ability of natural selection to produce new body plans, complex organs, or anything else except variation within types that already exist. The fossil record notoriously does not evidence any continuous process of gradual change. Rather, it consistently shows that new forms appear suddenly and fully formed in the rocks, and thereafter remain fundamentally unchanged. That is why fossil experts from T. H. Huxley to Stephen Jay Gould have flirted with the heresy that biological transformations occurred in great (and therefore scientifically inexplicable) jumps. If Darwinian evolution is the only allowable source for life’s diversity and complexity, then the shortage of evidence doesn’t matter. The only question, to borrow Darwin’s own words, is why “Nature may almost be said to have guarded against the frequent discovery of her transitional or linking forms.” Atheists can leave the matter there, but theists have to go farther. If God exists, then Darwinian evolution is not the only alternative, and there is no reason for a theist to believe that God employed it beyond the relatively trivial level where the effects of variation and selection can actually be observed.
In short, the reason that Darwinism and theism are fundamentally incompatible is not that God could not have used evolution by natural selection to do his creating. Darwinian evolution might seem unbiblical to some, or too cruel and wasteful a method for a benevolent Creator to choose, but it is always possible that God might do something that confounds our expectations. No, the contradiction between Darwinism and theism goes much deeper. To know that Darwinism is true (as a general explanation for the history of life), one has to know that no alternative to naturalistic evolution is possible. To know that is to assume that God does not exist, or at least that God does not or cannot create. To infer that mutation and selection did the creating because nothing else was available, and then to bring God back into the picture as the omnipotent being who chose to create by mutation and selection, is to indulge in self-contradiction. That is why Darwin and his successors have always felt that theistic evolutionists were missing the point, although they have often tolerated them as useful allies.
Failure to understand that Darwinism is primarily a philosophical rather than an empirical doctrine has made theistic naturalists unduly fearful of incurring what is called the “god of the gaps” problem. This problem arises when we point to some gap in current scientific knowledge, and attribute unexplained events to a divine cause. The better theological position, of course, is that God is responsible for all events, and not just those for which scientific explanations are currently lacking. Moreover, if science is in general on the right track, many gaps will eventually be filled with satisfactory explanations. In which case God—or rather, His supporters who underestimated the power of science—will have to make an embarrassing retreat. It is largely because of fear of the “god of the gaps” problem that theistic naturalists are reluctant to encourage any challenge to the validity of Darwinism.
The question that needs to be investigated, however, is not whether there are gaps in a fundamentally sound theory that has successfully explained a great deal. It is whether Darwinism is wrong in principle in assuming that marvelously complex structures like the human body, or even the bacterial cell, can be built up by an unguided material process. This is a question that deserves unbiased investigation, and not only for theological reasons. If mutation and selection cannot accomplish wonders of creativity, then science is on the wrong track and needs to be brought back to reality. As a start in the right direction, critics need to encourage Darwinists to stop hiding controversial assumptions by declaring them to be facts or incorporating them into the definition of “science,” and to start replacing vague words like “evolution” with a precise set of terms that can be used consistently to illuminate the points of difficulty. Nobody on any side of the issue should object to clarifying the issues that way—nobody, that is, who really wants to find out the truth.
Attempts to accommodate theism and Darwinism are inherently futile, but the accommodation of theism and empirical science is quite another matter. In the long run theistic religion has nothing to fear from true science, because both are human understandings of an underlying reality rooted in the same divine source. Moreover, empirical science is limited by its methods, and can only tell us how things work rather than whether they were brought into existence in furtherance of a higher purpose. The fact that Darwinists continually claim to have a scientific answer to the question of purpose is itself an indication that they are engaged in something other than a true empirical science.
What kind of science is Darwinism? The best answer to that question is provided in the first chapter of Douglas Futuyma’s widely used college evolutionary biology textbook. Professor Futuyma, an able and dedicated defender of Darwinism, explains Darwin’s importance in these words:
By coupling undirected, purposeless variation to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection, Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of the life processes superfluous. Together with Marx’s materialistic theory of history and society and Freud’s attribution of human behavior to influences over which we have little control, Darwin’s theory of evolution was a crucial plank in the platform of mechanism and materialism—of much of science, in short—that has since been the stage of most Western thought.
Darwin, Marx, and Freud. These three giants of materialism head everyone’s list of the most influential makers of the twentieth-century mind-set. Today there are still a few Freudians and Marxists left, but even they would be embarrassed to cite Freudianism or Marxism as examples of empirical science. We now know these ideologies for what they always were: imaginative stories told to advance a materialist worldview, and buttressed by a beguiling pretense of scientific methodology. We shouldn’t let fear hold us back from investigating whether the same thing is true of Darwinism.
Philip E. Johnson is the author of Darwin on Trial. His article “Evolution as Dogma: The Establishment of Naturalism” appeared in our issue of October 1990.
Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash. Image cropped.