Phi Beta Cons

Dubious Darwinian

A recent article by Daniel Foster at NRO suggested some ways that Republicans could avoid being made to look foolish over questions regarding evolution and faith. He is right that Republicans should be wary of  being trapped by the left-wing mainstream media eager to do advance work for the Democratic party. But one of Foster’s suggested examples of successfully uniting God with Darwin is George V. Coyne, a Jesuit priest and former Director of the Vatican Observatory. After listening to an hour-long interview that Richard Dawkins conducted with Father Coyne, I do not think he would be a good example.

For one thing, Coyne seems to take his acceptance of Darwin beyond what even many Darwinians profess, namely, as explanatory of the origins of the universe and of life (passage from inorganic to organic matter), and not just of species. For another thing, Coyne’s explanation of how God participates in evolution is rather tortured and confusing, culminating in his admitting to Dawkins that God is really, finally, “superfluous” because evolutionary theory can stand on its own. (Of course it can; that is part of why the materialists are so doggedly dedicated to it.) By the time the interview ends, Coyne’s faith appears to have a very slim basis indeed — “weak,” as Dawkins judges it, to which Coyne seems to agree. His religious belief arises mainly from the fact that he was raised in Roman Catholicism (he said that if he had been raised a Muslim, he would probably be a Muslim today), and he sees his faith as being a “gift” and needing no rational basis. At the same time, he was uncomfortable when Dawkins asked him about the miracles in the Gospels; it seemed he could just barely accept the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection, but nothing more.

This is what happens when well-meaning people try to combine Darwinian and neo-Darwinian evolution with God. Once again, William Jennings Bryan was right. One commenter on the interview suggested that it might better to say that one accepts both, if one does, and can’t take it any further than that. Or one could cite Thomas Nagel’s brilliant new book, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False, which compellingly dissects Darwinian thought.   

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