Monday, July 30, 2007

Frustrating Read...

David Sloan Wilson makes some bold claims in the introduction to his book that actually got me excited to read this book on how evolution changes the way we think about everything. Wilson is a well-regarded evolutionist who has written many works on how evolutionary theory works outside its normal academic boundaries of biology, genetics, paleontology, zoology, etc. and really changes the way we see everything in life from relationships to purpose to global issues to life and death. Wilson comments in his heady introduction that this book is actually a summary of the material that he teaches in his introductory class on evolution at his university. With his usual faux-humility, Wilson boasts about the power of the theory of evolution (and mostly his work in the field of evolution) to explain every part of human existence. In the introduction, Wilson says that he can show how evolution and religion need not be enemies, but can actually peacefully coexist in a rational world. Wilson is obviously enthralled (and I would say blinded) by his own reasoning power as he sees the world through evolutionary-stained glasses.

Of course, what Wilson means when he talks about evolution and religion being friends (and this is what really irritated me in this read) is captured in a few chapters in this book where he summarizes his full-length book on the topic, Darwin's Cathedral. When Wilson talks about religion being compatible with evolution, he means religion when understood as a social construct, having evolved throughout time, without any reflection on the content of the religion's teaching. In other words, if you submit your religious belief's to evolutionary naturalistic philosophy, discard everything in your faith that smacks of supernaturalism, and write off your core beliefs as simply social cultural constructs that have evolved over time, then, yes, your religion can fit nicely within evolutionary theory. But what kind of emaciated religion is that? Not something I would want to give my life to.

Wilson's commitment to evolutionary doctrine is similar to my commitment to Christian doctrine. This book is another reminder that evolutionary theory (and scientific naturalism) is NOT just about science, but about what we believe about the universe, the people in it, and our purpose in the world. At a basic level, my reading in science, evolution, and creationism over the past few weeks has reminded me of one very important fact: what we believe really does matter. This may seem simple to you, but it is profound for me. If you follow Wilson's worldview and dismiss the imago dei and special creation and the supernatural and absolute truth all as social constructs built to give people meaning, you have not just changed out your doctrinal statement, you have changed everything about your life. In this one point, Wilson and I agree - what you believe in the origins debate does change the way we see our lives.

Maybe in another email, we'll flesh out what actually changes when our we dismiss the metanarrative of Scripture and adopt Wilson's (and Darwin's) metanarrative. You might be surprised how much changes.

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