by Denyse O'Leary
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. What should happen is quite obvious, in terms of Western world public policy. It was ably expressed by a lawyer friend who comments that, in principle, every religion is entitled to put on pageants for the children of the faithful. Indeed, that is precisely the limitation under which religions generally suffer. He predicts that the Darwinists have gofed bigtime:
They don't realize it yet, but when they do they are going to realize they've made a mistake. The same thing with the pro-evolution booklets they've prepared for kindergartners.
An effective panel presentation or court presentation on how evolution's advocates are turning it into a religion would show the correspondences between the newly developing pro-evolution programs and past, well-established religions
- kindergartner booklets vs. Sunday school booklets
- pageants, heroic exaltation of Darwin the man as a kind of prophet or inspired founder
- celebration of Darwin Day (does it commemorate his birthday? book publication day? Whatever it commemorates, religions commemorate analogous events in the lives of their founders)
- the vehement denunciations by Darwin's acolytes of all other religions (similar to the way in which Christian missionaries in the early middle ages converted the Germanic tribes)
- insistence on government support (recall again how Christianity converted Europe by, first, converting kings, and then having the kings declare Christianity the state religion - read the book The Barbarian Conversion)
- take-over of sacred places of the old religion by having Darwin-Day sermons, by recruiting religious leaders to make pro-Darwin statements (historically churches were often built on old pagan sites)
- the claim that Darwinism is "fact" not theory, etc.
- sacred bones. Christian churches have the bones of the saints; Buddhist stupas the toe-nail-clippings of Buddha; evolution is built on sacred bones, that the evolutionists read meanings into in the way that the pagan priests of Caesar's time read meaning into scattered bones.
Most interesting, especially the part about the sacred bones.
One of the things I have found most telling about the human evolution controversies over the years has been the frantic demand for ASSENT - to this or that human, ape, neanderthal or whatever as the primordial Adam or Eve, as intelligent or otherwise, as interbreeding with humans or not - in situations where there is almost no evidence. Whatever all that has been, it has not been science.
Now, here is my lawyer friend's key idea:
My point is that this is not merely a philosophical/logic argument -- it is actual sociological and cultural data. The conduct of the evolutionists itself demonstrates that they want it to function in the public mind as a religion.
However, I m not as optimistic as he. Given the current elite accommodation of Darwinism, what will really happen in the courts may be another matter. Another lawyer warns me that courts today are seldom sympathetic to anyone protesting compulsory indoctrination in materialism as a guide to life, and recommends great caution in pursuing cases. Increasingly, Western wllrd judges are elite materialists, whether they profess to be Christians or not. (Christianity can only be tolerated, in their view, where it does not conflict with materialism.) Increasingly, if you doubt materialism, something is assumed to be wrong with you, a childhood glitch or tick maybe.
And Darwinism is just the religion to suit the modern North American elite. It features boatloads of "selfish gene" nonsense, and an indulgence for any passion or vice whatever that does not happen to violate some current public health policy. It is as impervious to correction based on fact as any medieval saint's legend. And you are definitely NOT supposed to ask whether the stories are "true." They are told for your greater moral benefit, ... to help you be a better Darwinist.
Go here for a sendup of Darwinism, but caution! Do not eat or drink while laughing. We may be forced to fund the bilge or sit through it, but we are still allowed to laugh, apparently.
Meanwhile, no creed could better fit the great Irish poet Yeats' "rough beast" than Darwinism. Read the rest of the poem and you will see exactly what I mean.
Toronto-based Canadian journalist Denyse O'Leary (www.designorchance.com) is the author of the multiple award-winning By Design or by Chance? (Augsburg Fortress 2004), an overview of the intelligent design controversy. She was named CBA Canada's Recommended Author of the Year in 2005 and is co-author, with Montreal neuroscientist Mario Beauregard, of the forthcoming The Spiritual Brain: A neuroscientist's case for the existence of the soul (Harper 2007).
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