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Darwinism as a religion and the courts

And what rough beast, his hour come round at last

Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?

- William Butler Yeats, “Second Coming”

The effort to recast Darwin as a religious man, more religious in fact than the common run of Christians and other believers, in the runup to the bicentennial of his birth is well under way in many quarters:

Darwin counted himself an agnostic, but in his reverence for the creative agency of nature we should count him a devoutly religious man. “There is a grandeur in this view of life,” he famously wrote on the last page of The Origin of Species. The grandeur of which he spoke of has more of the divine about it than did the anthropomorphic idol who occupied the thoughts of his contemporaries.

This musing by Chet Raymo (April 22, 2007) is a typical encomium. Go here, here, and here for examples of ridiculous hagiography whose authors take it all quite seriously. For intolerance, unreasoning fanaticism, and belief in miracles, there is no religious bunny anywhere like the serious Darwinist.

But recently, my attention as attracted to Lifetime: Songs of Life & Evolution a musical by British composer David Haines, with somewhat catchy songs, sung by people “with a mission to spread the good word about evolution.”

There are tributes to scientific thinkers like Richard Dawkins (“I’m a selfish gene and I’m programmed to survive”) and the occasional evolutionary insight (“Water does for trees what my blood does for me”). The performance concludes with “Four Billion Years,” an appeal for humans to honor our evolutionary heritage by preserving diversity.

It’s unclear whether The Scientist reviewer Isani Ganguli (April 27, 2007), who promises that “The family that sings (about evolution) together, stays together” understands that “somewhat catchy” is damning with faint praise. But that doesn’t really matter as much as it would with other musicals. The MIT performance, and/or others like it, stands a good chance of being fronted to captive school audiences, expected to applaud. Which raises an interesting question.

Despite the fact that Darwinists insist that their concerns are secular, it is painfully obvious that a religious agenda lies at the heart of Darwinism: As the creation story of a new materialist religion, Darwinism is advanced with missionary fervour in settings that are neutral and secular in name only. And its ablest exponents are hostile to the free exercise of other religions.

Now, if you ask what would happen if the courts got involved, two different answers must at present be given.

Read the rest here.

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6 Responses to Darwinism as a religion and the courts

  1. This musing by Chet Raymo (April 22, 2007) is a typical encomium.

    I think this is a typo. Did you mean “meconium”?

  2. LOL russ!

    And Ms. O’Leary, who can forget the language invoked by Daniel Dennett in his dust-up with Michael Ruse over associating with the enemy? It was positively hellfire-and-brimstone evangelical type of stuff.

  3. I find this post from News and Views interesting:

    A recent study in American Scientist should ignite a blaze of research in evolutionary psychology. In Evolution, Religion, and Free Will, Gregory Graffin and William Provine report their survey of the religious beliefs of eminent evolutionary scientists. The results are striking. Evolutionary scientists hold views about God and religious belief that are radically at odds with those of most Americans. To evolutionary scientists such extreme variance from the mainstream views would normally raise fascinating questions about selection factors associated with atheist adaptation. Graffin and Provine’s study should give rise to scores of papers about the evolutionary origins of atheism. ,,,,But it won’t.

    This is exactly the study, are type of studies, that need to be brought to court the next time ID and evolution face off. Evolutionists insist they are not religious yet these studies firmly establish they are atheistic in philosophy.

    Atheism is a religion, and as such The government has no right passing a law teaching only the atheistic view of origins! The first admendment clearly states as such.

  4. Very, very, nice article.

    I think any debate or discussion of the “science” of evolution must include something this article hit on: the religious aspects of Darwinism, its high church, theology, and of course its preisthood (Dawkins, Dennet, and co.)

    Excellent.

  5. All too often, there is a slide from science to something more , and this slide goes unmentioned — unrealized even. For pointing this out we should be grateful for the opponents of evolution. ~ Michael Ruse

  6. 6

    There are not only the atheistic evolutionists, but there are also the theistic evolutionists. I was astonished that the plaintiffs in the Dover and Cobb County cases had the chutzpah to choose a theistic evolutionist, Ken Miller, as an expert witness in lawsuits charging that criticizing evolution in public school science classes violates the establishment clause.

    Denyse O’Leary said,

    The effort to recast Darwin as a religious man, more religious in fact than the common run of Christians and other believers, in the runup to the bicentennial of his birth is well under way in many quarters.

    This dispute over the religious views of Darwin is like the dispute over the religious views of the framers of the Constitution. The framers have been called everything from a bunch of bible pounding, holy rolling fundies to a bunch of godless blasphemous atheists.

    Also, the courts have ruled that atheism and probably also agnosticism are “religions” for purposes of the First Amendment. The 7th circuit federal court of appeals said in Kaufman v. McCaughtry (2005) –

    Without venturing too far into the realm of the philosophical, we have suggested in the past that when a person sincerely holds beliefs dealing with issues of “ultimate concern” that for her occupy a “place parallel to that filled by . . . God in traditionally religious persons,” those beliefs represent her religion. (citations omitted)

    . . . The Supreme Court has recognized atheism as equivalent to a “religion” for purposes of the First Amendment on numerous occasions, most recently in McCreary County, Ky. v. American Civil Liberties Union of Ky. …

    . . . the [Supreme] Court has adopted a broad definition of “religion” that includes non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as theistic ones.

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