Saturday, February 14, 2009

D'Souza, Darwin and God 

Dinesh D'Souza, a writer and thinker for whom I normally have a good deal of respect, got the relationship between evolution and Christianity exactly backward, and effectively, though inadvertently, demonstrated an important point I have tried to make many times in the past.

D'Souza's point about Charles Darwin is that his theory of evolution did not cause him to lose his faith, though he does assert that it has caused others to lose their faith. D'Souza bases this on the fact that Darwin was already angry at God for the death of his daughter at age 10, and also Darwin's refusal to believe that good men such as his grandfather who were unbelievers could be in hell. Darwin therefore was already moving away from Christianity when he started to formulate the theory of evolution. Therefore, says D'Souza, Darwin's loss of his faith and his belief in evolution are unrelated events.

I would posit instead that they are closely related, as Darwin himself said, though D'Souza has the proposed cause and effect backward. Many Christians who believe in evolution make this same mistake, and think that we creationists are just blindly holding onto ignorance out of fear of losing our faith if we realize the truth of science. No, instead we recognize that evolution was simply intellectual cover for what logically did indeed come prior, the rejection of the God of the Bible. If one rejects the God of the Bible then one must find a way around one of the most common and compelling arguments for the existence of that God, which is the nature and existence of the things we see around us. So Darwin is rejecting God, and being of a scientific mindset, he must answer the question of how everything came to be, and he hits on this idea, the theory of evolution. As some of D'Souza's own quotes of Darwin shows, he regarded any divine involvement in science as the death knell of his theory:
When Darwin's co-discoverer of evolution, Alfred Russel Wallace, wrote him to say that evolution could not account for man’s moral and spiritual nature, Darwin accused him of jeopardizing the whole theory. “I hope you have not murdered too completely your own and my child.” Darwin's ultimate position was that it was disastrous for evolution to, at any point, permit a divine foot in the door.

So Darwin certainly saw a connection between the two. But D'Souza merely says that it was "complicated", like the way people talk about their relationships on Facebook when they don't want to explain it more clearly. D'Souza likewise says that we have to distinguish between Darwin the unbeliever and Darwin the scientist. Why? Darwin didn't distinguish. To him, evolution was necessary to avoid the God of the Bible, and evolution serves this same purpose for many other scientists, as D'Souza's own quotes again demonstrate:

According to Richard Dawkins in The Blind Watchmaker, “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.”

Biologist E.O. Wilson writes, “If humankind evolved by Darwinian natural selection, genetic chance and environmental necessity, not God, made the species.” Douglas Futuyma asserts in his textbook Evolutionary Biology, “By coupling undirected, purposeless variation to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection, Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of life superfluous.” Biologist William Provine boasts that in the modern era, “evolution is the greatest engine of atheism.”

Darwin’s most ardent champion, Thomas Henry Huxley, took a different view. Huxley was vehemently anti-Christian, and he was attracted to Darwin’s theory precisely because they saw it as helping to overthrow the Christian case for divine creation. Huxley noted that evolution’s “complete and irreconcilable antagonism” to Christianity constituted “one of its greatest merits in my eyes.”

Christians or theists who believe in evolution are very anxious not to see this point, as some of my own interactions with them in the past demonstrate. They want to believe that they're just separate issues, but they're not. Evolution is one of the many tools, and one of the handiest tools for the scientifically minded, to avoid the truth about God. And those quotes above just demonstrate that without the theory of Darwin, one has little choice but to believe in a God who created everything. None of D'Souza's handwaving can change the fact that there was the very closest of relationships between Darwin's unbelief and his science. D'Souza never even attempts to examine whether the event that came before (anger at God over the death of his daughter) had any influence on the event that came after (the formulation of the theory of evolution). He simply assumes the wrong cause-and-effect relationship is what we theists believe and then disproves an argument that we don't make.

Now this doesn't mean that everyone who believes in evolution is trying to avoid the truth of the Bible. But this is the purpose of the theory, and the way it functions in most of our secular world. Peter didn't recognize that the Judaizers were trying to steal the faith, and he was led astray. Many Christians are likewise led astray by those trying to destroy the faith. Belief in evolution doesn't necessarily turn one into an atheist. But it sure helps a lot if becoming an atheist is what you're trying to do anyway.

So the point is not that we creationists are afraid of being turned into atheists if we believe in evolution. It's just that we recognize that the major engine promoting evolution is the atheistic impulse, the desire to avoid the truth of God's word, and we see no reason to go along. I see no reason to carry water for people who hate God and the Bible. I see no reason to justify their attacks against my Lord and Savior and call the theory something other than what it is. I see no reason to disbelieve Scripture's clear teachings in favor of this atheistic attack on God. And I see every reason to warn other Christians, like Paul warned Peter, not to fall prey to these deceptions. The evidence may seem compelling and the arguments may seem overwhelming. Satan has always been good at what he does. But their real intention is clear. And God's word is clear. He made all things by the word of His power in six days, some six to ten thousand years ago. Let God be true and every man a liar.

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One Observation: But the principles of athiestic evolution remain unsatisfying. Without God, we still must wrestle with trying to explain the existence of all things. As one of the Popes said famously said to a scientist, "You can have everything after the Big Bang, but before it, that's the church's" (I hope you can appreciate the sentiment of the quote rather than it's questionable source :) )

Any atheist who claims evolution as satisfying hasn't thought enough about it.

One question: You mention a link between Darwin's psychology and his unbelief. This is easily demonstrated and believable. But is the converse true? Can a person't belief be a product of their psychology?
To your observation, I agree- it doesn't really untie the knot. But that doesn't mean that it isn't an attempt to do exactly that. Certainly, many thinkers thinks that it does untie the knot. That doesn't mean they're right, but it shows the attempt and the desire is there.

To your question- I'm not sure I follow you exactly. There's a typo in the last sentence which makes me wonder if I'm reading your intent correctly. But if I'm understanding you correctly, you're asking if someone can become a believer in God because of a psychological condition? And my answer would be, people believe all sorts of things because of psychological conditions of various types.

But going beyond mere belief in some supernatural being, would it make sense to believe that someone could actually come to know the real, transcendent truth of God from such a source? Could someone reach a state of true spiritual truth as a result of a psychological condition, or from any other extraneous source (education, culture, genetics, drug abuse, etc?) Because if so, then the acquisition of that knowledge seems to me to become absurd and purposeless.

On the other hand, it's late and I may be speaking nonsense.
I think psychology plays a part in faith, along with every other aspect of our lives. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God, but God has prepared the soil of our soul to receive His Word both in supernatural regeneration and in the circumstances of our lives leading up to and after conversion. In other words, within the sovereignty of God, I think every aspect of our lives, as the elect, works for our salvation in one way or another. One may be more psychologically prepared to accept the categories of faith than another.

The issue of theistic evolution remains a problem for me. I have had some interaction with theistic evolutionists lately. They are not hard to find in Anglicanism. I am still not convinced that it is compatible with faith. One may still believe, despite the fact that they think the universe came into being by purely material mechanisms, but I think their choice to believe is rather irrational. The better ones will normally point to other theistic arguments, such as man's search for meaning, and things like that.

At the same time, I am troubled by recent scientific discoveries that give me pause. They do not change my position, mind you, but they do raise questions. One such discovery is the recent extraction of Neanderthal DNA. Supposedly, and I am not a scientist, the DNA is decidedly not human. I am not sure what to do with the info, but I figure I will wait around and see how it is handled and treated. Scientific "findings" have a way of changing over time.

Peace to you,

Yes, I agree with you that psychological factors can undoubtedly drive one in the direction of truth. All of our lives are used by God for His purposes.

As far as the evidence you raise goes, I guess my response is, it doesn't change what the Bible says which is really the only question for me. If the interpretation of the evidence shows something clearly contrary to Scripture then the interpretation was wrong. And the only thing we have to admit to resolve any contradictions is to admit that there's a lot we don't know, which should be an easy thing for any Christian to admit.

I agree that the Bible must guide our thinking on the subject. You and I agree on our presuppositions. I guess my frustration is found in the fact that we have no biblical data with which to deal with a sub-human, apparently rational species. Of course, I realize the jury is still out as to whether or not Neanderthals were actually rational. Since the Bible really does not offer much detail and is very focused in its purpose, I expect that there will be a lot of data that will surface in the future for which we will not have a response, especially as DNA science advances. This troubles me. The evolutionists will have "answers." They will plug everything into their nifty little diagrams. Since the Bible is silent on such species, I am afraid our inevitable silence might be interpreted as ignorance and denial.

Existentially, however, we win the day. Evolution leaves man without any vision and without any hope. I suspect "meaning" will be the battleground of the future, as it really has been in the past. I like to cut to the chase. If I were an atheistic or agnostic evolutionist, I would be a nihilist, as nihilistic as they come. To me, we have to follow our thinking to its logical conclusion. Theistic evolution tries to play both sides of the field, or to have their cake and eat it too. Again, to me, if all the evidence were to suggest that no Creator is necessary, then there is no reason to posit a Creator. Mankind's quest for meaning may just, hypothetically, be a spitting in the wind.

But, thank God, the truth is the worlds were created by the Word of the Living God. Our message on this point is so vital, that I think it makes the difference between collective suicide and life, between despair and hope.

Then again, I am one of those weird Amills who thinks the present age is quickly coming to a close, for I think Satan has been unleashed to deceive the nations. So, perhaps I should not have an audience.

Peace to you,

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