The Creation Story for Atheists
By Anne Barbeau Gardiner
Anne Barbeau Gardiner, a Contributing Editor of the NOR, is Professor Emerita of English at John Jay College of the City University of New York. She has published on Dryden, Milton, and Swift, as well as on Catholics of the seventeenth century.
God and Evolution: Protestants, Catholics, and Jews Explore Dar win’s Challenge to Faith. Edited by Jay W. Richards. Discovery Institute Press (www.discoveryinstitutepress.com; 206-292-0401). 387 pages. $24.95.
God and Evolution contains fifteen timely and powerful essays on the topic of religion and evolution. The writers include John G. West and Stephen C. Meyer (whose books were reviewed in the Sept. 2008 and Oct. 2010 issues, respectively) and Jay W. Richards, who contributes several key essays on Catholics and evolution to this collection.
Here’s what we’re up against today: Two out of three college biology teachers call themselves atheists or agnostics, as do ninety-five percent of the biologists in the National Academy of Sciences. Of the leading scientists involved in evolution, eighty-seven percent deny the existence of God, and ninety percent reject any purpose in evolution. The reason is easy to find: Darwinian evolution, “the creation story” of atheists, now operates “as the normal stance of science.” In high-school and college textbooks, Darwinian evolution is taught as a blind, heartless, purposeless, unguided process that makes any spiritual explanation of life superfluous. This is our current tax-funded orthodoxy enforced by court orders. Worst of all, what is “almost universally taught in textbooks” is that man himself is the unintended byproduct of blind material forces. Is it any wonder that our culture is sinking into nihilism?
As Richards warns, no Catholic can accept this worldview. Pope Pius XII, in his encyclical Humani Generis (1950), declared dogmatically that, far from being a product of evolution, each human soul is created directly by God. He also stated that the Fall of Adam and Eve was a historical event and that all human beings descend from this first pair and are marked by original sin. These points are also found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Moreover, Pope Benedict XVI has for decades criticized the Darwinian view that nature and human life are the result of purposeless chance. In a published sermon, he asserted that the world reveals “a creating Intelligence” and that human beings are “willed” by God and are “the fruit of love.”
Richards urges Catholics to stand on the front lines in the struggle to “liberate science and culture from the grip of materialism,” instead of looking for “quasi-Catholic ways” to support the materialist status quo. There are Catholic scholars who defend Darwinism on the ground that science is by its very nature limited to naturalistic explanations. Richards warns that this is “a potentially fatal, and unnecessary capitulation to modernism.” There are “historical or origins sciences like cosmology, origin-of-life research, and evolutionary biology, that depend heavily on comparing competing hypotheses.” These sciences follow what is called “abduction” or “inference to the best explanation,” weighing rival hypotheses to see which has greater “causal adequacy.” Darwinian evolution is not a “testable” hypothesis, Richards says, but is “largely historical and abductive.” It is in competition with “teleological explanations” such as intelligent design (ID) theory, which is why Darwinists attack ID theorists with such vehemence. Both use abductive reasoning, yet Darwinists would have people believe they alone are “scientific,” while their rivals are philosophical or religious. Richard Dawkins admits that if Darwinism fails, then “design broadly construed is the alternative.”
Today, skepticism about the “all-encompassing claims” of Darwinism has become widespread among scientists themselves. Recently, eight hundred of them, some from MIT and Princeton, signed a statement expressing their doubt that the Darwinian mechanism is capable of explaining the complexity of life.