Santa was not very kind to George Will this Christmas. After months of Will’s calling Donald Trump a “vulgarian” and his supporters “invertebrates,” Trump is doing better than ever at the polls. The latest RCP national rolling average has Trump at 36.5 and Cruz, his nearest rival, at 17.8. Cruz narrowly leads Trump in Iowa (+2.8), but Trump is way ahead in New Hampshire (+13.7) and South Carolina (+14.4). So Santa’s message to Will is: You no longer have a following, dear boy.
Perhaps this explains why. On Christmas day, Will penned an article ridiculing those who believe in God. He did this under the guise of comparing “religious creationists, who are mistaken but inconsequential” with “secular theists” or central planners who believe that order is something imposed from above — by a designer — rather than something that bubbles up from below, “self-organizing, self-changing.”
Will’s analogy shows that his view of creationism or intelligent design is primitive and reductionist. One might go so far as to say that it is vulgar. For intelligent design is not about God studying the Chaos and deciding how to arrange the pieces, which is what a central planner — a Hillary Clinton or a Bernie Sanders — might do. It’s about God creating the chaos that comprises within itself the laws of nature in accordance with which everything else occurs.
The description of creation in Genesis is not inconsistent with scientific theory. (Gerald L. Schroeder, The Science of God, Free Press, 1997) The events described in the seven days of creation follow a chronology that is supported by science. It is later, when focusing specifically on the creation of man, that the Bible uses metaphors to capture the complexity of what is happening. What we learn from these metaphors is that man was created in God’s image, so that he possesses the Godly attributes of compassion, mercy, graciousness, forgiveness, and so on. For thousands of years, this conception of man has allowed people to cling to the notion of human dignity even when external circumstances have conspired to deprive them of dignity. However mean the circumstances of the guy who asks you if you have any spare change, if you look into his eyes you’ll see someone who was created in God’s image.
Will thinks that some of us need to posit the existence of a “designer” because without someone in charge we feel insecure. We’re not very bright, you see. He quotes Matt Ridley: “On the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel Adam and God touch fingers. To the uneducated eye it is not clear who is creating whom.” Matt Ridley must have been looking at the floor when he walked through the Chapel, for in fact Adam’s fingers don’t touch God’s. In the painting, there is a gap between the two hands, a gap which both God and Adam are reaching to close. To the uneducated, Trump-supporting invertebrate that I am, it captures an essential aspect of the human condition, our constant striving for transcendence.
For centuries, Western man has turned to religion to find transcendence. Religion has allowed him, even if only for brief periods, to transcend his individuality and find community. The Judeo-Christian religious tradition, with its conception of what man is, has allowed us to construct a civilization of unparalleled accomplishments in its legal and ethical systems, its art and architecture, its science and technology, its literature and philosophy. The wealth we created lifted much of the rest of the world out of poverty. It improved health and life expectancy.
At the same time as we became gloriously wealthy, though, we grew spiritually impoverished as we turned away from our heritage. In denying our religion, we left a void, for we could not help but seek transcendence in other ways. Some, like Schiller, thought that aesthetics might take the place of religion, but that was in the political world that gave us the aestheticized violence of Fascism. Pascal said that there is a God-shaped hole in our hearts, but in the absence of God the atheist would fill the void with a human face, with the Obama-shaped hole we saw in the 2008 election.
We searched for transcendence through sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. Ignorant of our own religious traditions we turned to Eastern mysticism or paganism. We put our faith in technology, creating virtual worlds where all our fantasies might be realized. In each case, transcendence was elusive, and we became ever more locked into our individuality. Finally, we stopped marrying and procreating.
And here is the great irony. As the Judeo-Christian population of the West fizzled out, the Population Division of the United Nations issued a report in 1999 recommending the use of “replacement migration” to counteract the effects of low fertility on population size and ageing in the West. The uneducated, mostly Muslim populations of Africa and Asia were to be transplanted into the West where, presumably, they would provide the workforce necessary to support the retirement financing of the native white population.
This plan assumes that the migrants will be willing to work, rather than sit back and collect benefits from the host countries, but that is a discussion best left for another time. In the meantime, it’s enough to note that this migration spells the end of Western civilization. For civilization inheres in the people who make it up, and the people who make up Western civilization are committing suicide, and in some quarters, this is a welcome development.
George Will’s Christmas article appeared to be primarily about the folly of secular planners. His attack on religion was totally gratuitous. And so the question presents itself: why is George Will, reputed conservative and intellectual, concerned to undermine the most fundamental element of Western civilization — its religious heritage? Does he even understand what he’s doing? “I don’t think he’s an intellectual,” said Donald Trump of George Will. “He looks like an intellectual, but I don’t think he’s smart enough to be an intellectual.”
Looks like Trump’s right again. By my lights, Will’s not an intellectual. If he thinks science refutes religion, he’s not even smart. And he’s decidedly not a conservative.