Thursday, February 12, 2009

Darwin Day

Spotted on the “Faith and Values” page of our local newspaper the weekend before Darwin Day: “A celebration of the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin will be at 7 PM Thursday, Feb. 12 at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.” This page doubles as an announcement forum for area church events. John G. West, in his 2007 volume Darwin Day in America, states, “Promoters of Darwin Day deny that their activities are anti-religious.” West continues, “Perhaps in an effort to clean up the image of Darwin Day as merely Christmas for atheists, a professor from Wisconsin is now urging churches to celebrate 'Evolution Sunday' on or near Darwin Day."

A judgment concerning whether Darwin Day is pro- or anti-religion depends on what or whose religion we are talking about. If you search for definitions of “religion” on the internet, you will find, in addition to references to God or deity, many different expressions of religion along these lines: “A framework that shapes the entirety of life and thought.” In these terms, Darwinian evolution is a religion. Today, Feb. 12, we commemorate the birth of the most famous popularizer of the religion of evolution, Charles Darwin.

When we speak of “the entirety of life and thought,” we could also be speaking of “worldview.” Much contemporary worldview thinking about behavior, attitudes, values, and beliefs filters through the Darwinian mindset. For example, human life and behavior is merely the product of a blind, materialistic process which brought us forth from LUCA, the “last universal common ancestor” somewhere around 3.9 billion years ago. If we are the product of blind, naturalistic, materialistic forces, the thinking goes, how could anyone be responsible for his/her actions? The criminal can’t exercise free will or help himself avoid bad behavior, because all our behaviors are already determined for us. They are, therefore, out of our control. This sounds extreme, but our judicial system has long moved through various degrees of flirtation with “insanity” defenses and leniency based on principles that there is no such thing as “free will.”

Likewise, society’s attitudes toward theistic religion, sexual mores, life in the womb, euthanasia, the distinction between human life and lesser forms of life, and even business practices and human behavior in general, are often viewed through materialist, reductionist, and deterministic lenses. Simply stated, that means we can’t really help what we do, since we are the product of evolution. Belief in Darwinian evolution is basically naturalism infiltrating our thinking process. The role of God is relegated to religious fantasyland, unnecessary and unwanted. The marvelous complexity and beauty surrounding us, Darwinists claim, is just an accident resulting from the ability of inanimate matter to self-organize. That ability produces our astonishing cosmos, together with the life which inhabits it, they say.

Both naturalistic and theistic evolutionists may want to think more carefully before lighting candles on Darwin’s birthday cake. Belief in Darwinian macro-evolution needs a religious faith which posits that the effect is greater than the cause. This is an irrational proposition. The religious belief that (1) the cause (God) is greater than the effect (the cosmos), and, as a result, (2) design and beauty of our cosmos and its living systems has a cause greater than itself, is completely rational. The first chapter of Genesis passes the rationality test.