THE FIFTH REASON
The fifth reason for Christians to embrace Darwin and the Big Bang Theory has to do with secular humanism. Secular humanism is a group of creeds that have emerged over the past 100 plus years representing an alternative to Christianity and other religions. While not exclusively so, a very high percentage of secular humanists are atheists and freethinkers. Their thinking is summarized in three Secular Humanist Manifestos, issued respectively in 1933, 1973, and 2003. In general, one can summarize their beliefs as follows:
- Humans have an innate capacity to do and be good
- We should focus our attention on the needs of this world, not on some mythical deity and "afterlife"
- The values of scientific inquiry, as well as justice and fairness, are paramount
- Humans are capable of making progress, and given this capacity, should focus on building a better world.
There is much one can find appealing in the beliefs of secular humanists. The
problem, of course, for Christians is that secular humanists believe there is little or no place for God in the world: in the secular humanist world, God either doesn't exist, or He takes a completely "hands off" approach to the world, similar to the conception of the Deists. Either way, in the mind of the average secular humanist, God, even if He exists, is completely irrelevant. When the subject of religion in general, and Christianity in particular, comes up, secular humanists tend to make the following arguments:
- Religious beliefs tend to become fanatical, causing unnecessary wars
- Humans have demonstrated tremendous progress, particularly in the past few hundred years, and that progress will lead us to solve any and all problems without the help of God
- One of the highest values for humanity is science, and religions tend to be opposed or at odds with scientific endeavors
- Sacred books such as the Bible are merely a bunch of stories and myths, things that can be disproved by science
- Secular humanists can be just as moral, maybe even more moral, than Christians and those who adhere to other religions, so why bother with religious dogma?
These arguments will understandably cause Christians to get red in the face, but what responses can be offered? First, with respect to wars, it's true, sometimes wars have been undertaken in the name of religion. However, what secular humanists are forgetting to consider is that atheists have been the cause of incredible suffering, too. All one needs to do is consider the murderous reigns of Hitler, Stalin and Mao Tse Tung. Thus, the argument that religious belief leads to irrational, possibly murderous, behavior is not credible.
Beyond this, in response to secular humanism, Christians tend to refer back to the Bible, but secular humanists already dismiss the Bible as a bunch of myths that lack credibility. The result is that Christians and secular humanists largely shout past one another.
The bottom line, however, is that for increasing numbers of ordinary people, secular humanism seems very appealing. Once again, this is where a Christian embrace of Darwin and the Big Bang Theory could be beneficial to Christians. Let me explain how and why. First, I've laid out the argument that Darwin's theory actually reinforces the idea that sin is a byproduct of the evolution of humans. Thus, the core belief of Christianity, one can argue, is based upon the very science that secular humanists seem to embrace.
Second, secular humanism is grounded in the idea of human progress. I agree that humans have, and continue to make, tremendous technological and material progress. No one would disagree with that. Even the most committed Christians still love their Ipads and Iphones, and wouldn't trade them in for old fashioned rotary dial up phones or 300 baud computer modems. Where the disagreement comes is whether or not humans are making any real moral progress. A fundamental tenet of secular humanism is that humans have the capacity to solve their own problems. It may take us a while to do that, but we can eventually solve pretty much any problem. My response is that secular humanists are mis-guided in this because they are not taking antagonistic pleiotropy into consideration. Let me provide a brief review of the concept.
Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection suggests that traits that do not fit well will eventually die out. If that's the case, one would expect that various terrible diseases would eventually disappear because humans, and other animals and organisms, would adapt to the diseases, much as microbes tend to adapt to antibiotics intended to kill the microbes; unfortunately, after a period of time, the antibiotics no longer work. The problem is, terrible diseases don't seem to disappear, or at least humans don't seem to develop innate resistance to those diseases. In my book I cite the example of Sickle Cell Anemia, a terrible disease that tends to strike people of sub-Saharan African descent. The reason is because the genes that cause the disease have both negative a positive characteristics: the positive side of Sickle Cell Anemia is that it confers resistance to malaria, so the disease doesn't disappear because it simultaneously has negative and positive characteristics. I make the argument that Sickle Cell Anemia is a metaphor for human sinfulness: each human behavior has both a positive and a negative side, the positive being the reason the person has survived, and the negative being the sinful side of the trait.
The argument I make is that each human behavior has both a positive side and a negative side, much as Sickle Cell Anemia has both a positive side and a negative side, and much as every coin has both a heads and a tails. Assuming that's the case, the notion of human moral progress becomes impossible. This is because the bad sides (the tails of the coin) of our individual natures are – what we call sin – are the flip side of the very things that have helped us survive – the heads of the coins. These bad traits aren't going to go away. Yes, humans will likely continue to make technological and material progress, but our real problem is that we're unable to make moral progress: we continue to deceive others, cheat on our spouses, gossip, bully others, engage in wars, and do all manner of other bad things, ostensibly because these things help us to be genetically successful. Precisely because these bad things help us to be genetically successful, they're not going away. Moreover, the argument of the secular humanists – the reliance upon science – is used to overturn the secular humanist belief in human progress.
Christians can then combine this understanding of Darwin with traditional Biblical arguments, as follows. When mankind evolved from lower species, the negative traits that helped us to survive, combined with our far greater brainpower, led us to become simultaneously capable of doing good along with being sinful. That's the traditional Christian formulation – the dual nature of humanity. Moreover, Christians argue that we cannot overcome this on our own – it's "baked in." The only thing we can do is to rely upon faith in Jesus Christ to help overcome this. We can't do it on our own.
Thus, by relying upon Darwin, Christians can build an argument that secular humanism is fundamentally flawed. The argument relies upon science – the very thing secular humanists say is the cornerstone of their thinking. Secular humanists will no longer be able to make a claim that they're the only ones relying upon science. Christians will be able to do the same, in addition to having the arguments laid out in the Bible. Of course, secular humanists will reject these arguments, but Christians will now have a new set of arguments to use, ones that will buttress their underlying arguments about the claims of the Bible. In other words, Christians won't be using science to replace the Bible – the thing secular humanists have been doing – but use science, in conjunction with the Bible, to undercut the secular humanist case. So far, I haven't seen any effective secular humanist argument in response.
In summary, Christians should love Darwin and the Big Bang because they can be used to help Christians to build solid, credible arguments against secular humanism.