David C. Steinmetz: New atheists, ancient argument

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Ever the pugnacious contrarian, [Christopher] Hitchens is witty, combative, sarcastic, intelligent and generally outrageous. He loves to rip out the shirttails of the pious (whatever their religion) and set fire to them.

[Richard] Dawkins is a somewhat different animal. He was raised as a rather conventional Anglican, but abandoned his faith at 16, when he was persuaded that evolution, and not divine providence, accounted for the rich diversity of the natural world. If purely natural processes provided satisfying explanations for the world as it is, then belief in God became for Dawkins a redundant luxury.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther Faiths

19 Comments
Posted June 29, 2007 at 11:33 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. William Scott wrote:

The video library below has a few worthwhile presentations on this topic in general.  Darwinism is not all it’s cracked up to be.  It will be rethought over the next decades.  The interesting thing is how much some of our theologians and would be theologian Bps need a robust factual Darwinism on which to form thier revisions.  If Darwin is falsified, Where does that leave Bp. Spong and Co?

http://www.theapologiaproject.org/video_library.htm

June 29, 12:40 pm | [comment link]
2. Pb wrote:

We did an adult Sunday School class on intelligent design using videos from the Discovery Institute. Darwin is flawed on several points. It made some folks angry but needed to be shown. The bigger issue is the 19th century influence on our world view in the persons of Nietsche, Marx, Freud and Darwin and their influence on science. We have gone from a top to bottom view of reality to the reversal and we are now on top.

June 29, 1:37 pm | [comment link]
3. William Scott wrote:

Pb
The strange reversal is that Christians ore upset that all this beauty may not be the result of chance.  Kind of pulls the rug out from under a lot of assumptions.  Not the least of which is our ability to mix and match our faith as if our doctrines were discrete chance units we can use to form any edifice we choose.

For some time I submitted to Darwin believing no reasonable person could doubt him.  Heck even CS Lewis did.  When this new kind of approach sunk in I realized here is a real opposition not just desperate grappling.  I rejoiced and repented my lack of faith all at once.

June 29, 1:50 pm | [comment link]
4. john scholasticus wrote:

#1-3

Darwin is right. Everybody knows it. In fact, it’s visible today if you only look around. (You can start with ‘survival of the fittest’ [not actually Darwin’s phrase], everywhere evidenced in your garden.) This doesn’t dispose of Christianity (or any religious faith): what it does dispose of is: ‘All things bright and beautiful’. This is the point where religion gets interesting - and complicated. Personally, I believe that the single greatest cause of the decline of religion in the West is this stubborn refusal to accept Darwinism and its consequences. Its consequences do not include atheism, but they do exclude ‘intelligent design’.

June 29, 3:41 pm | [comment link]
5. Larry Morse wrote:

I tried to get Kendall to post the “dialog” between Dawkins and Whathisname, the physicist, in the most recent copy of Scientific American.  You really need to read it. If the two had gone on for another page or so they would have given smug self-congratulation a bad rep.
  Sure Darwin was right in a broad way. His argument is still sound. The notion that somehow this violates intelligent design or that it denies God’s existence, is something only a blockhead like Dawkins can aspire to. Go get a copy of SciAm.
Larry

June 29, 3:43 pm | [comment link]
6. MargaretG wrote:

I hate to comment without reading the book but every review that I have read makes Hitchens sound so unappealing that I can’t face it. Even this one does.

Can anyone who has read the book comment on whether that is right?

June 29, 4:09 pm | [comment link]
7. Pb wrote:

#4 Read Phillip Johnson and some of those who dare to question natural selection, irreducible complexity, evolution of complex systems like bat sonar and the sheer mathematical improbablity. It is obvious that all life is related and that a species can change. Darwin raised pigeons.

June 29, 4:28 pm | [comment link]
8. William Scott wrote:

How does it feel to be on the orthodox side of the debate; holding on to failing dogma?
I being someone must be a part of everyone.  I do not know that Darwin was right.  Even when I accepted his theory I did not know it.  You claim is fallacious. 

Interesting, as I said, how much our new theologies depend on Darwin.  Remove him and you have to face a conscious intelligent God who has will and agency (if I may press upon blasphemy to make a point)  Most of Bp Spong’s 12 theses are supposedly derived from Darwinian theory. 

Perhaps it will prove the survival of our faith; those who by intuition refused Darwin are being vindicated.  I think you must know of the concept of hegemony.  I will watch intently at the struggle if the Darwinian institution to maintain its power.     

Did you watch any of the films I posted?  Start with The incorrigible Dr. Berlinski.

June 29, 5:17 pm | [comment link]
9. William Scott wrote:

The plasticity of species is a necessary part of their survival.  They change size and shape due to varied conditions.  The fit ones survive.  That is not enough to explain the proliferation of species.  It only explains how they have survived through time as species. 

Personally I look at the world and see design not happenstance.  Of course I choose this perception.  Sometimes I feel called to it.  Just the same, evolutionary perception is no less a choice.  Almost no science would be affected If done from a belief in special creation.  Evolutionary theory is background noise, not substance.         

It is interesting to ask ourselves if it is for fear of shame that we do not deny Darwinism.

June 29, 7:11 pm | [comment link]
10. Larry Morse wrote:

We don’t deny Darwinism is it broadest sense because the evidence is so strong that evolutionary forces - not just survival of the fittest - are real and measurable, starting with the genome. I am still puzzled why people cosider evolution as contrary to and in conflict with Christianity.

  If I were God and had to make a world that is not entirely locked in place (like a watch) I would build in situations which make change both possible and necessary. This would be good design, for it would mean that happenstance could not destroy my plan - since happenstance is a part of it. That selection is random is not evidence of absence of design, just as a computer program can be designed to select numbers at random.
  AS, as God, while I was about it, I would make sure evil was part of the world, for the ability to survive pain and suffering is an important survival element, and death is essential to keep new growth possible. That’s why I would make fall and winter; this is why I would make disease. For if I locked everything in place, permanently, then mankind would never have appeared, and if I made mankind from whole cloth, he would never have free will.
To see the perfect fit that evolution has made with the necessity for change - for right fitness to continue to exist, there must be change - is to see the Designer of Designers creating a plan that cannot fail. From the very moment of the Big Bang, nothing has failed to obey the Law, throughout the universe, from smallest to greatest, there is no disobdience to the Law. And indeed, for the Big Bang to happen, the Law must have preceded it, for even that inconceivable explosion had rules which it obeyed. How can you look at evolution and not see the Master Designer where random is never disorder and where order is never accidental.  Larry


a

June 29, 8:04 pm | [comment link]
11. William Scott wrote:

Lary,

I agree with much of what you say, but do not think that you speak of evolution.  Perhaps revelation.  Basic to evolutionary theory is unconscious random development.  Input God at any point and you might as well have him pull the whole thing out of the ex nihilo hat.

June 29, 9:03 pm | [comment link]
12. NewTrollObserver wrote:

Basic to evolutionary theory is unconscious random development.  Input God at any point and you might as well have him pull the whole thing out of the ex nihilo hat.

#11 William,
...which is exactly what both the hard-core, young-earth creationists, as well as the hard-core, divinity-denying philosophical materialists, would want people to believe.

June 29, 9:24 pm | [comment link]
14. William Scott wrote:

#12
My point is that evolution by natural selection denies any external or intrinsic input in the process of developing forms of life.  Darwinian evolution is hard core materialism. Tinker with it, and you have to create a new theory.  The process we call evolution could be an unfolding by God.  God’s will could be the force that animates the process.  This is not Darwinism, it may be somewhat analogous to it, but it is not the same thing at all. 

I went to your link.  It had some discussion about Creation/Evolution, but I expected something on origin stories from some of the other spiritual philosophies represented there.

June 29, 11:08 pm | [comment link]
15. Tikvah wrote:

Life originating from non-life - now what kind of miracle is that? Careful now; did Darwin deal with the origin of life, of the origin of species?
T

June 30, 8:35 am | [comment link]
16. NewTrollObserver wrote:

#14 William,

Yes, Darwinism is hard-core materialism. But “evolutionary theory” need not be, as Darwin’s friend Alfred Wallace demonstrated.

(The link is simply my own blog, not dealing directly with evolution/creationism.)

June 30, 3:11 pm | [comment link]
17. Pb wrote:

A leading proponent of Darwin recently said that we are looking at something which looks like design but is in fact chaos. I do not have that kind of faith.

June 30, 6:20 pm | [comment link]
18. William Scott wrote:

Too bad this thread is already petering, as it bears on the consciousness and activity of God.  Is God a product of our need or ability to conjure profound general principals from our experience; is God a will or force that animates all things and which we tap into; or is God God: the supreme agent and fully aware maker of all things. 

These differences make a difference.  The last of these is the Christian view.  It is the sometimes tedious fact that makes full interfaith ecumenical fellowship difficult.  Of course denying true theism makes this fellowship easier, but have we then given up something that matters to our faith, that makes it what it is, in order to fit into the spiritual neighborhood, and avoid the embarrassment of exclusivity. 

Because of Darwin and other aspects of scientific, philosophical, and social development some seem to have decided that theism is not possible.  Hence, we may feel free to discard theism and its implications and revisit Christian faith; text and practice and tradition and doctrine and all.  The acceptance or rejection of this development in its soft and hard forms is one of the radicals of the contemporary disunity in the Communion. 

Theism commits us to particulars.  We hold certain aspects of God’s work in the world (sometimes called Salvation History) as fact.  This factuality seems crass or unenlightened to some.  And it must be admitted that in holding to the facts of our faith will limit our enlightenment in some areas.  These will keep us separate in some way.  They will keep us from saying, “We all really believe the same thing.”  It is what makes us different that matters from the perspective of a truly theistic Christianity.  We theists will be so arrogant as to say non- or atheistic Christianity is oxymoronic and therefore heresy.  Take the conscious will of God from our faith teaching and you have created a monster of a thing.  This monster is the root of our current division.  Many theists do not, and all should not believe non-theistic Christian teaching deserves an equal place at the table of the Lord.  We will have plenty to disputre on our own without the linguistic, and behavioral chasm that lies between us and non-theism.  We will find our courage; we will resist the usurpation of our faith and communion.  And with the Lords help we will prevail.     

Much of what we argue about is on the surface.  We need to look to these more primary disagreements.  Because we hold such different convictions on such basic teachings, will we ever do naught but fight?

July 1, 12:30 am | [comment link]
19. Pb wrote:

The Nicene creed has something to say on the subject of creation.

July 1, 2:01 pm | [comment link]
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