How Modern Faith Has Strange Bedfellows
by Herb Douglass
I know that I may be opening myself to scalding censure when I refer to two modern examples (among many) of seduction in the ‘high places’ of government and academia! Imagine: In the third week of August, the Texas Governor is labeled as ‘anti-science’ for disputing humans are causing global warming and evolution is ‘a theory’ with ‘some gaps in it.’
Seemingly blind to their devotion, advocates of ‘global warming’ and ‘evolutionary theory’ jumped to the occasion, proclaiming their faith as sincerely, and yes, as aggressively as Elmer Gantry and his copycats!
Many once-true believers are now saying in full-throated regrets how wrong they have been. And the frustrated anger of the ‘faithful’ who sense cracks in their ‘impregnable’ temples rises almost in synch on their favorite airwaves and newsprint.
Makes one wonder, as an aside, about all those who believe they follow truth wherever the facts take them. True, when Darwin published, The Origin of Species (1859), the protozoa were thought to be very simple and primitive. It was much easier to dream, imagine and speculate.
But along came the development of high definition electron microscopes, the discovery of DNA, and the developments in chemical engineering. Modern molecular biology has demonstrated cells are actually enormously complex. For those who built their faith on facts and not on imagination, and after reviewing the data, there is overwhelming evidence that no naturally evolving process could ever have produced life in any form.
But mental and psychological imprints are very hard to erase. This happens in all fields of study, as much in theology as in the natural sciences. This is not a criticism or indictment — just a recognition of reality we all must confront, in ourselves as in others.
One of the interesting pillars of evolutionary faith is ‘time.’ Evolution religion is built on the foundation of the doctrine of time. The theory becomes the fact. However, regardless of the amazing advances in mathematics and computer technology coming together to demonstrate that given an unlimited amount of time, even trillions and trillions of years, no amount of time is enough for life to happen by chance.
In the Introduction to the 1971 edition to Darwin’s, The Origin of Species, are these words: “The fact of evolution is the backbone of biology, and biology is thus in the peculiar position of being a science founded in an unproven theory. Is it then a science or faith? Belief in the theory of evolution is exactly parallel to belief in special creation” (Dr. L. H. Harrison Matthews).
Matthews is not a nut-case. No more than Charles Darwin was when he wrote in his chapter called, Difficulties with the Theory:1 “To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.”
For me, this is not only honest but a profound statement that seems terribly overlooked or at least forgotten.
How come the Darwinian Theory saw the light of day beyond a few lectures in England? How come one man’s theory without internal logic could capture the imagination and help alter dramatically the course of 19th Century philosophical and theological thought?
For those who know the philosophical and theological currents of the mid 19th century, nothing could have been more timely, more welcome. Confidence in the reliability of the Bible had been shattered by higher criticism. Schleiermacher’s broad thrust of subjectivism was finding a lot of support, the winds of optimism were blowing as never before, modern inventions on all levels were helping create an atmosphere of progress (which, in itself, helped to spawn a new level of idealism) — and then came Darwin to provide a ‘scientific reason’ that the world is indeed ‘getting better.’ The time had come for Darwin’s theory of evolution to explain everything! It not only explained, it exploded, imprinting the minds of most every child over the next 150 years.
Michael Ruse, professor of philosophical biology at Florida State University, considers himself an atheist and states plainly it is impossible to reconcile the Christian faith with evolutionary theory. But he states clearly that evolution is a religion: “Evolution as promoted by its practitioners is more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion — a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality. I am an ardent evolutionist and an ex-Christian, but I must admit one complaint…the literalists [i.e., creationists] are absolutely right. Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution today.”2
Many are the directions I could now go but perhaps Sir Antony Flew is about the best illustration of a great champion of atheism who stunned the natural science world in 2004 when he admitted DNA discoveries changed his whole picture of how life happened.3
We remember his famous article, Theology and Falsification, in 1950 that set the agenda for modern atheism. In reviewing his earth-shaking decision in 2004, in part, he said: “In this symposium, when asked if recent work on the origin of life pointed to the activity of a creative intelligence, I said, "Yes. I now think it does…almost entirely because of the DNA investigations. I now believe that the universe was brought into existence by an infinite intelligence. I believe that this universe’s intricate laws manifest what scientists have called the Mind of God. I believe that life and reproduction originate in a divine Source."
“My departure from atheism was not occasioned by any new phenomenon or argument. Over the last two decades, my whole framework of thought has been in a state of migration. This was a consequence of my continuing assessment of the evidence of nature. When I finally came to recognize the existence of God, it was not a paradigm shift, because my paradigm remains, as Plato in his Republic scripted his Socrates to insist: We must follow the argument wherever it leads.”4
Although Flew blew a hole in what some called ‘settled science,’ we must also note he did not become a convert to Christianity.
Some other time I would like to look at the argument for ‘the irreducible minimum’ that altered ‘settled science’ with the continuing torrent of information from those working with unraveling of DNA. What a story!
What I have learned over the years is to avoid the cult-of-experts trap. It happens in theology as well as in all other branches of knowledge. We see it on most news programs where certain experts get hooked on a certain story line, year after year. Such as anthropomorphic global warning, or spend ourselves out of recession (Keynesian models), etc.
To avoid this cult-of-experts trap, we should ask a simple question: Who is quoting whom?
In this day of academic hyperspecialization, it is too easy to hitch one’s car to a star, hoping some of the star dust will fall on him or her. It surely can ruin bright young people — until they catch on, perhaps. Plato was right, speaking through Socrates, “We must follow the argument wherever it leads.”
We must avoid bending facts or logic to fit in with the group.That’s the opposite of falling into the cult-of-expert trap.
1 Darwin, The Origin of the Species, 143.
2 Ruse, Michael, “Saving Darwinianism from the Darwinians.” National Post, May13, 2000, 33.
3 Dallas Morning News, December 15. 2004.
4 Flew, Antonym There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. New York: Harper/Collins, 2007. 75, 88, 89.