Dinesh D'Souza, author of What's So Great About Christianity, a book I've been meaning to read, has written a blog entry on Newsbloggers entitled The Dogma of Materialism. In the blog, he discusses his upcoming debate on July 21, 2008, with Richard Dawkins, one of today's biggest popularizers of Darwinian evolution and the view the religion is bad for the world, and elaborates upon one of the issues he intends to raise in that debate: the non-theists' blind commitment to naturalism. (Should Dawkin's book have been entitled "The Blind Naturalist"?)
In the course of the blog, he points to several quotes from the bombastic Dawkins about the obvious failures of evidence to support this widely accepted theory, and then concludes with a quote that I had read previously by Richard Lewontin, Ph.D., a proponent of evolution (while criticizing some approaches to the issue), which is worth repeating (with emphasis added).
Consider [Richard] Dawkins himself, rebutting the claim that there are significant "gaps" in the fossil record. Dawkins concedes that there are such gaps, but then writes this: "The gaps, far from being anoying imperfections or awkward embarrassments, turn out to be exactly what we should positively expect."
In other words, the absence of evidence for evolution is itself proof that the theory is correct! This is so bizarre that it makes one wonder what the presence of evidence might do to this theory. Would a complete fossil record without gaps be evidence against Darwinian evolution, as we hear that Dawkins and his fellow biologists "exactly" and "positively" expect that such evidence should not be present?
Dawkins finally puts his cards on the table by saying of evolution: "Even if the evidence did not favor it, it would still be the best theory available." And if Dawkins is dismissed as a crank, here is Harvard cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker making the same point. "Because there are no alternatives, we would almost have to accept natural selection as the explanation of life on this planet even if there were no evidence for it."
We have here the weird spectacle of so-called scientists who are so wedded to a theory that they cannot even imagine it not to be true. This is a level of dogmatism that would embarrass any theist. Even the strongest religious believer can imagine the possibility that there is no God. So how can these self-styled champions of reason adopt so closed-minded an approach?
The short answer is given by Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin, who in a 1997 essay in the New York Review of Books makes a revealing admission: "We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant proises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment--a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation for the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori commitment to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, the materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door."
The idea of following the evidence wherever it may lead -- something that popularizers of evolution such as Carl Sagan have promoted -- seems to disappear when the evidence leads to God. If one concludes that the evidence leads to God (or, at least, a designer of some sort), that person will be treated as if he has lost his mind (e.g., Antony Flew).
Dr. Lewontin's quote is refreshing for its honesty, and worth remembering when today's versions of Darwin's pitbulls argue that those who claim not to believe in evolution (according to Dawkins) are "ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that)."