Darwin at 200: New report from Theos doesn’t ‘reclaim Darwin’ at all
Christian think-tank Theos just released their report “Reclaiming Darwin”, a rallying-cry to religious people everywhere to reject creationist nonsense and enter into a dialogue to think about how science and religion coexist. Which would be an innocuous cause if it weren’t for the fact that the report itself is used to perpetrate the myth that all modern evolution researchers are soulless and fundamentally cynical of other human beings.
After reading the seventy-two page document on its release – yes, I do have too much time on my hands – I was initially struck by how mind-numbingly moderate it was. Much was made of the fact that Darwin did reject his faith but died an agnostic (true) and that early twentieth century researchers of evolution such as Ronald Fisher and Theodosius Dobzhansky were practising Christians (also true, but completely irrelevant as well as crushingly dull when compared to the wonderful results they found).
Then things get suspicious in their chapter “Darwin in the crossfire”. Modern evolution leaves itself open to creationism, it argues, as “those most eager to defend Darwin” place too much emphasis on humans programmed by their genes to be selfish and self-centred, with no space for morality or compassion. This apparently turns people away from accepting the theory:
Consequently, everything we might think of as distinctively human is demolished. Morality (in as far as we can still talk about it) becomes calculating and fundamentally self-interested, ethical systems arbitrary, agency an illusion, and human beings completely irrelevant and accidental.
Hopefully you have already spotted two problems with this argument.
The first is that it focuses on one specific evolutionary biologist. All the references for this argument are with regards to Richard Dawkins and his books. Although he is probably the most famous evolutionary biologist alive today, that does not mean that he suddenly becomes representative of all views on controversial ar