I'd like to take a closer look at Ker Than's article on ID as it relates to the whole issue of morality and evolution. I don't think I have ever addressed this issue, as morality is not relevant to my interest in ID. Nevertheless, I think it is a major component that drives the socio-political expression of ID.
While denying that ID is religiously motivated, ID proponents often portray evolution as its own kind of religion, one that is atheistic and materialistic, whose converts no longer cast their eyes towards heaven but who rather seek to build heaven here on Earth using their scientific knowledge.
The implication is that by destroying the idea that Man is the paragon of God's creation, evolution robs life of meaning and worth. And by limiting God's role in creation, evolution opens up the terrifying possibility for some that there is no God and no universal moral standard that humans must follow.
He then turns to atheist Barbara Forrest:
Forrest thinks this is just silly. "Where did immorality come from before Darwin figured out natural selection?" she asked.
I don't think Forrest accurately conveys the angst from the religious crowd. Of course immorality is as old as human beings. Traditional Christians call it "original sin." The concern is that by removing God and universal moral standards that are larger than humanity, a restraining hand is removed from our natural inclination to behave immorally. Think of a traffic analogy. As long as there have been roads and cars, there have been accidents. But what if we removed all the traffic lights and stop signs and let everyone decide from themselves when they would stop and go. Clearly, the incidence of traffic accidents would increase. Now mind you, I am not making this argument here. I'm simply pointing out that Forrest doesn't understand the concern many religious people have. She seems to think they think the belief in natural selection is a cause of immorality. Instead, they think Darwin's followers are taking down stop signs.
Anyway, Forrest continues:
Far from robbing life of meaning, Forrest believes that it is because of evolution that we are capable of living meaningful lives.
As an aside, I can't resist again quoting from Ker Than "“ "Darwin's theory of evolution tells us that life existed for billions of years before us,that humans are not the products of special creation and that life has no inherent meaning or purpose." It's just too gosh darn ironic.
Ah, Mike, but key is the word "inherent." Forrest credits evolution with our ability to pretend we have meaning:
"It's evolution that gives us the advanced nervous system we have so that we can interact with our environments at a highly conscious level," Forrest said.
I see. So does that mean evolution leaves out humans without the ability to interact with their environments at a highly conscious level? Y'know, like newborn babies? And if no one thinks a baby has a "meaningful life," does the baby cease to have a meaningful life? We'll get back to this. But first, Ken Miller will make a very important observation:
Miller thinks such claims are also self-fulfilling. "You have essentially told people that if that Darwin guy is right, there is no God, there is no morality, there is no law you are obliged to obey," Miller told LiveScience. "I don't know of any evolutionary biologists who would say that, but I do hear a lot of people on the other side saying it."
It looks a little like Miller is spinning, as he did tell us in Chapter 6 of Finding Darwin's God that many evolutionary biologists do use science to argue there is no God. But he would probably wiggle out of this by claiming they don't say "there is no law you are obliged to obey," as even evolutionary biologists stop at stop signs.
More important is that Miller is right. Evolution itself does not teach us "there is no God." Miller is right in noting that evolution cannot tell us why life exists. And Lawrence Krauss is right when he tells us that questions of purpose are not part of science. As Krauss noted, "How you interpret the results of science is up to you, and it's based on your theological and philosophical inclinations." You bet.
Even Massimo Pigliucci has conceded this point, when he admitted his error in conflating methodological naturalism and philosophical naturalism:
Of course, I am both a methodological and a philosophical naturalist, and I do see a logical connection between the two. But such connection is neither necessary nor a result of scientific evidence (pace Dawkins).
Thus, as we can clearly see, atheism (philosophical naturalism) is not necessarily connected to science nor does the evidence of science lead to atheism. Atheism is a metaphysical choice and an inclination. You can prop it up with fancy philosophical arguments that boil down to demands for a miracle or complaints about getting sick. But in the end, people like Miller, Krauss, Scott, and Pigliucci have finally cut it away from science and left it dangling in realm of philosophy and theology. There is no steady, objective scientific hand that helps us decide among our options in this realm. Atheism, polytheism, monotheism, pantheism are choices at life's smorgasbord. Some people, like Hugh Ross, would argue that science helps him choose monotheism and other people, like Massimo Pigliucci, would argue that science helps him choose atheism. What matters is that Science itself can't tell us who chose correctly.
So what does this all have to do with the dispute about morality and evolution? I'll get to that in the next blog.