Ball Don't Liepolite review in The Atlantic by Jeffrey Taylor. Taylor’s review is polite because, like Coyne, he also is an evolutionist and atheist. Unfortunately, that means that Taylor misses the key point that readers must understand if they are to make sense of Coyne’s new book, and evolutionary thought in general.
Coyne’s earlier book on why evolution is true did not add any new arguments or evidences to the evolution apologetic. The book was an excellent contribution to the genre, with its unique arrangement of the evidence and Coyne’s good writing style. And it gathered more evidence in one place than most treatments. But conceptually, it pounded the same themes that date back to Darwin, Hume, Wolfe, Malebranche, Lucretius, and many more.
And those themes are deeply metaphysical. The most obvious of them is the problem of evil and how evolutionists view it as requiring a distant god. The world must have arisen spontaneously, on its own, so to speak, because their god never would have intended for this gritty world. (You can read more about how Coyne handles the POE here, here, here and here, for example).
The key point to understand when reading the evolution genre is that it is motivated by, and relies on, this sort of religious belief. I call it a key point not only because the religious assumptions are fundamental and essential to evolutionary thought, but because they often are misunderstood. After all, isn’t the argument against an active Creator motivated by science, not religion?
No, science makes no such mandate, or provides no such evidence.
But what about evolution?
Evolution is founded on theological and philosophical claims about God and creation. From a scientific perspective it is not plausible. But from a religious perspective it is a fact.
So when Coyne rails on those of faith, and argues that religious beliefs are no longer tenable, he is making a hypocritical argument. He is a religious person, no less so than any high priest ever was, driven by deeply held metaphysical convictions.
Like evolution, atheism is also grounded in metaphysics. A typical example comes from atheist PZ Myers’ opinion piece in the LA Times where he made the case for atheism from the problem of evil:
We go right to the central issue of whether there is a god or not. We're pretty certain that if there were an all-powerful being pulling the strings and shaping history for the benefit of human beings, the universe would look rather different than it does.
That is a religious argument. Myers, who comes from a Lutheran background, draws a conclusion that depends on what he believes about God. God wouldn’t create this world, so there must be no God.
Aside from the hypocrisy, atheism is founded on a fallacy. For its conclusion, that matter and motion are all that exist, does not support religious beliefs about God. If materialism is all there is, then Myers cannot know anything about God. Myers could not know what God would or wouldn’t do. Atheism is vacuous and collapses on itself. Nor is this problem anything new for atheism. Historian Alan Charles Kors, for example, found that eighteenth century French atheism had come from the church and its culture. Kors wrote:
[My] inquiry led not to a prior history of free thought ... but to the orthodox culture of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries in France. It was, above all, within the deeply Christian learned culture of those years that there occurred inquiries and debates that generated the components of atheistic thought. It was, to say the least, not what I had expected; it indeed was what I found. … Before one can understand the heterodoxy of early-modern atheism, one first must understand the orthodox sources of disbelief.
Atheism is a referendum on religious belief and specifically, in most cases, a referendum on Christian religious belief. That referendum is based not on some logical fallacy or historical failure of Scripture, but rather on our rejection of the Creator. God wouldn’t do it that way.
Elsewhere Taylor makes this point repeatedly. He is concerned there is a lack of understanding about atheism. Taylor argues that people need to understand and appreciate the reasoning behind atheism rather than cast atheists simply as failed theists. We must understand the underlying rationale:
Nowhere does Taunton posit the most obvious conclusion one may reach about the growing prevalence of atheism today: namely, that the tenets in which the Christian tradition demands faith may have ultimately appeared to young people to be untenable. Christianity requires that we, in the twenty-first century, after having mapped the human genome, sent probes to Mars, and discovered the Higgs Boson, believe in human parthenogenesis and tales of a man turning water into wine, calming raging seas, curing lepers, and raising the dead. It requires that we believe that God chose to redeem humankind by means of a human sacrifice.
This monumental failure called atheism is all the more striking when it appeals to scientific findings, as though somehow those findings mandate the atheist’s religious convictions. As per the quote above, Taylor somehow sees molecular biology and other advances of science as mitigating against the virgin birth, crucifixion, and atonement of Christ? We’ve discovered genetics and space travel, so therefore miracles aren’t possible? You’re kidding, right?
Unfortunately, no. The atheists are quite serious in their sophism.
As they say in science, this isn’t even wrong. Such a critique would be too generous. These atheist arguments are the stuff of late-night dorm room sessions where freshman argue strenuously about that which they do not understand. The heat of the argument is exceeded only by the ignorance.
Most people eventually grow up. Not so with the atheists and evolutionists.
It’s not that Coyne, Myers, Dawkins, Taylor and the rest are not smart people. They certainly are. But their religious convictions have them stuck in a fool’s game. After two thousand years, they continue to repeat the absurdities of their Epicurean forefathers.
Religion drives science, and it matters.