How Will You Celebrate Darwin Day?

By Tom Gilson Published on February 11, 2016

You might remember February 12 as Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. What matters more for secularists is that it’s Charles Darwin’s birthday, which means every February 12 is the secularist holiday Darwin Day.

There were other patron saints they could have chosen, but far more people have heard of Darwin than, say, the ancient Roman writer Lucretius. Richard Dawkins famously told us that Darwin “made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” There was atheism before Darwin, but it was his theory of evolution that allowed God to be kicked out of the picture of life’s development into billions of species.

Darwin claimed that nature is better explained by reference to unguided, purely natural processes than a purposeful designer. “Unguided, purely natural processes” implies that there is no God, or at least no God involved in nature, so this naturalistic position is also an atheistic position. And secularists go further yet, insisting that science, allegedly the one true source of all knowledge, requires that we never, ever consider any explanations except naturalistic ones.

Oddly enough, this supposed single source of explanations doesn’t explain why we those should be the only permissible explanations. The irony of that — not to mention its irrationality — seems lost on these secularists, for whom the issue is clearly Darwin vs. religion. They don’t seem to recognize there’s an even more significant issue of science vs. the unscientific assumption of no-answer-allowed-but-Darwin.

I’m using “Darwin” here to represent evolutionary theory as it stands today, including all its changes and developments since he first wrote On the Origin of Species. For secularists, though, Darwin symbolizes even more than that. He represents science itself, which they take to be the peak of human achievement. When Representative Jim Hines introduced a resolution last year supporting Darwin Day in the U.S., he said it would recognize Darwin as “a worthy symbol on which to focus…a global recognition of science and humanity.”

But Darwin keeps coming under attack even on scientific grounds. His theory and its neo-Darwinist successors have significant trouble explaining the vast flowering of new animal forms called the Cambrian Explosion. Evolutionary theories run into a serious wall in explaining irreducible complexity: features of life that appear impossible in principle to have developed by Darwinian processes. They offer no basis whatever for understanding how life developed in the first place (and no other sustainable theory has even been proposed). 

Now that the famously pictorial “tree of life” has been examined at the genetic level, it’s turning out to contradict the earlier picture. And even if Darwin had solved the mystery of the species, that would still leave other mysteries of origins wide open, such as the universe’s astonishing fine-tuning for life. 

So the “science” part is problematic, but frankly for me, Rep. Hines’s “humanity” part is even less believable. Consider these conclusions, all of them soberly drawn from the implications of naturalistic Darwinism:

Jerry Coyne, University of Chicago biology professor and author of Why Evolution Is True, insists there is no such thing as a freely made human decision: we have no more free will than a rock rolling downhill.  Naturalistic philosophers Daniel Dennett and Paul and Patricia Churchland deny the reality of human consciousness

Harvard’s Steven Pinker says we should regard humans — especially infants — as having no greater moral worth than chimpanzees. Michael Ruse and E. O. Wilson tell us morality is nothing more than evolution’s game to get us to reproduce our species more successfully. And Duke University’s Alex Rosenberg wants us very soberly, seriously and intentionally to think about naturalism’s conclusion that there is no such thing as thinking about anything. (Yes, he said that. He even meant it.)

So it’s Darwin Day. Why not make it a holiday? You deserve a break, after all — unless you’re just another animal. You’re conscious of that question, unless your consciousness is an illusion. It’s worth thinking about, unless there’s no such thing as thinking about anything. 

So go ahead: celebrate! But please forgive me if I decide not to join you. At least I know I can decide.

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