The Evolution Debate Has Its Own Appeasers and Dealmakers

By David Klinghoffer Published on March 4, 2015

There’s plenty of commentary elsewhere on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s important speech to Congress. I can add to it only by pointing out a very insightful column by Dennis Prager here at The Stream, to which I’d like to append two codicils extending the relevance of what he writes beyond international affairs, to science.

My friend Mr. Prager writes about why some on the Left in the United States resent Netanyahu so much. Dennis brilliantly crystalizes what he calls “an important rule of life that too few people are aware of.” It’s this: “Those who do not confront evil resent those who do.”

Yes. Except that sentiments like the ones Prager acutely analyzes can be found in some corners on the Right too. That’s my first codicil. The second would be to tack on a couple of words to Prager’s rule: “Those who do not confront evil, falsehood or power resent those who do.”

If you follow the debate about evolution, by which I mean Darwinian evolution, you have probably noticed that Darwin skeptics and advocates of intelligent design provoke resentment — even loathing — not only from orthodox materialists, where you’d anticipate it, but from precincts where the idea of scientific evidence of design in nature should, you might expect, be welcomed.

Darwinism is a relic of 19th-century scientific materialism. It claims that the exquisite structures we see in life — the mammalian eye, the heart, the brain, the mind, are ultimately the result of a blind process of natural selection working on random variations. What we see, according to Darwin and his acolytes, is not real but merely apparent design.

Perhaps Darwin’s proposal is not evil, though it has been put to use to advance some evil projects. However it remains extremely powerful in scientific and media cultures, and for an obvious reason: it provides the materialist, who denies the existence of God, with a handy way of explaining away what otherwise looks a lot like, well, evidence for the existence of God, or least for a purposeful universe. And as we show every day at Discovery Institute’s Evolution News & Views Darwin’s theory is also, as a description of how major innovations in biological complexity arise, evidently false.

Yet there’s a deal that many people have made with Darwinism — people whose other commitments in life would make such a deal surprising at first glance. They may sincerely believe in God, affirm the dignity of human life, the value of religious tradition for society,and the importance of marriage for human flourishing. They may entertain skeptical thoughts about the severity of human-induced climate change. They may even, horror of horrors, defend capitalism from its cultured despisers.

To counterbalance all these offenses, they agree not to question the science behind Darwinian evolutionary theory. In this way they hope to buy back some social credentials, which would be smudged by allying themselves openly with a idea unpopular in prestige culture. They reject their likely friends in the hope of appeasing their opponents.

Not only do they not confront Darwinian thinking. They don’t even permit themselves to understand what the scientific controversy is about. You’ll find these folks scattered all around the culture — whether in conservative media, in positions of Christian and Jewish religious leadership, many places.

Quite apart from the predictable opposition to intelligent design and Darwin skepticism from atheists and materialists, the dealmakers deeply resent us. Dennis writes, “Appeasers hate those who confront evil” — and, again I would add, power and falsehood.

As Prager observes, appeasement is a dynamic with a long history. It is rooted in human nature. But those who confront evil, power and falsehood must not be disheartened by such friendly fire. There’s little to be done about it other than to continually make our case for the truth as we understand it, always with the hope of persuading those who are sincerely unpersuaded or who are simply uninformed.

Once the tide has turned, the appeasers will come along quietly, no doubt insisting that they secretly agreed with us all along.

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