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The thesis of this article is that if one is a conservative Christian, then he should be a Darwinian. And if he is not, then he should become one with all haste.
Shermer defines "conservative Christian" in the only terms that are remotely acceptable to scientists who are, after all, the only direct purveyors of the cosmos, and who are thus not beleaguered with epistemological difficulties.
Here are the terms:
- Conservative Christians are interested in "good theology," whatever that means in the scientific community. Thus, conservative Christians should be attracted to modern science, "for what it has done to reveal the magnificence of the divine in a depth and detail unmatched by ancient texts."
- Conservative Christians should reject creationism, since it is "bad theology." I am glad to see that the folks at Skeptic and Scientific American are so deeply concerned about the state of theology. Oh, and Shermer also lets fall that "creationism" is tantamount to "deism" -- i.e., "the watchmaker God of intelligent design." Did Shermer clear the epithet "watchmaker God" with Michael Behe? Oh, and I almost forgot this raspberry: Shermer quotes the late Langdon Gilkey, I suppose, as a representative of "good theology," and as someone whom, upon hearing his name, we benighted ones would sit up from our stupor and take on that "awakened conscience" look (like William Holman Hunt's poor girl) and say, "Oh, he said that? Well, then, that makes all the difference, doesn't it?" Sardonics aside, didn't Shermer ever read Gilkey's remark: "Religion, or interest in it, played absolutely no part in my personal or my intellectual life. . . . I was, I suppose, an ethical humanist if I was anything"? That kind of thing surely makes my fundy heart go pitter patter.
- Conservative Christians must necessarily accept the philosopher's stone of "man as social primate." Accordingly, Shermer assures us, we should find no difference between theological anthropology and zoological anthropology: he seriously believes that the "within-group amity" and "between-group enmity" dichotomy is equivalent to the doctrinal ambivalence toward the image of God and the horrors of sin. I wonder, unpleasantly, just where Sherman stands on the sequence of these things -- what came first, the primate business, or theology? Guess.
- Conservative Christians should thank, yes thank the evolutionary process for the existence of family values: "Subsequently, religions designed moral codes based on our evolved moral natures." This was a serious statement posted at a serious site. It was not posted at The Onion.
You know, I was under the impression that the moral swamp incubated by evolutionary doctrines succeeded, in its inimitable wild, fetid and fecund manner, mainly because it advertised very non-family values. How many of my atheistical pals assured me that they were able to sleep around simply because the rest of the animal kingdom did so? And were they not, as Phil prophesied unto us, human animals?
- Conservative Christians should recognize (despite what was just said) that it was evolution, not revelation, that hammered out specifically Christian ethics, especially marital fidelity and truth-telling. The Ten Commandments did not prescribe, it described an already existing evolutionary reality. Evolution, that wise elan vital, that master designer, that natural selector, yielded these morals as coded programmes of community self-preservation. Why didn't God think of that?
- Conservative Christians, since they are all rabid free market capitalistic Dow Jones junkies, should kiss Charles Darwin for noticing that evolution is responsible for market forces: 'Charles Darwin's "natural selection" is precisely parallel to Adam
Smith's "invisible hand." Darwin showed how complex design and
ecological balance were unintended consequences of competition among
individual organisms. Smith showed how national wealth and social
harmony were unintended consequences of competition among individual
people. Nature's economy mirrors society's economy. Both are designed
from the bottom up, not the top down.
Here, I fully agree with Shermer. Evolution -- or the dynamic that evolution describes -- is probably responsible for competition and selection. Although what separates me from Shermer, Darwin, and probably Adam Smith, is that I am quite sure that this dynamic has nothing to do with grace.
And then, at the end, Shermer reminds us Conservative Christians that we had better behave:
Because the theory of evolution provides a scientific foundation for the core values shared by most Christians and conservatives, it should be embraced. The senseless conflict between science and religion must end now, or else, as the Book of Proverbs (11:29) warned: "He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind."
Yes, yes, we all get the not-so-subtle gag about the movie (do they need hankies when they watch?). But after all the court victories and the complete boondoggling of the American university (another oxymoron), just who is troubling whom, and what wind is being inherited?
We should probably pay attention to this "or else," appended by a jejeune Scripture reference (he should read a few more Proverbs, especially the riveting ones about where wisdom begins and the sleeping of fools).
We should pay attention, simply because in the supposed "war" between science and religion, the victimized scientists are not as many as supposed, but the victims on the other side made the twentieth century the bloody mess it is today. Only a technological century could have killed so well.
"Or else" indeed.