The real reason Christians have trouble embracing Darwinism (and why Atheists should, too)
I was thinking about this today, and I think I came up with a pretty straightforward way to explain why Christians have trouble embracing Darwinism. Put simply, it’s because Darwinism has philosophical and theological implications. I’m defining “Darwinism” specifically (and including Neo-Darwinism in the same category) to mean: That the development of life was purely random, the universe did not intend to create life. Science may reveal that all present-day life had a common ancestor, but that’s the theory of common descent which is just one component of, and was around long before, Darwinism. So if an intelligent purpose or design was present at any point in the process, the development of life can be said to have been “Non-Darwinian,” even if random genetic mutation and natural selection were also involved… a la the various theories proposed by the ID camp (genetic front-loading, special creation followed by naturalistic evolution, etc.).
So to dig into the implications of Darwinism, allow me to posit a list of items that I’d say represent (some of) the things that bring meaning to human existence:
- Art, Music, Creativity
- Aesthetics (a sense of beauty, design, elegance, ugliness, clunkyness)
- Pleasure, Happiness, Sadness, Longing
- Ethics, Morality, opinions on how people should and shouldn’t behave
- Love, hatred, altruism, valuing or devaluing life itself, the drive to better the lives of all people
- Purpose, ambition, desire, will
- Religion, the search for meaning or the decision to reject it
- Math, Logic, Philosophy, and Science
Consider the above list for a moment, and ponder how each of these characteristics manifests itself in yourself and in the world around you.
Now, consider these items under the each of following “If… then…” type of extrapolations of different truth possibilities regarding Darwinism:
If Darwinism is true, then:
Life arose without purpose or direction; an organism or specie’s continued existence is driven purely by random genetic mutations and the resulting ability to not die. This implies that each of the items on the above list is not an end within itself, rather they are means to the ultimate end of survival: None of the items, under Darwinism, have any meaning on their own; they are curious electrochemical reactions that occur in the context of our particular species. They are vestiges that arose as part of the evolutionary process and happened to allow certain populations to survive, while populations without these characteristics tended to die out faster. They are survival tactics, in the same category as opposable thumbs. Of course a Darwinist doesn’t have to reject the items on the list… I doubt that’s even possible. But if Darwinism is true, there is nothing on the list that cannot be understood solely in terms of its impact on raw survivability.
If Darwinism is false, then:
There is/was some purpose or design behind the development of life. The items above are valid ends to be sought in themselves, because they are characteristics left behind by whatever created us as part of its intentions for how we should live. The love we feel for friends, family, humanity, etc. is not an illusion; it is more than just an electrochemical reaction in our brains. We seek and embrace the items on the above list because they are real. We are more than just bags of meat hanging on calcium sticks: frail and imperfect as we are, we exist for a reason other than raw survival.
Interestingly, if Darwinism is true, then it undermines science itself, because the abilities humans afford to reason and seek truth are just survival mechanisms, and the truth values determined by science cannot ultimately be known. Our understanding of the universe could be completely wrong, as long as it helps us survive. Either truth is a worthy end within itself, or it doesn’t really exist — and we’re ultimately subconsciously seeking survival by way of an illusion we call truth. And because Darwinism is the only origin-of-life theory that a die-hard atheist can reasonably embrace, an atheist really has no right to appeal to reason, or even morality… seeking scientific truth cannot be said to be the right or best course of action, and ethics don’t really exist outside of their impact on humanity’s longevity. Darwinism thus ultimately neuters the atheist’s ability to argue for their position, because under Darwinism, atheism is an ideological belief system which can only be understood as the manifestation of some survival mechanism — perhaps the very same mechanism that causes most of the world to believe in God.
That all of the above ends have no higher a purpose than opposable thumbs is something I’m just not willing to concede; therefore I can’t bring myself to be a Darwinist. I could, of course, be completely wrong. If that’s the case, truth doesn’t actually exist and none of this post ultimately matters — though if I’m right, it matters a whole lot.