The Wall Street
Journal commissioned Richard Dawkins and Karen Armstrong to respond
independently to the question, “Where does evolution leave God?” Their answers became
an article in the Life & Style section last month called Man vs. God.
Richard Dawkins said of Darwinian evolution, “We know, as
certainly as we know anything in science, that this is the process that has
generated life on our own planet.” Evolution, Dawkins concluded with his
characteristic wit, is God’s “pink slip.” In other words, since science says Evolution
is, we say God isn’t. (I discussed Dawkins’s argument for the non-existence of God in an earlier Salvo article.)
Karen Armstrong’s response was more artistic. She spoke of
two complementary ways of arriving at truth, which the Greeks called mythos and
logos, both of which were recognized by scholars as legitimate. Logos was
reason, logic, intellect. But logos alone couldn’t speak to the deep question
human beings ask like, What is the meaning of life? and, Why do bad
things happen to good people? For that, she said, people turned to mythos –
stories, regardless of whether or not they were true, that helped us make sense
out of the difficulties of life. They were therapeutic. We could think of them
as an early form of psychology.
was not supposed to provide explanations that lay within the competence of
reason but to help us live creatively with realities for which there are no
easy solutions and find an interior haven of peace; today, however, many have
opted for unsustainable certainty instead. But can we respond religiously to
evolutionary theory? Can we use it to recover a more authentic notion of God?
Darwin made it clear [that] we cannot regard God simply as a divine personality, who
single-handedly created the world. This could direct our attention away from
the idols of certainty and back to the ‘God beyond God.’ The best theology is a
spiritual exercise, akin to poetry.”
Not only is the veracity of any religious story irrelevant, she
seems to be saying, it is incorrect to believe any account concerning God as
objectively true. To do so is to construct an idol of certainty. How do we know
that? Because of the certainty of Darwinian evolution.
Her response, at bottom,
isn’t much different from the atheist’s. Evolution is. God isn’t. But some of
us like to imagine that he is.
Notice the source Dawkins and Armstrong consult for certain truth: Science. Why? Because Science proclaims what is.
The questions I’m pondering and
posing are (1) At what point do the proclamations of science become imperialistic?
and (2) At what point does an appropriate respect for science morph into worship?