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Darwin made it easy to become an intellectually fulfilled atheist

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Contents

Claim

By providing a naturalistic explanation of biological origins, evolution promotes atheism.

Although atheism might have been logically tenable before Charles Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. [Dawkins, 1986, p. 6]

Source

Responses

  1. By providing a naturalistic explanation of weather systems, meteorology promotes atheism. By providing a naturalistic explanation of diseases, germ theory, and medicine in general, promote atheism. By providing a naturalistic explanation of the behavior of atoms and molecules, chemistry promotes atheism. By providing... etc. Since evolution is the sole and entire concern of those who profess to worry about atheism being promoted by science, it follows that "promotion of atheism" is not the true concern of these people; rather, it is a convenient catch-phrase.
  2. Before Darwin published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in 1859, geologists like Charles Lyell had already recognized the ancient history of the earth and the significant biological changes that had occurred over time. Darwin was among the first to propose a viable model to explain how those biological changes may have occurred. Prior to Darwin, there was no feasible explanation for the origin of species other than divine intervention. Darwin's theories of evolution afforded intellectual fulfillment to those seeking a natural explanation.
  3. Although the claim is technically correct, too much emphasis has been placed on the word "atheist" and not enough on the words "intellectually fulfilled." Darwin's ideas simply made it possible to explain the origin of species without appealing to the intervention of a higher power. In fact, many theistic evolutionists may rightly claim that Darwin made it possible to become an "intellectually fulfilled theist."
  4. This claim seems to assume that someone is intellectually fulfilled if and only if they have an explanation for certain things. The natural question, then, is "Which thing?". Why is explaining the origin of variation of life more significant to intellectual fulfillment than, say, understanding magnetism? Is it impossible to disbelieve in magic in an "intellectually fulfilling" way just because one doesn't know of a non-ad hoc, non-magical explanation for a given phenomenon?
  5. Only by misconceiving the theory as a complete causal explanation of the origin of species does it support atheism or have anything at all to say on the subject. The theory's creative source of genetic novelty, "random mutations," makes no claim about the specific cause of those mutations (what precipitates the laws of physics to act just when they do) and, indeed, no one expects a scientific theory to specify causality so finely. This lack of specificity leaves a wide berth for the workings of Providence or whatever sort of cause (divine or not) one might want to insert into the gap. So in summary, the belief that Darwinism has any implications one way or the other (for or against atheism) is a grievous (but all too common) misunderstanding of evolutionary theory and the role of chance in science.
  6. Fundamentally, even if true, this claim would have no impact on the veracity of the theory, which is independent of any person's moral or religious views.
  7. It might have been fulfilling for pre-Goedel mathematicians to have stumbled upon a consistent and complete system of mathematical axiomatics that covered every mathematical notion. Perhaps a great many mathematicians would have been able to pat themselves on the back. Goedel's result showed it wasn't mathematically possible as the discipline of mathematics stood, and the fulfillment or lack thereof of any number of mathematicians about his discovery had no bearing whatsoever on its correctness.
  8. The rigor demanded of scientific investigation is often boring, tedious, and labor-intensive. To some, such work has all the charm of a boiled rock. Darwin didn't make it easier for anyone, as has been borne out by the amount of work since natural selection was put forth to the scientific community for examination. It's often much more easy, and in many cases, much more fulfilling to maintain the status quo than it is to throw a spanner into previous paradigms.
  9. This implies that without evolution, one would be forced to believe in God. Such a belief would be based on a God of the Gaps argument, which is inherently flawed. Evolution simply makes the flaw in the old argument more visible.
  10. add more responses

Fallacies contained in this claim

References

  1. Babinski, Ed, 1995. Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists. Prometheus Books.
  2. Dawkins, Richard, 1986. The Blind Watchmaker. New York: Norton.
  3. Gliboff S., 2000. Paley's Design Argument as an Inference to the Best Explanation, or, Dawkins' Dilemma. Stud. Hist. Phil. Biol. & Biomed. Sci. 31(4): 579-597.

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Acknowledgments

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