August 30, 2008
Perhaps the contradiction is hard to see when it is stated at an abstract level, so I will give a more concrete example. Persons who advocate the compromise position called "theistic evolution" are in my experience always vague about what they mean by "evolution." They have good reason to be vague. As we have seen, Darwinian evolution is by definition unguided and purposeless, and such evolution cannot in any meaningful sense be theistic. For evolution to be genuinely theistic it must be guided by God, whether this means that God programmed the process in advance or stepped in from time to time to give it a push in the right direction. To Darwinists evolution guided by God is a soft form of creationism, which is to say it is not evolution at all. To repeat, this understanding goes to the very heart of Darwinist thinking. Allow a preexisting supernatural intelligence to guide evolution, and this omnipotent being can do a whole lot more than that.
Of course, theists can think of evolution as God-guided whether naturalistic Darwinists like it or not. The trouble with having a private definition for theists, however, is that the scientific naturalists have the power to decide what that term "evolution" means in public discourse, including the science classes in the public schools. If theistic evolutionists broadcast the message that evolution as they understand it is harmless to theistic religion, they are misleading their constituents unless they add a clear warning that the version of evolution advocated by the entire body of mainstream science is something else altogether. That warning is never clearly delivered, however, because the main point of theistic evolution is to preserve peace with the mainstream scientific community. The theistic evolutionists therefore unwitting serve the purposes of the scientific naturalists, by helping persuade the religious community to lower its guard against the incursion of naturalism.
We are now in a position to answer the question with which this lecture began. What is Darwinism? Darwinism is a theory of empirical science only at the level of microevolution, where it provides a framework for explaining such things as the diversity that arises when small populations become reproductively isolated from the main body of the species. As a general theory of biological creation Darwinism is not empirical at all. Rather, it is a necessary implication of a philosophical doctrine called scientific naturalism, which is based on the a priori assumption that God was always absent from the realm of nature. As such evolution in the Darwinian sense is inherently antithetical to theism, although evolution in some entirely different and non-naturalistic sense could conceivably have been God's chosen method of creation.
In 1874, the great Presbyterian theologian Charles Hodge asked the question I have asked: What is Darwinism? After a careful and thoroughly fair-minded evaluation of the doctrine, his answer was unequivocal: "It is Atheism." Another way to state the proposition is to say that Darwinism is the answer to a specific question that grows out of philosophical naturalism. In the game of "Jeopardy", let us say that Darwinism is the answer. What, then, is the question? The question is: "How must creation have occurred if we assume that God had nothing to do with it?" Theistic evolutionists accomplish very little by trying to Christianize the answer to a question that comes straight out of the agenda of scientific naturalism. What we need to do instead is to challenge the assumption that the only questions worth asking are the ones that assume that naturalism is true.