Friday, September 18th, 2009
Nick Pollard says: If atheists think Darwin killed God they are not thinking widely enough.
"You've killed God, sir," says Huxley to Charles Darwin in the forthcoming film Creation (UK release date 25th Sept). "Darwin has delivered a fatal blow to religion," says Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society in a Daily Telegraph article related to the film.
They are quite wrong. Those who think that Darwin's theory can be used to establish the non-existence of God are missing the point. Well, at least three points out of four, actually.
We are conscious human beings, living in a world full of life, within a universe of matter and energy. If someone wishes to argue that there is no God then they have to answer at least four questions about our existence (only one of which is tackled by Darwin's theory). What is the origin of the universe? What is the origin of life? What is the origin of biological diversity? What is the origin of consciousness?
Put in this wider context we see how Darwin's theory only tackles the third of this big series of important questions. Whether or not Darwin's theory is a true explanation of how biological diversity might have evolved from a common ancestor, all this could tell us is something about the process by which the variety of life developed. It cannot, in itself, tell us anything about the existence or non-existence of God.
So let me lay down a challenge to such atheists and ask them to stop making unfounded assertions about God's existence just from one particular view of one quarter of the big questions, and to consider the bigger picture, including the other three questions.
First, the origin of the universe. When we look at the universe around us we have to ask ourselves, "Why is it here at all?" Why does anything exist rather than nothing? Even if we had an established theory of the possible processes by which parts of this universe may have formed - such as stars, sandstone and even species - that doesn't tell us why those processes happened. Even if we can establish how the laws of nature could lead to such developments within the universe, that doesn't tell us why those laws exist. Why not another set of physical laws? Why any physical laws at all? Why does anything exist rather than nothing existing?
Second, the origin of life. When we look at the various forms of living beings that exist in this world we have to ask ourselves, "How did life begin?" Even if we had an established theory of the possible processes by which complex life may have evolved from simple life through the natural selection of mutations in reproductions, that doesn't tell us how reproductive processes began in the first place. Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection can only work on a self-replicating system where variations in the product of the replication might be more or less fitted for survival. But how did the first self-replicating, naturally selectable organism arise? How did we get from non-replicating matter to self-replicating, naturally selectable life?
Third, the origin of consciousness. When we look at the people who live around us (and, indeed, at ourselves) we have to ask, "Where does consciousness, and all that flows from it, come from?" Even if we had an established theory of the possible processes by which the complexities of the human body may have developed, that doesn't tell us why we have a conscious awareness, why we have such a strong sense of morality, or why we have the capacity to reason. It is interesting that Darwin himself, in the last decade of his life, began to doubt the reliability of the human brain. If, according to his theory, the brain has evolved because of survival rather than for truth, would it have the capacity to address metaphysical questions with any level of reliability? Why should we trust anything it says about the big questions of morality and meaning? And (here is a real problem for anyone who wants to argue for atheism) what is our basis for trusting the brain's capacity for any high level reasoning at all - such as the level of reasoning required to consider the existence or non-existence of God? Perhaps, for the atheist, this question is logically unanswerable?
Nick Pollard, co-founder of The Damaris Trust. For more resources related to the film Creation (UK release date September 25th) see www.damaris.org/creationmovie