Darwin’s God

  Ever since the Scopes Trial we've heard about the dangers of bringing religion into the classroom. References to God are forbidden and nowhere more so than in studying origins. Evolution -- chance plus time without a Creator -- has been the reigning orthodoxy.   But as it turns out, evolutionary theory -- beginning with Charles Darwin himself -- rests on not a scientific, but a theological foundation.   And on that hangs a fascinating tale, which Cornelius Hunter tells in depth in the new book,  Darwin's God. In Darwin's God, Hunter explains how theology -- that is, arguments about the nature of God -- plays a central role in modern evolutionary theory. If Hunter is right, much of what we have been told by the authorities of science about the nature of evolutionary theory must be critically re-examined. The consequences may even affect how biology is taught in our schools.   Let's look at the words of one of America's most prominent scientists, Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould. In his essay "The Panda's Thumb," published in 1980, Gould explained his certainty about evolution by using what Hunter calls negative theology.   Negative theology is a form of theological reasoning that makes claims about what God would not do. For instance, suppose we believe, or have been told, that God would make only perfectly designed organisms. That belief supports a positive claim about the outcome of God's creative activity: If God created them, organisms ought to be perfectly designed. The negative expression of that same belief says that God would not make imperfectly designed organisms.   With that negative theology, Gould arrives at a scientific conclusion. He writes, "Odd arrangements and funny solutions are the proof of evolution . . . paths that a sensible God would never tread but that a natural process" -- namely, evolution -- "follows perforce." If we see what we regard as a biological imperfection, argues Gould, we can conclude on that ground that evolution is true because God would not have done it that way -- or, at least, so says Dr. Gould.   And there's a bigger question for the evolutionists. Evolutionary biology is a science, and according to Gould and others, science and theology have nothing to do with each other. When creationists or intelligent design advocates combine the two, evolutionists want to call, "Foul." So what's a theological premise doing in Gould's scientific argument?   Here's where  Darwin's God is such a valuable and insightful book. Cornelius Hunter shows that negative theology has always been a part of evolutionary theory, and nowhere more so than in Charles Darwin's own work. It's simply false that science and theology have nothing to do with each other. "A particular doctrine of God," explains Hunter, "is a prerequisite for evolution's success."   Today is Darwin's birthday -- being celebrated in schools and elsewhere, but his ideas are also still being hotly debated. "Keep God out of the equation," the Darwinists say. But God is already in the equation. Just ask Charles Darwin and Stephen Jay Gould.         For further reading:   Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, Developing a Christian Worldview of Science and Evolution (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999).   Cornelius G. Hunter, Darwin's God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil (Brazos Press, 2001).   Phillip E. Johnson, The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism (Intervarsity Press, 2000).


Chuck Colson



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