Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Root of Our Secular Tree

In spite of the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing the use of sectarian prayer at the opening of public meetings, we clearly remain a secular society. In many ways the case accentuates how deeply secularism rules our culture. First, it expresses the extent to which the opponents of any public religious activity hold sway over even minor, largely token events such as prayers in local council meetings. Remember, this ruling was to overturn a ruling in a lower court that outlawed the prayers. Second, this was a split decision with 5 justices for and 4 justices opposed. This fact, coupled with the large number of lower court rulings that have so deeply entrenched secularism into our legal understanding, is an expression of how many of the best and the brightest of our lawyers, judges, and legal scholars view secularism as the default position of our constitutional republic. Even those who were part of the majority in this decision, hold to the validity of the current Supreme Court precedent that restricts public religious displays, the so-called, "Lemmon Test." To the secularists, this was just a small bump on the road to the elimination of all public expressions of religion.

In my book, I give s short summary of how secularism has come to dominate the academic and intellectual fields in the West. We are a secular nation, because the colleges and universities that teach each generation of teachers, lawyers, scholars, engineers, and scientists promote an entirely naturalistic worldview. One of the central motivations for writing my book was the need to give a reasonable answer to the two most influential philosophers of the Enlightenment; David Hume (miracles are impossible) and Immanuel Kant (human reason can't be used to answer the ultimate questions of life). And yes, these two are often sited by current intellectuals as the final authorities in regard to the existence of God and whether there are absolute moral values.

While these two thinkers have been very influential, there is another who has been even more significant to the cause of secularism. In fact, without his central idea, secularism could never have become the dominant worldview in Western society. I am referring, of course, to Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution. As I wrote in my book, "It would be Darwin's books that finally made the difference in the battle of ideologies. His theory on the origin of species seemed to provide a natural explanation for the biological world's complexity and order. He gave a purely cause-and-effect explanation for the appearance of design and he implied that design does not necessitate a designer." (Shetler, 46) By this means he provided a non-supernatural explanation for what could previously only be explained by divine creation. It is no wonder, then, that his theory is the linchpin to a secular worldview. And because of its importance to secularism, it is tenaciously defended from any and all challenges.

In 1966 at the Wistar Institute at the University of Pennsylvania a group of mathematicians, engineers, and a computer scientist debated some of the leading biologists of the day concerning the mathematical and scientific problems with the theory of evolution. One of the truly remarkable aspects of the debate was the level to which the biologists ignored or denied the data and questions raised by the mathematicians and engineers. They were philosophically and even ideologically dedicated to the theory of evolution, and were not even open to the questions being raised by the mathematicians and engineers. For example, when one of the engineers pointed out the extremely low probability, and therefore, the unlikely prospect for the chance development of some of the complex systems seen in many organisms such as eyesight, one of the biologists said, "The problem is that you have left out evolution." For this scientist, evolution was not a theory to tested and examined to see if it is true or not. It is, rather, a dogma to be believed, because really, there is no naturalistic alternative to this theory. It is evolution or nothing, or rather something even more unthinkable, creation.

It is very important that we recognize the place that the theory of evolution holds in our society. It is the central myth of secularism. It is why nothing that contradicts it can be taught in our public schools. It is why even degreed scientists who hold to intelligent design are called "pseudo-scientists" or "creationists" and their writings are ignored or denigrated. Evolution must be protected from all opponents and opposition. It must prevail lest we open the door to faith.

In the next few posts I plan to "take on" the theory of evolution and to deal not just with the arguments for and against, but to look at methods that evolutionists going back to Darwin himself have used to defend the theory. I think that we will see that for all the claims of being based on science, evolution has a number of serious fallacies that are either denied or ignored. They are denied or ignored because evolution is the only way to explain the world and life without having to say that God made it.

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