Robert

A. Click here for a revised version of a paper that was published in Stimulus, 8 (2) 16-20 (May 2000) by Neil Broom and Robert Mann; “Creationism v Evolution but not Creation v Evolution.”

B. Paper given at the Seminar:

1. What are the unspoken assumptions in neo-Darwinism?

NeoDarwinism’s spoken assumptions are fairly openly declared, mainly that mutation is the source of variance in a species, mutation is random or anyhow purely physical in origin, and ‘natural’ selection, which can only narrow the variance among the mutants by selecting against breeding of the less fit (often for an environment millions of years in the future), is the pseudo-intelligent agent producing new species and a time-series of coherent ecosystems but by no causes except energy & matter.

These slogans are just as pointedly false as the essential slogans of more obviously totalitarian tendencies:

  • “the Slavs are sub-human”,
  • “the Jews are the main cause of trouble in Germany lately”;
  • “all men are rapists”,
  • “women need men like [sic] fish need bicycles” ;
  • “Aotearoa is Maadi land”.

A deeply irrational, totalitarian tendency, “creationism”, has just lately been flaunting its own set of blatantly false mottos –  “Gen. 1-2, and the Noah story, can be understood literally”, “refusal to pretend so constitutes an anti-Christian general insult to the holy scriptures”.  The ‘old earth’ version entails less falsification of science than the more aggressive ‘young earth’ version, but both chant the false slogan “all species were created at once; evolution has not occurred”.  “Creationism” bears a striking similarity to Dawkins-type atheism: they both make out that evolution, if accepted as a fact, refutes true religion.

Unspoken assumptions in neoDarwinism include the notions that it constitutes a complete explanation of evolution (and quite a lot else), and that it ‘therefore’ obviates religion.  These beliefs power an atheistic, largely non-discussing indeed bullying subculture, a social tendency not only a school of evolutionary theory.

Quietly dumping most of Aristotle’s categories of cause is a crucial unspoken assumption of this atheistic movement exemplified by Dawkins, L Wolpert, S Gould, S Weinberg.

2. Is there any theological doctrine which is threatened by evolutionary theory?

The historical process was that evolutionary theory preceded the reactionary fundamentalist “creationism” which purports to threaten science by pretending that early parts of the Bible are scientific writings which trump or over-ride what science has observed about the biosphere’s origin & evolution.  I have found that “creationists” strenuously object to the inverted commas on which I insist.  The very name is a furphy, hijacking a label which believers like me ought to be able to use of themselves.

One doctrine not readily brought into even an appearance of threatening science is Adam & Eve.   Whereas Gen. 1-2 cannot be understood literally, I see nothing in science to contradict a rather literal reading of Gen. 3: the doctrine that there was a first human couple some time well into God’s creating of the biosphere. That the animal species Homo sapiens was descended from earlier anthropoids lacking (crucially if not totally) moral sense is a scientific inference offering little theological threat.  To the extent that the emergence of moral sense in Homo may have been sudden – a discontinuity – that would make it just like the main features of prior evolution, which is characterised by huge sudden leaps (‘saltations’), not by gradualism.

3. What does faith/theology have to contribute if anything to an evolutionary understanding?

a.  Theology insists on final causes – purposes of willing agents (both the Infinite – God – and our finite free wills) designing and acting on plans.  Observable correlates beloved of neoDarwinists will not suffice to explain evolution; God’s plan is also required, logically (as well as being revealed to us in Judaeo-Christian religion).  Other finite wills, depicted in e.g. Kipling’s Jungle Book, are not to be neglected.

b.  Evolution, including history, is to be understood as a battle between good and evil. Christianity supplies the moral context in which to appraise aspects of evolution as good or evil.  Humans can be God’s agents in guiding evolution for good – exemplified by Grandmother Smith of a Sydney suburb.   Wrecking evolution by genetic manipulation must be seen as a moral offence (but Dawkins et al. allow no such category).

c.  Mature evolutionary theory will incorporate all 4 categories of cause.  This is proving difficult to address, surrounded as we are by Noo Eege, Geering, Randerson etc. as well as Wolpert etc.

4. Is Christianity ever dangerous as Dawkins has claimed?

We hope so; let us act accordingly.  We should be vigorously exposing Dawkins’s – and generally neoDarwinism’s – depauperate philosophy and crude atheistic assumptions.  I regret that those within our ranks who have defended neoDarwinism are not here today.

We should propound Christian scholarship, especially Sir Alister Hardy, John Morton, Rupert Sheldrake, William Temple, and links through Aquinas to Aristotle.  That is the way to show up the inadequacies of the new atheism.  Our defensiveness pointed out by Prof Lineham is far less effective.

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