June 8, 2000
Board of Education of
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Few are presented with an opportunity to change the course of history. Washington and Lincoln come to mind. The authors of the Declaration of Independence, our Constitution and the Bill of Rights had even greater opportunities. They were faced with the challenge of defining how we should live together.
As you may very well realize, you are now faced with a similar opportunity. You have the chance to make a major mark on history, to let your voice be heard. The decisions that you and your sister Kansas School Boards will be making in the coming months will be watched by the entire nation. Few people enjoy being in the spotlight; however, you are leaders in your community. You have been elected to ensure that our children are prepared to make a positive difference in their lives and the lives of their children. It is now time to seize the opportunity. It is time to change history.
The issue facing you is possibly the most important and fundamental educational issue with which you will ever deal. The issue is:
What should our school science teachers tell our children about their origin?
Fundamentally, there are only two answers to this question. The answer presently taught is that life and its diversity results only from the laws of physics and chemistry (a mixture of chance and necessity or "natural law") and not by design. This is the naturalistic explanation. Darwinism (evolution based on the hypothesized natural selection of random mutations) is the mechanism that supports this philosophy. The alternative answer is that life is designed, that some kind of intelligence is responsible for its existence.
Your decision concerns whether you should direct our science teachers to continue to teach only the evidence supporting the naturalistic explanation of life or whether you should also permit them to teach evidence indicating that living systems may be designed.
The Kansas Citizens for Science has recently urged 1 you to take the former path, to teach only naturalism. 2 They have asked you to reject the Science Education Standards adopted by the Kansas State Board of Education on August 11, 1999 (the "New Standards"). Instead they want you to replace those standards with standards that are being promoted by national science organizations who wish to perpetuate naturalism and Darwinism in our culture (the "National Standards").
The National Standards promote the philosophy of naturalism in three fundamental ways: (1) by incorporating the philosophy of naturalism into the definition of science, (2) by elevating Darwinism to one of five unifying concepts and (3) by crafting the teaching of biological change so that only the evidence that supports Darwinism will be taught, consistent with the naturalistic exclusion of evidence of design.
First, the naturalistic limitation
that permits only one answer as to the cause of life and its diversity
is incorporated into the very definition of science in the National Standards:
If a question raised by a student is outside this definition, the science teacher is directed to not answer the question but rather to "encourage the student to discuss the question further with his or her family and clergy." 4
Having carved out a protected niche for only natural explanations, the National Standards then elevate Darwinism from the status of a theory that is subject to major scientific criticism to that of a "unifying concept" called "Patterns of Cumulative Change." According to this concept:
Of course this theory breaks down if any biological system is designed. To ensure that this does not happen to the "theory," design explanations are philosophically excluded. In the National Standards, discussion of biological change is limited to natural selection, random mutation and genetic drift. Students are guided to consider only the evidence that supports Darwinism and none of the competing evidence. In this way, Darwinism is promoted as a worldview.
The New Standards properly reject this promotion of naturalism. Those standards reject naturalism and require science to address the question of what causes life and its diversity from a purely logical or evidentiary standpoint. The definition of science in the New Standards provides:
The New Standards also properly refuse to regard Darwinism as a unifying concept since it is a theory subject to major scientific criticism that modern science has not allowed to be tested by the competing evidence of design.
The decision you have to make is whether to endorse the view of the ruling scientific paradigm or to simply do what is right. This reminds us of General McAuliffe at the Battle of the Bulge at Bastogne in World War II. Surrounded by the entire German Army, he was asked to surrender. You will remember his answer: "Nuts!"
Why should you put an end to the censorship of design in origins education and open the door to a discussion of all reliable and relevant competing evidence?
Very simply, because logical, scientific, legal and cultural consequences demand it.
1. The Demands of Logic and Science.
Naturalism is a philosophy and not science. The claim of Naturalism that only chemical and physical laws (chance and necessity) are responsible for everything and that design inferences are invalid is not supported by empirical evidence. This is a presupposition, a philosophy, and not an evidence based conclusion.
A scientific conclusion that is driven by philosophy rather than by logic has no evidentiary or logical credibility. Scientific conclusions that are dependent only on evidence that exists within boundaries that have been drawn to exclude other evidence prejudge the issue. Under a naturalistic definition of science, evidence of design is obviously excluded. The exclusion results not from the quality of its evidence, but rather from a philosophical viewpoint. Because design as a cause is excluded, the evidence of design that exists in nature is ignored. When credible evidence is systematically censored, the conclusion that Darwinism adequately explains the existence of life cannot have any logical credibility.
The typical argument against design is that it is "creation science" or "religion" and therefore must be excluded for constitutional reasons. The short answer is that a design inference is simply an inference. It is not creation science or religion. Design says nothing about the age of the earth, a worldwide flood or any of the other criteria that are included in that definition as established in McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education, 529 F. Supp. 1255 (E.D. Ark. 1982) and Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578, 594 (1987). A design is merely a pattern of events arranged by intent. An inference that events have been arranged by a mind is one that we logically draw on a regular basis in our daily lives. Arson investigators look for evidence of design at the site of a fire. We would all agree that arson investigators are not involved in the practice of a religion. 8
It is also argued that design is not "science" and therefore should not be included in a science curriculum. Obviously if it is philosophically excluded from the definition of science so that science turns into a philosophy rather than a search for the truth, then design is not science. However, according to recent Supreme Court decisions relating to the nature of science, design clearly is science. In fact scientists, such as biochemists, physicists, geologists, biologists, zoologists, mathematicians, statisticians, information theorists, and the like are the only group of professionals that are logically qualified to investigate and scientifically analyze the claims of design. By defining science as the activity of seeking "logical" rather than only "natural" explanations, the New Standards clearly include design within the realm of science. For a complete discussion of this issue please visit the publications page of our website at intelligentdesignnetwork.org. 9
The Kansas Citizens for Science might argue that they don’t see any evidence of design, so why do we have to bring it up at all? This position would be expected from those who have ignored and censored the evidence and refused to give it objective consideration. We are reminded of the saying, "None is so blind as he that will not see."
In fact there is abundant and persuasive scientific evidence of design. Design theory is not new. It ruled science for thousands of years until the advent of Darwinism. Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Cicero, St. Thomas Aquinas, Kepler, Robert Boyle, William Harvey and Isaac Newton were all design theorists. Even the most ardent Darwinist recognizes that design is apparent in nature.10 The apparent design exhibited by living organisms is also reflected by the labels put on cellular systems by modern science:
But can we readily detect when something has been designed? How can we know with a reasonable degree of certainty? Design detection is simple to understand in concept. First, we find a pattern of events that is functional, carries a message or has some discernable structure, like an automobile, a watch or the six billion bit software program carried in the DNA in each of our cells. Next we ask whether the laws of physics and chemistry could cause the pattern to appear (like a salt crystal or snowflake).11 Finally, we evaluate the possibility that the pattern was assembled by a chance association of the events.12 If no known law can explain the existence of the pattern and chance assembly is extremely unlikely, we have reasonably detected design - the product of a mind. This method of design detection is outlined in considerable detail by William A. Dembski who holds Ph.Ds. in mathematics and philosophy in his book, " The Design Inference."13
There are many other components of cells along with DNA that bear the hallmarks of design. Biochemist Michael Behe has persuasively argued that cellular structures, like the bacterial flagellum, are designed.14 He notes that a bacterial flagellum has over 40 separate, interlocking, moving parts that together perform a single function, much like a motor. There is no known way that the flagellum could have assembled itself by chance or by natural law, hence the design inference. This biological machine is believed to be a component of the most primitive cells and will not work at all unless all of the parts are assembled at the same time. Behe very persuasively argues that natural selection cannot build such a machine because the individual parts have no selective value in isolation. They have selective value only when they become a part of a functional whole. This property he calls "irreducible complexity," and it is another way of detecting a designed or planned structure. Chance and natural law operate only like a sieve. Because chance and natural law have no ability to perceive, think, decide, plan, and direct the arrangement and coordination of future events, their competency to create and assemble the complex structures we see in living organisms is questionable in concept alone.
Design detection is not new to science. It is used in a number of other scientific disciplines where one attempts to infer past causes or events from present evidence alone.
The hallmark of any scientific endeavor is testing. We are taught that science requires that all theories be subjected to the test of competing evidence and competing theories. A naturalistic exclusion of evidence of design violates these fundamental principles of science and logic.
Accordingly, if you decide to
acquiesce to the naturalistic plea of the KCFS, we believe you will be
violating fundamental principles of logic and science and you will perpetuate
a system in which the search for the truth regarding origins is as challenging
as was the quest of the alchemist to turn lead into gold. How can we
ever honestly approach the question of what causes life and its diversity
if we proceed with a naturalistic preconceived notion of the answer,
and if we allow only one kind of explanation? The only way to get to
the truth is to allow all the evidence to compete without censorship.
2. Legal and Social Demands.
Any teaching about the cause of life and its diversity has religious and philosophical implications. A naturalistic cause based only on mechanisms of chance and necessity (such as Darwinism) implies the intervention of no intelligent agent or god. Accordingly, the implications of that teaching are consistent with atheism. They are also inconsistent with all theistic religions founded on the belief that a God does exist who designed and can intervene in the material world. A teaching based on the theory that life and its diversity result from design implies the intervention of an intelligent agent. Accordingly, its implications are consistent with theism.
Thus, it is impossible for any science class to promote any theory of origins without implicitly promoting its associated philosophy, religious belief or worldview. This promotion of one theory to the exclusion of the other denigrates the competing theory and its associated philosophical or religious belief or worldview.
We are familiar with the theistic
beliefs supported by design theory. These include Christianity, Islam,
and Judaism. However, Darwinism has also spawned a growing secular religion
that is having an enormous impact on our culture. Recently, the highly
regarded ex Christian, Darwinist and philosopher Michael Ruse published
a paper proclaiming "evolution" as a religion. In "How
Evolution Became a Religion," http://www.nationalpost.com (May
13, 2000), Mr. Ruse tells about his conversion to this belief:
This issue was recently examined in a Congressional briefing on Intelligent Design in Washington, D.C.. Nancy Pearcey15 delivered a chilling narrative of the manner in which Darwinism is impacting our culture. At one point she describes a song that is popular with the younger generation;
The scientific method requires that the evidence on both sides of any issue be considered. There is also a legally compelling reason to do so. If your school board censors the evidence of design and permits only a consideration of evidence that life results only from the the laws of chemistry and physics without design, then we believe that you will be subverting the neutrality mandated by the First Amendment of the Constitution.
The First Amendment to the Constitution provides that the federal government will impose no law or regulation "respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The court has also held that by virtue of the 14th Amendment, the First Amendment also applies to any state or local government or subdivision thereof. This has been construed by the Supreme Court to mean that the "principal or primary effect" of a state action must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion [Board of Education v. Allen, 392 U.S. 236, 243, 88 S.Ct. 1923, 1926 (1968)]. Similarly, the Supreme Court has held that a state institution that encourages open discourse on a subject may not censor single or multiple viewpoints without violating the Free Speech clause of the constitution [Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia, 515 U.S. 819, 831-2, 115 S.Ct. 2510,2518 (1995)].
The neutrality required by the Constitution is articulated by Justice O’Connor in her concurring opinion in the Rosenberg v. Rector, et. al, at page 846 (2525 S.Ct.) as follows:
As pointed out, although neither design nor "evolution" by natural selection in and of themselves constitute a religion, design and the naturalistic underpinning of Darwinism each have serious religious implications. Although design does not require theism, all theistic religions require design. By excluding design as a possible cause of life and its diversity, naturalism is necessarily hostile to theistic beliefs. Accordingly, if a public school system censors evidence of design that exists in nature due to the naturalistic philosophy of science it will have the "effect" of inhibiting or denigrating the religious beliefs of students who are taught to believe that a designer is responsible for life. Under these circumstances, the parent of such a child would have cause to complain that the School was violating the principle of government neutrality. By the same token, if a school were to censor naturalistic views of origins, the school system would be denigrating atheistic beliefs while promoting theistic beliefs. In that case, atheistic parents would have cause to complain.
The only way any school system can achieve the neutrality required by the Supreme Court is to not censor reliable scientific evidence which supports either causal explanation of the origin of life and its diversity.
Furthermore, since the New Standards endorse the open-minded evaluation of evidence regarding origins ("logical explanations"), no Kansas School District has a regulatory obligation to exclude design as a causal explanation for life and its diversity.
The KCFS are suggesting that you do just the opposite. They are suggesting that you reject the logic of the New Standards and allow only naturalistic explanations of origins to be taught in support of the Darwinian worldview.
We believe that if you follow that suggestion your actions will not only be inconsistent with the Constitution, but also with with logic, good science and the cultural traditions of our society.
We return now to the decision you must make. What should our teachers teach about origins?
Here are our suggestions:
First, we urge you to learn more about the issue. You can do this in a couple of ways. The easiest is to attend our all day Symposium on July 15, 2000 in Kansas City: "DARWIN, DESIGN AND DEMOCRACY: Teaching the Evidence in Science Education." A brochure for the Symposium is enclosed. A number of books and videos will be available at the seminar that will provide you with full particulars on teaching the evidence in science education. You may also visit our web site at www.IntelligentDesignnetwork.org . Visit the publications page and you will find references to a number of resources. IDnet has also developed a seminar about this issue and we will be more than happy to visit your school district to help you more completely inform your community as well as school teachers and administrators. Contact IDnet at IDnet@att.net or 913-268-0852.
Second, for all the reasons mentioned above, you should reject the proposal made by the KCFS. Just say "Nuts!" to that proposal.
Third, seriously consider the adoption of a no-censorship policy along the lines that are attached.
Fourth, begin to explore ways to revise your current curricula on teaching origins. All of the current curricula are structured to teach only naturalistic explanations for the origins of life and its diversity. This is only half the story, only a portion of the evidence. New curricula are now being developed that effectively present the evidence in a scientifically objective way without promoting any religious or philosophical perspective. If you come to our July 15 Symposium you can learn more about this.
As you are well aware, this is an issue that makes many people very uncomfortable. Hold to the truth! Hold to your convictions! Make origins education philosophically neutral as demanded by logic, good science and the First Amendment!
Very truly yours,
John H. Calvert
William S. Harris
Jody F. Sjogren
3. The word natural limits the kinds of inferences that can be made from the data. Under this limitation, inferences of design that may be compelled by the data are excluded. See "Kansas Science Education Standards, Fifth Working Draft, June, 1999," page 5..
inherent problem with this strategy is that the question of whether design
exists in nature requires scientific analysis. It involves issues of
biochemistry, mathematics, statistics, biology, geology, physics, chemistry
and information theory. Only scientists are qualified to scientifically
evaluate the data developed by these disciplines. Not many family members
and few of the clergy are even remotely qualified to answer the simple
question of whether the biological information in each cell of our bodies
is the product of design. If science will not answer the question because
of the naturalistic limitation, who will? [See "Kansas Science Education
Standards, Fifth Working Draft, June, 1999," page 6.]
interested in design detection note that there is no known chemical or
physical characteristic that requires any particular arrangement of nucleotide
bases along the sugar and phosphate backbones of the DNA strand. Since
there is no required arrangement, law or necessity does not appear to
play a role in the arrangement of the precise instructions which provide
the "blueprint" for the formation of the entire living organism.
Scientists have also noted that if there was a law that would require
a particular arrangement, it would be impossible for the DNA to have
the capacity to effectively carry any biological information. Stephen
C. Meyer, "Word Games, DNA, Design & Intelligence," p.
48 (Touchstone, July/August 1999).
STATEMENT RELATIVE TO TEACHINGS
Any teaching about the cause of life and its diversity has religious and philosophical implications. A teaching that life and its diversity results only from mechanisms of chance and necessity, such as evolution guided by random mutation and natural selection, implies that no intelligent agent or god has intervened in the process. Accordingly, the implications of that teaching are consistent with atheism and inconsistent with theistic religions founded on the belief that a God does intervene in the material world. A teaching that life and its diversity may result from design implies the intervention of an intelligent agent. Accordingly, the implications of that teaching are consistent with theism.
Good science education about origins issues should not censor the teaching of evidence of any of the possible causes of life and its diversity so long as the evidence has evidentiary reliability, is relevant to and logically supportive of the issue and is not being presented to advocate any particular religious or philosophical belief. In particular, scientific teachings about the cause of life and its diversity should not be based on a philosophy of naturalism nor should they be based on any religious belief or teaching about creation. Naturalism is "the doctrine that cause-and-effect laws (as of physics and chemistry) are adequate to account for all phenomena and that teleological [design] conceptions of nature are invalid" (Webster's Third New International Dictionary).
If a teacher is censored from discussing evidence of design so that the teacher may only teach a theory based on mechanisms of chance and necessity, then the school may be causing the state to promote atheistic beliefs in a way that has the effect of denigrating theistic beliefs. If a teacher is censored from discussing evidence of evolution based on natural selection and random mutation so that the teacher may only teach a theory based on design, then the school may be causing the state to promote theistic beliefs in a way that has the effect of denigrating atheistic beliefs and religions which are not theistic.
Teachers should also not be censored from teaching evidence that tends to criticize any theory of origins for the same reasons. Censorship of evidence critical of any theory of origins will tend to promote the protected theory and its atheistic or theistic implications. Censorship of the evidence will also undercut the credibility of the protected theory and will be inconsistent with the fundamental principle of science that all theories should be held open to testing and criticism.
Any conclusions expressed by a teacher regarding the weight of the evidence supporting any particular theory should be formed objectively and tentatively, based on the strength of the evidence and not on any religious or philosophical view or belief. The tentativeness of any such conclusion is important since ultimate answers to the issue of the origin of life are currently unknowable based on available technology.
Teachers should also be encouraged to explain to science students an objective history of the philosophy of science and how that philosophy changed with the advent of Darwinism to a philosophy of naturalism. Science teachers should carefully explain that naturalism is merely a belief or philosophy and that explanations of origins may be affected by this belief or philosophy.
of Nancy R. Pearcey at a Congressional policy briefing on the Scientific
Evidence of Intelligent Design and Its Implications for Public Policy
Why Darwinism Matters
Tracing out the implications of Darwinism for just about every area of life has become a cottage industry. If you haven’t kept up with it, take a look at a new book series from Yale University Press called Darwinism Today. The books cover such topics as "an evolutionary view of women at work" and "a Darwinian view of parental love" and even a Darwinian approach to leftist political philosophy. There is no part of life, it seems, where Darwinism is not being applied today. You might call the subject of my talk Applied Darwinism: not science per se, but its implications for other areas of life.
A few months ago, talk shows were boiling over with a controversial discussion of a new book on the subject of rape. It was titled The Natural History of Rape , and the two authors were university professors who made the rather inflammatory claim that rape is not a pathology, biologically speaking—rather it is an evolutionary adaptation, a strategy for maximizing reproductive success. In other words, if candy and flowers don't do the trick, some men may resort to coercion to fulfill the reproductive imperative. The book calls rape "a natural, biological phenomenon that is a product of the human evolutionary heritage," just like "the leopard's spots and the giraffe's elongated neck."
The authors were genuinely surprised by all the hoopla the book caused, because after all they were expounding a theory that has been debated in academic circles for several years. It’s called "evolutionary psychology," which is a new form of sociobiology, a term that may be more familiar. It’s the theory that if natural selection produced the human body, then it must also have produced human behavior. Any behavior that survives today must have conferred some evolutionary advantage, otherwise it would not have been preserved by natural selection.
One of the authors, Randy Thornhill, appeared on NPR, where he was badgered repeatedly by critics until finally, in exasperation, he insisted that, look, the logic is inescapable: Since evolution is true, it must be true, he said, that "Every feature of every living thing, including human beings, has an underlying evolutionary background. That's not a debatable matter." In other words, proponents of evolutionary psychology are doing us the favor of spelling out the logical consequences of the Darwinian premises.
Other proponents of evolutionary psychology have claimed to have discovered an evolutionary advantage in such things as jealousy, depression, and even infanticide. A few years ago (November 1997) in the New York Times, Stephen Pinker of MIT claimed that "The emotional circuitry of mothers has evolved" by natural selection to leave their babies to die in certain circumstances.
What these examples remind us is that Darwinism is not only a scientific theory but also the basis of a worldview—and it has implications for the way we define human nature and morality and a host of other worldview questions. Of course, this is where the rubber hits the road for most of us who are not scientists. What we want to know is, what difference does Darwinism make, and what impact has it had, on questions like morality and the law, the family and education?
Let’s start with education. One of today's most popular pedagogical techniques is called "constructivist" education. It's based on the idea that knowledge is not objective but a social construction; therefore children should not be given the "right" answers but they should be taught to construct their own solutions within a group. As one proponent puts it, "Constructivism does not assume the presence of an outside objective reality . . but rather that
learners actively construct their own reality." In order to teach children how to "construct their own reality," teachers encourage students to invent their own spelling systems, their own punctuation, even their own math rules.
Where do such ideas come from? The roots go back to John Dewey, often considered the "father" of American education, whose explicit goal was to work out what Darwinism means for the learning process. He argued that if human beings are nothing but a part of nature, then the mind is simply an organ that has evolved from lower forms in the struggle for existence, just like a bird’s wing or a tiger’s claw. Now, a wing or a claw is preserved by natural selection only if it functions well, if it does it's job, if it enables the animal to adapt and survive. By the same token, Dewey said, the ideas in the mind are worthwhile if they work, if they help us survive. He called for a "new logic" that treats ideas merely as hypotheses about what action will get the results we want.
We see the results of this "new logic" especially at the higher levels of education, which today is awash in postmodernism. The core of postmodernism is the rejection of any objective or universal truth: There's only the feminist perspective or the homosexual perspective or the Hispanic perspective, and so on. The typical college curriculum today includes offerings like UCLA’s "Chicana Lesbian Literature." Or Brown University’s "Black Lavender: A Study of Black Gay/Lesbian Plays." Stanford has a course called "Eco-Feminism." Frederic Sommers of Brandeis says today most educators no longer even define education as a search for truth but as a way to "empower students in the struggle against patriarchy, racism, and classism."
This skepticism about truth is also a direct consequence of Darwinism—so says the well-known deconstructionist Richard Rorty. Rorty devised his own philosophy by asking, what are the intellectual consequences of Darwinism? His answer was that ideas must be treated as problem-solving tools that help us get ahead in the struggle for existence. In a New Republic article, he wrote that "Keeping faith with Darwin" (notice the term there: "Keeping faith with Darwin"), means understanding that the human species is not oriented "toward Truth" but only "toward its own increased prosperity."
Rorty is not the only one who says this. Philosopher Patricia Churchland says the human mind has evolved because more complex cognitive faculties "enhance the organism's chances of survival. Truth, whatever that is, definitely takes the hindmost."
Interestingly enough, Darwin himself wrestled with the question of truth as well--not just once, but several times. In one typical example he wrote: "With me, the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy." What's significant is that Darwin always expressed this "horrid doubt" in the context of admitting that he couldn’t quite shake an "inward conviction" that the universe cannot be the result of chance after all, but requires an intelligent Mind, a First cause. In other words, he applied his skepticism selectively: When his mind led to a theistic conclusion, he argued that after all the human mind cannot give us any real truth. But since his own theory was also a product of the human mind, he was cutting off the branch he himself was sitting on.
One of the most vexing questions since Darwin’s own day is what his theory means for religion. Not long ago, I picked up a nature book for my little five-year-old about the Bernstein Bears, the highly popular picture-book characters. In this book, the Bear family invites us on a nature walk, and as you read you suddenly come across a two-page spread with a startling slogan sprawled across both pages with capital letters: Nature is "all that IS, or WAS, or EVER WILL BE."
Have we heard that somewhere before? The words echo the well-known line from Carl Sagan’s PBS show "Cosmos": "The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be." Sagan was echoing the classic Christian liturgy ("as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever will be"), and what he was offering was nothing less than a religion of naturalism—where nature takes the place of God as the ultimate and eternal reality. What Sagan did for adults, the Bernstein Bears are doing for young kids.
Does Darwinism necessarily mean philosophical naturalism? Or can we fit the two together somehow? It’s a good idea to start with asking what Darwin himself hoped to do--and there’s no doubt that he crafted his theory specifically to supplant the God hypothesis. He proposed that chance and law—random variations and natural selection—could mimick the work of a mind. In which case, of course, you don’t need a mind to govern the process any more. You see, natural selection acts as a sieve, sifting out the harmful variations and letting only the good variations through. But Darwin argued that if God was guiding the process, then He would create only good variations in the first place—and there would be no need for any sifting, no need for natural selection. Putting God over the process would make natural selection unnecessary--"superfluous," as he put it. He clearly saw that you can’t have both, that either God or natural selection becomes superfluous.
If you follow Darwin and make natural selection the creator, then where does religion come from? It too must be explained as a product of evolution. God is merely an idea that appears in the human mind when the nervous system has evolved to a certain level of complexity. Harvard professor E.O. Wilson in his latest book Consilience, says that religion evolved because belief in God gave early humans an edge in the struggle for survival. And he says today we must abandon the traditional religions and develop a new unifying myth based squarely on evolution—a religion that deifies the process itself; one where no teaching, no doctrine, is true in any final sense because all ideas evolve over time. Some even say God Himself evolves--God is not an infinite being but a finite spirit, who is immanent within the universe and evolves along with it. This is the view of process theology, the fastest growing theology in seminaries today.
At a recent meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), participating scientists were startled to hear a clear, sweet voice rising above the group as they assembled on Sunday morning, singing a hymn called "The Handwriting of God." The singer was the wife of a well-known cosmologist, and her hymn celebrated the residual cosmic background radiation from the Big Bang. "God's secrets are written in the first light," announced the refrain.
The performance highlighted a session on the relationship between science and religion, with workshops on topics such as "The Religious Significance of Big Bang Cosmology" and "Scientific Resources for a Global Religious Myth." Most of the speakers argued that traditional faiths must give way to "a science-based myth," and they urged their listeners to elevate cosmic evolution into a "compelling 'religious' narrative" with "the power to bind humans together in a new world order." The end product of Darwinism may not be naturalism but a new paganism.
Since religion is often the grounding for morality, what does all this mean for morality? Ever since Darwin’s day, people have been concerned that his theory undercuts morality in the traditional sense—and they are right. If you listen to radio, you might have heard a song that’s climbing rapidly up the charts these days by a group called The Bloodhound Gang. The song has a refrain punched out over and over: "You and me baby ain't nothin' but mammals; So let's do it like they do on the Discovery Channel." A video for the song features band members dressed as monkeys simulating sexual relations with one another.
On a more sophisticated level, in a recent book called The Moral Animal, Robert Wright says that for the Darwinist, morality is merely an illusion produced by natural selection. As he writes, "There is definitely no reason to assume that existing moral codes reflect some higher truth apprehended via divine inspiration." Instead, the reason we believe certain moral ideas is that they make us adopt behaviors that help our genes survive—like taking care of our children. "What is in our genes' best interest is what seems 'right'--morally right, objectively right."
In other words, morality is nothing but a trick of the mind produced by natural selection. To quote Wilson again, it "is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes."
If this is so, what becomes of the moral basis of the law? A legal system is based on a set of normative propositions—a series of oughts. If "morality is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes," what happens to the moral grounding of the law?
Already a century ago, the implications were foreseen by Oliver Wendell Holmes, who was a committed Darwinist and who argued that there is no moral foundation for the law—that law is merely the science of state coercion: the ways government uses its coercive power most effectively. More recently, legal scholar Richard Posner says there can be no such thing as "natural law" in the moral sense because we now know that "nature is the amoral scene of Darwinian struggle."
But perhaps the best description of what all this means for the law is a much-quoted article by Arthur Leff, of the Yale Law School. Leff points out that the only way to have ultimate moral norms is if there exists an unquestioned final guarantee of those norms—"an unjudged judge, an uruled legislator, . . . an uncreated creator of values." "Now, what would you call such a thing if it existed?" Leff asks. "You would call it Him."
In other words, only if there is a God who is Himself ultimate Goodness and Justice is there any ultimate moral grounding for the law. And if there is no God, Leff argues, then nothing and no one can take His place. Nothing else can function as the grounding of morality--no person, no group, no document—because all of these can be challenged. All of these are susceptible to the defiant challenge you hear kids say to their parents or on the playground: "Sez who?" Everything except an infinite God is susceptible, he says, to "the grand sez who?"
Now, Leff himself does not believe such a God exists, and so he concludes that "we are all we’ve got"—and that therefore that there are no objective, universally binding moral norms, that "Everything is up for grabs."
And yet, and yet. He ends his piece by saying, "Napalming babies is [still] bad. Starving the poor is wicked. Buying and selling each other is depraved. There is such a thing as evil. All together now: Sez who? God help us."
This is the postmodernist impasse in the law. Americans want to feel that we are free to choose our own values, that no one can tell us what to do. And yet, at the same time, we want to be able to say that certain things are genuinely wrong, objectively evil. Harvard professor Michael Sandel, in Democracy’s Discontent, says the major political divide in America today lies precisely here--between those who believe that morality is indeed up for grabs, something we construct for ourselves and, on the other hand, those who believe morality is "given" in some way—grounded in divine revelation or human nature or in some other objective manner. Sandel traces this deep divide in several policy areas, such as the family, abortion, and economics, and you will find a more detailed policy discussion there.
And so I would suggest that the scientific issues we’ve heard about today have profound consequences for our understanding of a host of worldview questions—which in turn spill over into policy issues. If we want to understand the deep divides within the American polity today, we can do no better than to examine the view of science that each one is based upon.