Wednesday, October 15, 2003

"I am driven to observe of the ultra-Darwinists the following features as symptomatic. First, to my eyes, is their almost unbelievable self-assurance, their breezy self-confidence. Second, and far more serious, are particular examples of a sophistry and sleight of hand in the misuse of metaphor, and more importantly a distortion of metaphysics in support of an evolutionary programme. Consider how ultra-Darwinists, having erected a naturalistic system that cannot by itself possess any ultimate purpose, still allow a sense of meaning mysteriously to slip back in. … Third, as has often been noted, the pronouncement of the ultra-Darwinists can shake with a religious fervour. Richard Dawkins is arguably England’s most pious atheist. Their texts ring with high-minded rhetoric and dire warnings – not least of the unmitigated evils of religion – all to reveal the path of simplicity and straight thinking. More than one commentator has noted that ultra-Darwinism has pretensions to a secular religion, but it may be noted that, however heartfelt the practitioners’ feelings, it is also without religious or metaphysical foundations. Notwithstanding the quasi-religious enthusiasms of ultra-Darwinists, their own understanding of theology is a combination of ignorance and derision, philosophically limp, drawing on clich├ęs, and happily fuelled by the idiocies of the so-called scientific creationists. It seldom seems to strike the ultra-Darwinists that theology might have its own richness and subtleties, and might – strange thought – actually tell us things about the world that are not only to our real advantage, but will never be revealed by science. In depicting the religious instinct as a mixture of irrational fundamentalism and wish-fulfillment they seem to be simply unaware that theology is not the domain of pop-eyed flat-earthers."

Conway Morris, Life’s Solution, pp. 314-316. Quoted by Edward T. Oakes, SJ in a response delivered at a Harvard conference on "Biochemistry and the Fine-Tuning of the Universe."

This is doubly delicious, for Morris is not a theologian but an evolutionary paleobiologist.

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