The Beauty of Evolution
Truth may be, as Paul Dirac suggested, beautiful, but beauty is not always true. From the celestial spheres of the Greeks to Kepler’s heavenly harmonic tones, our dreams of beauty are often just that—dreams and not reality. But we dream on and today the most beautiful dream is evolution.
Evolution resolves every tension and is the foundation for moving forward. It makes God all the more wise, dignified and sovereign. For creating the laws that do the creating is more sublime and exalted than tinkering and creating thousands of species of beetles, for example.
And evolution protects God from being responsible for this ragged, asymmetric and evil world. This world clearly would not have been intended by any being powerful enough to create it. Also evolution protects God from the infinite regress that Hume warned of.
With those tensions resolved evolution provides for the way forward. Being able to explain our origins is the first step to controlling our origins. As Philip Johnson once observed, explanation is mastery. So man, in his clean white lab coat, is the objective source of truth. Without evolution, science would be impossible, for nature would be rent by the interference of supernatural transcendent powers, as Bultmann explained. With evolution, man takes control of the world.
Evolution is beautiful. It services both our theology and our philosophy—God and man.
Evolution also resolves our culture wars, for it provides a via media between the hostile atheists and the fundamentalist creationists. Evolution does not refute God nor prove God. Science and religion are non-overlapping magisteria and any attempt to combine and unite them shall infallibly injure both, as Baden Powell warned while Darwin worked away on his theory.
And so science has, not surprisingly, played its part. Its lines were written and it read them back perfectly. The conclusion is in and there can be no rational doubt. The empirical evidence overwhelmingly and unambiguously supports evolution. Nothing but natural law is needed to explain the origin of the world. The last piece has been added and the puzzle is complete.
There’s only one problem.
All of this incredible beauty is based on a silly and decidedly unscientific idea which is never spoken out loud: The world arose spontaneously. In reality there is no such empirical support. No overwhelming evidence and no unambiguous proof. Evolution is not a scientific fact, quite the opposite. Beauty does not imply truth.
But such realism is not acceptable in the world today. The beauty and necessity of evolution far outweigh any empirical objections. This can be seen in the steady stream of commentators such as Tom Krattenmaker who play off evolution’s beautiful themes. In his USAToday opinion piece this week, Krattenmaker laments the fact that public opinion polls ask if you believe in evolution.
This faith-laden language regarding such a hard science and proven topic as evolution is, for Krattenmaker, indicative of several underlying problems. There is the willful ignorance of the fundamentalists who believe in that outdated notion that humans were created by God in their present form, the failure of science to engage the public, the misconception that we must choose between evolution or God, the general misunderstanding of the objective scientific method that deals with scientific validity and has no leaps of faith, and the general mistrust of science in our country.
It’s all warfare thesis-positivism-scientism as Krattenmaker displays his ignorance of the history and philosophy of science in general and evolution in particular. No, evolution is not settled science (the only thing scientifically settled about evolution is that it is astronomically unlikely), the fact of evolution is based on metaphysical claims not empirical science, there is no guaranteed, objective scientific method, science certainly does take leaps of faith, and the public’s attitude toward science is usually well founded, with trust where science is on solid ground and mistrust where scientists make unfounded truth claims.
Krattenmaker’s commentary is, unfortunately, typical. Evolution is proclaimed to be a fact and then leveraged to arrive at all manner of unfounded conclusions. Evolution is much more than a scientific theory. It is the modern zeitgeist permeating education, media, law, public policy, public health, politics and environmentalism to name a few.
Religion drives science, and it matters.