Is Evolution Ready to Take Over Christianity?
Those familiar with New Testament Christianity understand the important role the apostle Paul played in helping spread the Gospel during the first century. We know that Paul was responsible for writing many of the New Testament epistles, and for furthering the borders of the church. But evolutionists have their own “apostle Paul” who was responsible for spreading the “gospel” of naturalism and materialism. In a revealing article titled “Is Evolution a Secular Religion?,” staunch evolutionist Michael Ruse noted:
Darwin himself was an invalid from the age of 30, and any profession building had to be done by his supporters, in particular by his “bulldog,” Thomas Henry Huxley. In many respects, Huxley played to Darwin the role Saint Paul played to Jesus, promoting the master’s ideas (2003, 299:1523).
This is a significant concession, coming from a man who is a serious candidate to “pick up” where the late Stephen Jay Gould left off, and one who can pack more anti-creationist propaganda into a single sentence than Huxley ever could. While Ruse denies any link between evolutionary theory and morals, he owns up to an accusation that many creationists have made for years—that evolution is not defended by many of its leading advocates as a science, but as a religion.
Ruse (a philosopher at Florida State University) points out that the history of evolutionary theory falls naturally into three parts. He noted: “The first part took place from the mid-18th century up to the publication of Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection as expounded in his Origin of Species published in 1859” (p. 1523). Ruse maintains that before this time, evolution was little more that a “pseudo-science on a par with mesmerism (animal magnetism) or phrenology (brain bumps)” (p. 1523, parenthetical items in orig.). It was during this period that Erasmus Darwin, Charles Darwin’s grandfather, penned evolutionary poetry, including Temple of Nature, where he wrote:
Imperious man, who rules the bestial crowd,
Of language, reason, and reflection proud,
With brow erect who scorns this earthly sod,
And styles himself the image of his God;
Arose from rudiments of form and sense,
An embryon point, or microscopic ens! (1803, lines 309-314).
The next phase of evolutionary history came as a result of Huxley’s hard work. Ruse noted that even after the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species, and Huxley’s initial attempts to gain evolutionary “clients,”
[e]volution still had no immediate payoff. Learning phylogenies did not cure belly ache, and it was still all a bit too daring for regular classroom instruction. But Huxley could see a place for evolution. The chief ideological support of those who opposed the reformers—the landowners, the squires, the generals, and the others—came from the Anglican Church. Hence, Huxley saw the need to found his own church, and evolution was the ideal cornerstone. It offered a story of origins, one that (thanks to progress) puts humans at the center and top and that could even provide moral messages…. Thus, evolution had its commandments no less than did Christianity (p. 1524, parenthetical item in orig., emp. added).
In detailing the history of this religion, Ruse remarked that Huxley preached “evolution-as-world-view at working men’s clubs, from the podia during presidential addresses, and in debates” (p. 1524). Much to Huxley’s chagrin, the theory still was excluded from mainstream universities, and was not being taught to students (something desperately needed, he felt, if the theory was going to take root and survive on its own). Thus, things remained this way until the third phase, which as Ruse noted, began around 1930.
It was during this era that mathematicians fused Darwinism with Mendelian genetics, thus giving a scientific footing to evolution. Men such as Ronald Fisher and J.B.S. Haldane were able to help “professionalize” evolution in such a way that it now appeared politically correct to “study” it. Ruse noted that, “rapidly, the experimentalists and naturalists—notably Theodosius Dobzhansky in America and E.B. Ford in England—started to put empirical flesh on the mathematical skeleton, and finally Darwin’s dream of a professional evolution with selection at its heart was realized” (p. 1524). Ruse then conceded:
But there is more to the story than this. These new-style evolutionists—the mathematicians and empiricists—wanted to professionalize evolution because they wanted to study it full time in universities, with students and research grants, and so forth. However, like everyone else, they had been initially attracted precisely because of its quasi-religious aspects, regardless of whether these formed the basis of an agnostic/atheistic humanism or something to revitalize an old religion that had lost its spirit and vigor. Hence, they wanted to keep a value impregnated evolutionism that delivered moral messages even as it strived for greater progressive triumphs (p. 1524).
Ruse (himself a militant Darwinist) then went on to detail how the Darwinian theory of evolution branched into two areas of study. There was the serious side, which remained very professional and produced scholarly scientific papers. And then there was the side in which evolutionists tried to answer the world’s great mysteries, using popular papers filled with speculations to discuss morals, virtues, etc. Ruse noted that, quite often, individuals who wrote scholarly scientific papers also would publish popular papers using evolution as a “secular religion, generally working from an explicitly materialist background and solving all of the world’s major problems, from racism to education to conservation” (p. 1524). In doing so, such writers were able to further prepare their audiences to accept a newfound religion. Ruse lamented:
Consider Edward O. Wilson, rightfully regarded as one of the most outstanding professional evolutionary biologists of our time, and the author of major works of straight science. In his On Human Nature, he calmly assures us that evolution is a myth that is now ready to take over Christianity. And, if this is so, “the final decisive edge enjoyed by scientific naturalism will come from its capacity to explain traditional religion, its chief competition, as a wholly material phenomenon. Theology is not likely to survive as an independent intellectual discipline” (p. 1524, emp. added).
In his conclusion Ruse made the following observation:
So, what does our history tell us? Three things. First, if the claim is that all contemporary evolutionism is merely an excuse to promote moral and societal norms, this is simply false. Today’s professional evolutionism is no more a secular religion than is industrial chemistry. Second, there is indeed a thriving area of more popular evolutionism, where evolution is used to underpin claims about the nature of the universe, the meaning of it all for us humans, and the way we should behave. I am not saying that this area is all bad or that it should be stamped out. I am all in favor of saving the rainforests. I am saying that this popular evolutionism—often an alternative to religion—exists. Third, we who cherish science should be careful to distinguish when we are doing science and when we are extrapolating from it, particularly when we are teaching our students. If it is science that is to be taught, then teach science and nothing more. Leave the other discussions for a more appropriate time (p. 1524, emp. added).
Ruse forgets, however, that, unlike chemistry, evolution, in many of its varied formats, does not (and, indeed, cannot) deal with observable, repeatable events (think: cosmology, paleontology, etc.). If there is indeed science to report, then it needs to be discussed and published. But evolutionary speculations (think: periodic announcements—later, often found to be either wrong or fraudulent—about a “new” alleged ancestor for humanity) are nothing more than a religious mantra that eventually becomes a creed that others will surely echo. If evolution is not a religion, then scientists should stick to observable, repeatable, laboratory-type science. But as everyone is well aware, such a science cannot answer many of the most important questions that we humans are asking, such as how did the Universe originate, why did consciousness arise in man, or how did something amoral give rise to something moral? If evolutionists heed Ruse’s advice (an unlikely scenario, to be sure), they will have to stop using imagination, wishful thinking, and “smoke and mirrors” in an effort to answer these tough questions.
In the May 1980 issue of Physics Bulletin, H.S. Lipson, an eminent British physicist and evolutionist, authored a thought-provoking article titled “A Physicist Looks at Evolution,” which sparked quite a controversy. Dr. Lipson commented on his longstanding interest in the origin of life, yet made it clear that he has had no association with any type of creation theory or creationists in general. He then noted, however: “In fact, evolution became in a sense a scientific religion; almost all scientists have accepted it and many are prepared to ‘bend’ their observations to fit with it.” Lipson then “wondered aloud” in his article about how successfully evolution has withstood scientific testing. He concluded:
I have always been slightly suspicious of the theory of evolution because of its ability to account for any property of living beings. I have therefore tried to see whether biological discoveries over the last thirty years or so fit in with Darwin’s theory. I do not think that they do. To my mind, the theory does not stand up at all (31:138).
After reviewing many of the problems of getting that which is living from that which is nonliving (especially the thermodynamic problems), Dr. Lipson asked: “If living matter is not, then, caused by an interplay of atoms, natural forces, and radiation, how has it come into being?”
After dismissing any kind of “directed evolution,” Dr. Lipson concluded: “I think, however, that we must go further than this and admit that the only acceptable explanation is creation” (emp. in orig.). Does this make Dr. Lipson happy? Hardly! Like other evolutionists, he is quite unhappy with his own conclusion. He remarked: “I know that this is anathema to physicists, as indeed it is to me, but we must not reject a theory we do not like if the experimental evidence supports it” (31:138, emp. added). I could not agree more!
Darwin, Erasmus (1803), The Temple of Nature (London: J. Johnson), volume 1, canto 1.
Lipson, H.S. (1980), “A Physicist Looks at Evolution,” Physics Bulletin, 31:138, May.
Ruse, Michael (2003), “Is Evolution a Secular Religion?,” Science, 299:1523-1524, March 7.