More Religion in ScienceEvolution professor John Avise ends his book, Inside the Human Genome, with a gnostic crescendo. The National Academy of Sciences member writes:
This welcome sentiment—that the evolutionary sciences and religion both have important and complementary roles to play in philosophical discussions about the human condition—has been expressed in many notable statements
Avise then provides several quotes, including this from Michael Zimmerman’s The Clergy Letter Project:
We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.
And this from Francis Collins:
Science’s domain is to explore nature, God’s domain is the spiritual world, a realm not possible to explore with the tools and language of science. It must be examined with the heart, the mind, and the soul.
Gnosticism is sometimes viewed as an ancient belief, but the division of the material and the spiritual into separate realms is alive and well in evolutionary thought.
Nor is this merely a recent fad. Avise could have quoted from, for example, Baden Powell, mathematician at Oxford and Anglican priest who wrote In 1838 that scientific and revealed truth are of different natures, and any attempt to combine and unite them would “infallibly injure both.”
And of course if the spiritual world is so isolated from the material world, then the latter, including the species, must have arisen without any help from the former. In other words, the world must have arisen naturally, as Powell explained in 1855, a few years before Darwin published his book:
No inductive inquirer can bring himself to believe in the existence of any real hiatus in the continuity of physical laws in past eras more than in the existing order of things; or to imagine that changes, however seemingly abrupt, can have been brought about except by the gradual agency of some regular causes. … But however little we know of the laws or causes of these changes, one thing is perfectly clear, the introduction of new species was a regular, not a casual phenomenon; it was not one preceding or transcending the order of nature; it was a case occurring in the midst of ordinary operations going on in accordance with ordinary causes. The introduction of a new species (however marvellous and inexplicable some theorists may choose to imagine it) is not a solitary occurrence. It reappears constantly in the lapse of geological ages. It recurs regularly in connexion with those changes which determined the peculiar characters we now distinguish in different formations. It is part of a series. But a series indicates a principle of regularity and law, as much in organic as in inorganic changes. The event is part of a regularly ordained mechanism of the evolution of the existing world out of former conditions, and as much subject to regular laws as any changes now taking place.
But, as Avise explains, there is a problem. This gnostic truth may be firmly in hand, but there remain those who won’t go along—those who allow for the spiritual and material to intersect. These evolutionists conveniently label as fundamentalists and warn that in fundamentalism, religion has overstepped its bounds. And so in the final paragraph Avise makes his plea:
The evolutionary-genetic sciences thus can help religion to escape from the profound conundrums of Intelligent Design and thereby return religion to its rightful realm—not as the secular interpreter of the biological minutiae of our physical existence but rather as a respectable philosophical counselor on grander matters including ethics and morality, the soul, spiritual-ness, sacredness, and other such matters that have always been of ultimate concern to humanity.
Again, the sentiment is nothing new as Avise could have been quoting from Andrew Dickson White, cofounder of Cornell University who in the late nineteenth century targeted those "mediaeval conceptions of Christianity" (evolutionists had not yet hit upon the “fundamentalism” label). Once this “dogmatic theology” is excised, White explained, the separation of God and nature will be complete, and all will be well:
My belief is that in the field left to them—their proper field—the clergy will more and more, as they cease to struggle against scientific methods and conclusions, do work even nobler and more beautiful than anything they have heretofore done. And this is saying much. My conviction is that Science, though it has evidently conquered Dogmatic Theology based on biblical texts and ancient modes of thought, will go hand in hand with Religion; and that, although theological control will continue to diminish, Religion, as seen in the recognition of “a Power in the universe, not ourselves, which makes for righteousness,” and in the love of God and of our neighbor, will steadily grow stronger and stronger, not only in the American institutions of learning but in the world at large.
Today’s evolutionists express the same thoughts and concerns as their forbearers. This is not because today’s evolutionists are mining the literature from centuries past but rather because there are consistent threads of belief that run through time. Evolution is a genre in the history of thought. And one of its cornerstones is Gnosticism.
Try to imagine that you believed in this Gnosticism. Then you too would be an evolutionist. Religion drives science, and it matters.