Many of you know me and what I'm about to post should not come as a surprise. I'm NOT a scientist. In fact, my entire academic career and life's journey has been dedicated to what many would call the "humanities." My work and my interests lie in literature, music, philosophy, theology, missiology, practical theology, biblical study and the like. Truth is I didn't do too well in science classes. Call it a lack of interest or simply outside of my wiring pattern, scientific endeavors weren't my cup of tea.
Which brings me to the question - why did I read Stephen Meyer's GREAT book, Darwin's Doubt. Here's the reason, pure and simple - the subject matter of this GREAT book (did I mention it was GREAT) is not only at the cutting edge of scientific conversation these days but is also at the crossroads of a clash in culture regarding worldviews. And THAT is what I'm very interested in.
For those of you who are following the debate between science and "religion"...for those of you who feel like there are innumerable Jesus followers who purposely stick their heads in the sand regarding issues like those covered by Meyer's GREAT book...for those of you who are curious and fascinated by the growing conversation between religious communities and the scientific world...for those of you who have conversations and relationships with younger generations who have been exposed to a "naturalistic," "humanistic," "secularistic" worldview, this book is for you! What the book does is thoroughly explain, not just the history of the debate between Neo-Darwinism and those in the scientific community who have brought evidence and hypotheses to the table to refute, or at least, challenge what many people (including me) believe is cultural dogma, it also truthfully underscores the BIG issue - that being worldview and how worldview captures one's pre-assumptions and steers one's conclusions no matter what side of Darwinian fence they reside.
I must admit, there were many, many parts of the book that simply went too far for me especially from a technical perspective. I'm not a chemist, paleontologist, biologist or genetic engineer. I can appreciate their stories and findings AND I can clearly see why Meyer wanted to clearly articulate his argument using highly technical language. Even so, Meyer does a great service to the reader by attempting to practically illustrate every scientific insight. I really enjoyed the pictures (in other words)! Yep, you read that right...there are great pictures in the book! What Meyer did though is give the reader a THOROUGH history of the scientific debate regarding Neo-Darwinian orthodoxy. Without being dogmatic, insulting, superficial or defensive, Meyer does what many theologians and pastors MUST do - he is patient with the conversation and approaches this debate with humility and forthrightness. I appreciated that! I've read other books that are hysterically ignorant or demeaning to anyone who doesn't adhere to their worldview and, even more importantly, purposely mix condemnation in with very little intellectual honesty. Meyer doesn't succumb to either.
What is downright BRILLIANT about the book is how Meyer specifies the truth about the clashes in worldview. In Christendom and Modernity, the essential assumption alive within every intellectual endeavor was that there was a "higher power," or deity that was alive in the cosmos. In that instance, the starting point of assumption was a theistic worldview. That had implications for every intellectual discipline. NOW, in the 21st century (and really that which began in the 19th century) there is a deliberate "split" in the worldview launching pad. For some, theism is the lens through which they interpret the world. For others, non-theism is their doctrine. The issue though is that for those who are NON-theistic, any discussion of any topic that brings "design" (aka God) into inquiry is faulty and not worthy of engagement. Here's a quote from the last chapter of Meyer's book:
"For many scientists and scholars...a scientifically informed worldview was a materialistic worldview in which entities such as God, free will, mind, soul, and purpose play no role. Scientific materialism, following classical Darwinism, denied evidence of any design in nature and, therefore, any ultimate purpose to human existence."
Or consider this:
"...the case for design supports us in our existential confrontation with the void and the seeming meaninglessness of physical existence - the sense of survival for survival's sake that follows inexorably from a materialist worldview. Richard Dawkins and other New Atheists may find it untroubling, even amusing and certainly profitable, to muse over the prospect of a universe without purpose. But for a vast majority of thoughtful people, that idea is tinged with terror...the evidence of a purposeful deign behind life...offers the prospect of significance, wholeness and hope."
You see, here's the rub...Neo-Darwinism at its core is a NON-theistic worldview. Non-theists attack any theory or even evidence of any "worldview" other than a materialistic worldview as religious naivety. Meyer states that the theory of intelligent design is not based upon religious belief nor does it provide PROOF of God's existence. It has faithful implications and potentially opens more dialog between intellectual communities. What DOES become important is how Neo-Darwinism has been dogmatically protected by some at the purposeful expense of ANY religious adherence and conversation. Just as it is wrong, in my view, to marginalize or mock those coming from a materialistic perspective, so it is just as damaging and hysterical to minimize the importance of honest evidence of an injection of "information" into the evolutionary process that may (remember this is a theory) be prime evidence for some "higher" intelligence in cosmological origins.
I liked this book - I actually felt "smarter" for reading it. Of course, I also felt like an idiot at the same time! But the journey was well worth it. I enjoyed getting a bird's eye historical view of the scientific debate but, primarily, appreciated Meyer's ability to summarize the broader worldview issues at stake. Meyer summarizes the scientific debate well and provides a helpful worldview conversation that illumines a very pertinent topic in post-modern culture. Did I mention it is a GREAT book?