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“What are all living things really for?” Dawkins replies to his own question: “The answer is DNA. It is a profound and precise answer and the argument for it is watertight….” “Flowers and elephants are ‘for’ the same thing as everything else in the living kingdoms, for spreading Duplicate Me programs written in the DNA language.” Dawkins argues that all cellular forms of life, including human beings, are specialized robots, of a kind that can duplicate themselves without external machinery for doing the duplicating.
Under this view, our senses and minds are not designed to perceive objective truth, but are simply evolutionary products that have turned out to be useful for survival. As Dawkins puts it, “We are jumped-up apes, and our brains were only designed to understand the mundane details of how to survive in the stone-age African savannah.”
Another confirmed Darwinist and outspoken opponent of intelligent design, historian of biology William Provine, frankly states the conclusions to be drawn from Darwinian materialism: “There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will.”
Judeo-Christian theism, on the other hand, not only admits but affirms that God is the creator of the universe and life. In its physical workings, the universe obeys laws ordained by God, although that is not seen as inconsistent with God’s active participation in it. G.K. Chesterton compared the two views a century ago:
The materialist philosophy (whether true or not) is certainly much more limiting than any religion….The Christian is quite free to believe that there is a considerable amount of settled order and inevitable development in the universe. But the materialist is not allowed to admit into his spotless machine the slightest speck of spiritualism or miracle.
According to the theistic worldview, we can have genuine knowledge of scientific truth and other kinds of truth because God has endowed us with senses and reason that are designed by Him to understand the created order in which He has placed us. Since God created the universe and life, it would also not be surprising for science and reason to uncover evidence of His design in nature.
Contrary to the materialist conclusions enunciated by Provine, the traditional Judeo-Christian worldview maintains that there is indeed an ultimate foundation for ethics. God’s creation has an inherent moral order; there is objective right and wrong; and these can be known by us through revelation and reason. Far from life being a blind unfolding of material processes, life has purpose and meaning in God’s plan. We are not chemical machines or robots. Human beings have free will, and are accountable moral agents.
The materialistic and theistic worldviews are thus opposed on virtually every important issue. Intelligent design addresses only one of these issues: whether or not the universe and life are designed. It does not attempt to prove (say) that the designer has all of the attributes of the Christian God. Because it is a scientific theory, it does not attempt to establish a foundation for morals, the nature of knowledge, or the purpose of life. Although ID is consistent with the view of the three great monotheistic religions that the universe and life are created by God, it cannot, by itself, prove any of them to be true comprehensively.
On the other hand, intelligent design is flatly inconsistent with philosophical materialism. Indeed, by demonstrating the profound, unsolved problems of Darwinism, and supporting the design inference in its stead, ID has the potential to deal a crushing blow to materialism. Without Darwinism, a materialist worldview has no creation story, no way of even purporting to explain how life came about. Materialism without Darwinism is an unbelievable worldview.
Furthermore, from a materialist perspective, which holds as a matter of faith that God does not exist, any effort to show that life is designed will necessarily be an exercise in falsehood. If one defines the universe as consisting only of material forces, there is no intelligent designer and hence there can be no intelligent design. Materialism thus rules ID out of bounds, and holds it to be false, by definition.
That is what leads to the emphatic claims that intelligent design is “not science.” ID transgresses the central tenet of materialism. But are materialism and science the same thing? Must all science be based on a view that matter and energy are “all there is,” and that there cannot possibly be an ordering intelligence behind the creation of life, the design of physical laws, and the place of human beings in the cosmos? Will a theistic worldview stop science in its tracks, as some materialists claim, because scientists who accept design will throw up their hands, and refer all explanations to “the will of God”?
No, no, and no. The attempt to equate science with materialism is a quite recent development, coming chiefly to the fore in the 20th century. Contrary to widespread propaganda, science is not something that arose after the dark, obscurantist forces of religion were defeated by an “enlightened” nontheistic worldview. The facts of history show otherwise.
IN HIS RECENT BOOK For the Glory of God, Rodney Stark argues “not only that there is no inherent conflict between religion and science, but that Christian theology was essential for the rise of science.” (His italics.) While researching this thesis, Stark found to his surprise that “some of my central arguments have already become the conventional wisdom among historians of science.” He is nevertheless “painfully aware” that most of the arguments about the close connection between Christian belief and the rise of science are “unknown outside narrow scholarly circles,” and that many people believe that it could not possibly be true.
Sometimes the most obvious facts are the easiest to overlook. Here is one that ought to be stunningly obvious: science as an organized, sustained enterprise arose only once in the history of Earth. Where was that? Although other civilizations have contributed technical achievements or isolated innovations, the invention of science as a cumulative, rigorous, systematic, and ongoing investigation into the laws of nature occurred only in Europe; that is, in the civilization then known as Christendom. Science arose and flourished in a civilization that, at the time, was profoundly and nearly exclusively Christian in its mental outlook.
There are deep reasons for that, and they are inherent in the Judeo-Christian view of the world which, principally in its Christian manifestation, formed the European mind. As Stark observes, the Christian view depicted God as “a rational, responsive, dependable, and omnipotent being and the universe as his personal creation, thus having a rational, lawful, stable structure, awaiting human comprehension.” That was not true of belief systems elsewhere. A view that the universe is uncreated, has been around forever, and is just “what happens to be” does not suggest that it has fundamental principles that are rational and discoverable. Other belief systems have considered the natural world to be an insoluble mystery, conceived of it as a realm in which multiple, arbitrary gods are at work, or thought of it in animistic terms. None of these views will, or did, give rise to a deep faith that there is a lawful order imparted by a divine creator that can and should be discovered.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online