Monday, October 29, 2012

Yet Another "Beside the Point" Post From the Discovery Institute

Michael Flannery pens yet another tiring post about the theology of Charles Darwin, as if, somehow, the religious persuasions of Darwin have any bearing on evolutionary theory.  He writes:
Darwin frequently claimed to be in a theological muddle. He often assumed this posture in letters to close friends and colleagues. But when it came to taking a stand on religion, the separation of the Atlantic Ocean seemed to have emboldened him. This is evident in his staunch support of American freethinker Francis Abbot (1836-1903), founder of the Free Religious Association and editor of its radical weekly voice, The Index. In the December 23, 1871, issue Darwin gave a rare and unequivocal glimpse of his religious beliefs. Responding to Abbot's radical manifesto Truths for the Times, he wrote that he admired Abbot's "truths" "from my inmost heart; and I agree to almost every word," adding, "The points on which I doubtfully differ are unimportant." So what exactly were those "truths" to which Darwin gave his complete -- even passionate -- approval?
It is fairly well known that Darwin rejected the idea of a personal savior due, in large part to the death of his beloved daughter Anna.  Darwin made no secret of this and no secret of the fact that he thought that intelligence and religious understanding had evolved.  Flannery continues:
Darwin's secular humanism and radical materialism was no late additions to his thinking either. In the spring of 1838, long before he had unveiled his theory to the world, Darwin asked in his private notebook, "Why is thought, being a secretion of brain, more wonderful than gravity a property of matter? It is our arrogance, it is our admiration of ourselves." Ironically, by dethroning god Darwin committed the greatest hubris of all: admiring only his theory and pacing his faith in man.

In light of this there would seem to be only three choices for theistic evolutionists. First, simply accept the incompatibility -- learn to live with the contradictory idea that a God of purpose and intentionality has created and sustained a universe of (in John Herschel's famous phrase) "higgledy-piggledy." After all, God can do what He wills.
His other two options are humanism and nihilism.

This is nonsense. Albert Einstein contributed more to the study of relativity and quantum physics than anybody before or since. Yet we know that, despite his belief in a higher power, he also rejected a personal God. Should all physicists adopt his theological perspectives as well? Of course not. His theological views are divorced from his studies in physics, just like our study of evolutionary biology have no bearing on our theological views, unless it is to show us the grandeur and inventiveness of God's creation. Some who accept evolution are Christians, some are deists, and some are atheists, just as there are some of each that practice physics.

He closes with this gem:
But then why trust the theory that emanated from Darwin's mind any more than those of a monkey's? Whether it's his theory of evolution or his ideas about god that emanate from it, the monkey is still on Darwin's back.
Aside from being insulting, I wonder if Mr. Flannery is aware that the idea of natural selection was co-authored by Alfred Russel Wallace. Would he also fit Wallace into his thinking?  Furthermore, I wonder if he is aware of the 150 years of evolutionary research that have not only corroborated Darwin's and Wallace's theoretical constructs but extended them to include population mathematics, genetics, biogeography and a whole host of disciplines.  Probably not.  Like David Klinghoffer and David Berlinski, also from the Discovery Institute, he seems trapped in the late 1800s. 

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