Sunday, March 04, 2007

evolution - the religion

Michael Ruse, a well-known evolutionist and expert in the field of the philosophy of science says this:
Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion -- a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality. I am an ardent evolutionist and an ex-Christian, but I must admit that in this one complaint -- and Mr. Gish is but one of many to make it -- the literalists are absolutely right. Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.
This quote is taken from Ruse's article HOW EVOLUTION BECAME A RELIGION, which appeared Saturday, May 13, 2000 in the National Post. You can read the rest of the article here.

3 comments:

Divers and Sundry said...

PZ Myers, an evolutionary biologist whose blog I read, says this:

"No, no, no. You could argue that many of us find solace in secularism, or that science provides a story of origins or explanation for the world, and that it does substitute for religion in providing a rational explanation of our place in the universe, but it is not a religion unless you want to say that everything that provides a reference point is a religion. And in particular, scientific disciplines like evolutionary biology are not religions, and scientific theories like evolution are not religions. Ruse must have a very, very broad and peculiar definition of "religion" to think so. Is mathematics also a religion? How about engineering?"

Jason Woolever said...

thanks for the counterpoint D & S. It doesn't surprise me that evolutionists don't want to agree with Ruse's admission.

Divers and Sundry said...

Well, it's not really the case that "evolutionists don't want to agree with Ruse's admission." Perhaps the Myers quote was not the best one to include in my previous response.

There are indeed people who seem devoted to "Evolution" to the exclusion of all else, people who think beliefs in evolution and God are mutually exclusive, people who spend as much time denigrating religious belief as they do advancing evolutionary theory. That does not make evolution itself a religion, although you could argue that some have made Evolution their God.

The Salon.com article here can perhaps explain the difference I see better than I am able to. It says, in part,

"Ruse is drawing a crucial distinction between evolutionary science, narrowly considered -- which need not have any religious or spiritual consequences -- and evolutionism, the secular, atheistic religion he says often accompanies and enfolds Darwinism. Leading evolutionists like Dawkins, Ruse believes, have failed to draw clear distinctions between the two, and have led many to believe that Darwinian science is fatally allied to an arrogant atheism and a hostile caricature of religious belief. In essence, Ruse believes that fundamentalist evolutionists like Dawkins and W.D. Hamilton hold similar beliefs to fundamentalist creationists -- both sides would agree that Darwinism is a "dark theology" that removes ultimate meaning and purpose from the universe and augurs the death of God."

Ruse is an evolutionary scientist speaking to others who accept evolutionary theory and seeking to correct them on this point. He seems to me to be pointing out the excesses of the more strident anti-religious polemicists and to be arguing _against_ equating that anti-religious view with evolutionary _science_.

On the other hand, just because Ruse says it doesn't make it so. He's entitled to his opinion, but he doesn't get to define the terms for the rest of us. I'm unwilling, for example, to let him set the definition of what makes a religion.

Thanks for allowing the comments. :)