Friday, July 11, 2008
Posted by Daniel Greenfield 10 Comments
On the way to Synagogue this Sabbath I encountered a billboard advertising a book called "Thank God for Evolution," from Michael Dowd a self-proclaimed "evolutionary evangelist". The billboard cheerfully described the book as "Religion 2.0", which apparently means that Religion 2.0 has its own Myspace page and requires hours over the phone to India before it will work.
The book billboard also boasted a blurb from a Nobel Prize Winner in Something; "The science vs. religion debate is over!" Apparently all it took to end the debate was a whole bunch of billboards. At least that's the way debates tend to end among the Madison Avenue book publishing set.
Of course the debate is far from over, and the endless attempts at creating an uncomfortable shotgun marriage between Religion and Evolution, in which Religion concedes everything to Evolution, while Evolution promises not to make fun of Religion too much, never actually work out.
It's completely possible to believe in both Religion and Evolution... so long as your religion believes that the world was created in umpty billion years and that your grandfather was a monkey. That of course leaves out all the major monotheistic religions who actually believe that when Genesis describes the process of creation, it wasn't the wild hallucinations of some desert prophet or an incomprehensible metaphor for billions of years of evolution. And that's why the shotgun marriage of Religion and Evolution will never work.
There are of course plenty of religious people who believe in evolution. There are also plenty of religious people who believe it's permissible to steal, cheat and commit adultery. Major percentages of liberal clergy in both Judaism and Christianity have been polled as believing there is no God. Religion is no barrier to hypocrisy, heresy or just plain absurdity.
The only difference between saying, "Thank God for Evolution" and "Thank God there is no God" is that the former looks snappier on book covers and fools enough of the laity into thinking there's actually a difference. But Evolution by its very nature is a flimsy materialistic explanation that takes God out of the equation. It's incompatible with Biblical literalism and unworkable for anyone who believes that God created and elevated man, rather than that man is the current output of a drawn out process of biological trial and error.
The shotgun marriage of Evolution and Religion is most vocally trumpeted by panicked liberal clergy who see no real defense against the unshakeable proofs of Evolution... such as the occasional dinosaur fossil or the observation that animals make adaptations to their environment. Fearing a complete theological rout, they instead compromise their faith to be compatible with the latest scientific findings. Never mind that the latest scientific findings keep changing every month or so.
The ancient greeks dug up bones and invented a mythology of Gorgons and Minotaurs around them. We dig up bones and invent a mythology of Tyrannosaruses and Brontosaures (whom the latest scientific findings have announced never existed. Sorry kids.). Both mythologies served to explain the universe, whether it was to the ancient Greeks who served as the hoary grandparents of modern science or to modern science which has managed to create a mythology 12 dimensions wide and billions of years old peopled with intelligent particles and microscopic life turning into man. The actual evolution that has happened over a few thousand years is that the mythology has evolved from the fantasy of the Greeks to the Science Fiction of the moderns.
When Science attempts to compose its own creation myths, it usurps the place of religion, and reminds us that the real origin of science was in the imaginations of learned Greeks trying to understand the world through pure speculation. Practical application is the only thing that has kept Science honest. You can speculate all day about how many fairies can dance on the head of a quark, but if your theory doesn't produce practical results, it isn't worth much.
The campaign against Intelligent Design is a symptom of a Scientific establishment that has lost the ability to keep itself honest and demands that its creation myths be treated as facts and everyone else's creation myths as myths. This is a common enough position for religious establishments to take, after all we all "know" that we're right and the other fellow across the street just insists on believing sheer balderdash. But it's an uncommon one for Science to take, after all Science is meant to be a marketplace of ideas, rather than a closed box. Yet that is exactly what the Prophets of Evolution would demand of us, that we accept their beliefs and teach them to our children, without a hint of criticism or doubt. A demand addressed in the same tones of condescension and undisguised contempt, as if we were aborigines who had to be taught to wear pants.
"Thank God for Evolution!" promises, and I quote, "practical methods for using evolutionary insights to achieve greater personal fulfillment and thriving relationships". But while a Darwinian approach no doubt holds many practical methods for personal fulfillment, if your objective is to be a Wall Street Broker, a Eugenicist or the Secretary General of the Chinese Communist Party, it lacks any genuine moral dimension beyond what can be gained from selfish altruism.
Evolution offers us a world in which life is an accident, death is overriding and eternal and man is no more than a monkey who has learned how to create sophisticated machinery. Is it any wonder that such a worldview naturally leads to grandiosity, such as the obsession with man destroying the earth that has given us the myth of Global Warming on the one hand, and the need to create all-encompassing Socialist nanny states on the other, to substitute in place of God.
After the fall of the Tower of Babel, when the tongues of men became manifold, men replaced the tower, with Towers of Babble, ideas that do their best to climb to heaven and drive out God. Evolution is simply the latest house of ideas, built out of suppositions and premature conclusions, a towering structure of human arrogance whose teetering upper stories we are commanded to look away from, lest we upset the whole enterprise.
The shotgun marriage of Religion and Evolution having fired its blast at God, and all but removed him from the equation except as some sort of pantheistic process of nature, looks around the world and wonders why no one seems to care anymore. Like children who have convinced themselves there is no father, they find that being spiritual orphans is not nearly as liberating as they thought it would be.