Debating Darwinism

In a radio studio in San Francisco recently, two prominent professors squared off to debate Darwinian evolution. But a casual listener might have been puzzled to hear them begin by stressing their agreement. So where was the debate? I'll tell you in a moment. But first let's look at the agreement between professors Dennett and Johnson. In it lies a deep truth about Darwinism—a truth Christians can't ignore. Daniel Dennett is a Darwinist, and he's written a new book entitled Darwin's Dangerous Idea. Dennett argues that it is dangerous to Christians because it undermines the theistic understanding of the world. Take, for instance, the very existence of consciousness. Is your consciousness a gift from a God who created you? Think again, says Dennett. Natural selection built you through a mindless process over billions of years. The process is mindless because it is entirely natural. There's no God behind it—only what Dennett calls "pure meaningless randomness." Dennett claims that, because Darwinian evolution is true, we must abandon our theistic illusions. The personal God of the Bible and the mindless process of Darwinism can't be reconciled. God didn't create us; we created Him. And now science has shown us that we don't need the God we created any longer. Surprisingly, Phillip Johnson thinks Daniel Dennett is right. Not about Darwinian evolution, of course. On that score, he is certain that Dennett is badly mistaken. But Johnson agrees with Dennett that the whole point of Darwinism is to explain the existence of the world without God. And here we see the conflict with the Christian world view, which begins with "in the beginning, God created . . . " Thus, all attempts to marry Christianity and Darwinism are fundamentally flawed because they proceed from irreconcilable premises. For the past century, many Christians have tried to harmonize the Christian world view and Darwinism. Theirs was an admirable motivation. If Darwinian evolution is true, and God is the source of all truth, then—they reasoned—somehow Christianity and evolution must fit together. However, this can be accomplished only by denying the fundamental Christian affirmation that God—not purely natural causes—is the source of all there is. Francis Schaeffer warns that such denial will destroy the foundation of the Christian faith. "What is the foundation?" Schaeffer asks. "It is that the infinite-personal God who exists has not been silent, but has spoken propositional truth in all that the Bible teaches—including what it teaches concerning history . . . [and] the cosmos." Christians who deny that God is responsible for all of creation as we know it are in grave theological peril. Now: about the debate over whether Darwinism is true. On that question, Johnson and Dennett parted company. Dennett said yes; Johnson said no. And here at BreakPoint we also give a resounding no. Remember that debate between Dennett and Johnson the next time someone tells you that Christianity and Darwinism can be reconciled. Dennett and Johnson knew better. They started their debate by agreeing that reconciliation was impossible. Some marriages were never meant to be.


Chuck Colson


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