Friday, December 30, 2005

So What The Heck Is "Darwinism", Anyway?

We can keep from a child all knowledge of earlier myths, but we cannot take from him the need for mythology.
-- Carl Jung, 1912

Here's a First Things blog post from Joseph Bottum taking swipes at the film Inherit the Wind and the Daniel Dennett and, by tenuous extension, "Darwinism".

Now, maybe I haven't been keeping the terms of the discussion straight, the whole time I've been commenting on these matters here. Maybe "Darwinism" as used by the First Things editorial board refers to a legitimate kind of philosophy of science, rather than the actual science of evolution, natural selection, and such. Creationists tag scientists as "Darwinists" preaching "Darwinism", in order to make the science and the scientists seem arbitrary, political, and--not accidentally, when appending the suffixes "-ist" and -ism"--nefarious.

Philosophy of course has a legitimate right to consider the implications of science. And if the Daniel Dennetts and Desmond Morrises of the world want to advance a line of philosophizing that holds that science has exploded the idea of God, fine! They are bits of froth tossing about on the surface of a vast, bottomless sea, just like the rest of us, and nothing they can postulate will make a dent in a mature armor of faith. And if that's what Fr. Neuhaus and Mr. Bottum mean by "Darwinism", then also fine, and my apologies for misconstruing their meaning.

That doesn't take away the burden of intellectual dishonesty from creationists and proponents of Intelligent Design, though. When they assail "Darwinism", they are not referring to philosophers. They are referring to working biologists and other scientists and teachers. They are usurping school boards and subverting science education, not rebutting any philosophical arguments. Religiously imposed scientific ignorance will warp our children in more joblots than any biological theories will. What does Daniel Dennett amount to in comparison? Just another "cultured despiser of religion," same as the Church has been tossing over the ropes for the past umpty-dozen centuries. People like him are no menace to anyone with a living faith. People peddling counterfeit science because real science offends their religious sensibilities are the real danger.

Bottum ends with this:
Pat Robertson seems ridiculous when he says of the Pennsylvania town that kicked anti-evolutionists off its school board, “if there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God. You just rejected him from your city.” But Daniel Dennett is probably more ridiculous, and certainly more dangerous, when he announces that Darwinism is the very destroyer of God.

I doubt it, as I said. I think a lot of foes of "Darwinism", especially Pat Robertson, would do well to heed the Apostle Paul's rebuke:

Romans 2:24 As it is written: "God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you."

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