Advice to Evolutionismists -- Michael Ruse Gets it Partially Right

Today's Boston Glove has a very interesting article on the question of why so many people are rejecting the Darwinistic view of evolution. Entitled Evolutionary War, the article discusses a new book by Michael Ruse, "both a staunch supporter of evolution and an ardent critic of scientists who he thinks have hurt the cause by habitually stepping outside the bounds of science into social theory," entitled The Evolution-Creation Struggle which will be released later this month. In the article, Michael Ruse is noted as claiming that . . .

. . . loading values onto the platform of evolutionary science constitutes "evolutionism," an outlook that goes far beyond the scientific acceptance of evolution as a means of explaining the origins and development of species. Provocatively, Ruse argues that evolutionism has often constituted a "religion" itself by offering "a world picture, a story of origins, and a special place for humans," while its proponents have been "trying deliberately to do better than Christianity."

To be sure, Ruse acknowledges, some biologists are religious, while a significant portion of religious believers are willing to accept the concept of evolution at least to some extent. But, he argues, the way evolutionists have often linked their science to progressive politics has, in recent decades, become anathema to many believers, especially fundamentalist Christians whose biblical literalism leads them to believe that worldly change will only arrive with the Second Coming. The advocates of evolution, Ruse argues, have thus been "competing for space in the hearts and minds" of many religious believers without even realizing it - much to the detriment of their cause.

First, I have been contending for years that the belief in Darwinian evolution (or what he calls "evolutionism") is a religious belief. It may not have a "god" in the sense of belief in an personal god, but it does have a belief system with tenets that must be followed. I purposefully titled the CADRE webpage on the debate between evolution and intelligent design the Christian CADRE Evolution(ism) v. Intelligent Design Page for that reason. Thus, to the extent that he argues that the main advocates of Darwinian evolution are advocating what is tantamount to a religious belief, he has my agreement.

Where he goes wrong, in my view, is in his idea that the problem with the notion of evolution that some see is simply a lack of presentation. Ruse says:

''Evolution is true. Evolution works.'' But as he sees it, the traditional ways of presenting evolution have hurt as much as helped.

"If everything were going well, you could sit back and say, ‘Ruse, don't rock the boat,'" he says. "But it's awful. If Bush gets one or two more Supreme Court Justices, we'll have Intelligent Design in the classroom." (In 1981, Ruse testified in a case in which an Arkansas judge ruled that creation science - which the state had tried to introduce in schools - was not valid science but an unconstitutional attempt to teach religion in the classroom. The Supreme Court upheld the decision in 1987.)

That's why he will continue to insist that many religious believers who currently reject or remain indifferent to Darwin can come to accept it - as long as they are presented strictly with scientific facts, and given less reason to think evolution could be a threat to their social and spiritual values.

In fact, the problems with evolution in the eyes of people like myself run much deeper. It has to do with the nature of the evidence that is being presented in addition to how it is presented. Two things would help to get us on a more even dialogue:

First, stop equating intelligent design with creationism. It isn't, and every article that contends that it is misses the boat entirely. This is especially true of the popularizers of evolutions, e.g., Dawkins, who continually refer to ID as creationism. This is guilt by association and I, for one, discount any article by anyone who takes that position as poorly reasoned.

Second, stop pretending that evolution is a proven fact that cannot be disputed. I simply do not believe that the unreasoned efforts to completely eradicate intelligent design without a fair hearing from the pro-evolutionism camp can be the result of anything other than a blind religious-type commitment to an underlying philosophy. If intelligent design is as weak as you think it is, then let it be heard and have the debate about it. Don't criticize people like Michale Ruse who seek to take on the issue by debating the topic in a book co-authored with William Dembski on the basis that such dialouge and efforts to disprove ID gives "creationists" (there's that word again -- see my first bit of advice) "credibility and a platform." If ID is such a straw man, give it the platform so you can knock it off. As it is, despite your best efforts to laugh ID out of the debate, it is gaining the "credibility and platform" that you seek to deny it because it makes sense.

P.S. Thanks to Dave Johnson of Contend for the Faith for bringing the Boston Globe article to my attention. Dave runs a very fine apologetics webpage, and I encourage everyone to visit it.


Anonymous said…
Thanks for writing this article. Michael Ruse's book sounds fascinating. After reading your excerpts from it, I want to read the whole book myself.

But it appears to me that despite your initial agreement with Ruse, you quickly switch to a different defintion of 'evolutionism'. But on what grounds do you do this?

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