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Darwinism is just too dang harsh to be good theology

In early 19th century France there lived an ambitious Polish mathematician and Hermeticist named Józef Hoené-Wronski. Wronski is most famous for guiding the enigmatic mystic Eliphas Levi in his first ventures into the Kabbalah. But that’s not why I’m bringing him up. In utter secrecy, Wronski fashioned a machine called the prognométre that he claimed would determine all future events and calculate the value of all unknowns. He clandestinely built his machine at night, contracting out separate tasks to different artisans so that no one could see the entire project. It consisted of nested spheres embedded with hidden compartments and covered with equations that described the fundamental processes of the universe. What happened to the machine I could not discover. It seems to have evaporated (there are hermetic writings and rumours among the initiated that seem to indicate it may have been lost in time and appeared at the tent door of a Bedouin wanderer at around the beginning of the 7th Century BC somewhere on the boarder areas of the Reed Sea). But I understand the difficulty of his task. Bringing Faith and Science together is seen by some as indeed as hopelessly a Wronskian task. Darwinism and theology have some basic disagreements about the way things progress.

Darwinism struggles with theology in part because it is such a blazingly harsh way to get things done. How could it be that for the Ground of all Being, that this competitive, painful, cruel, and ultimately blind process is the best or only way to create? A struggle for existence? Is this the kind of Deity we want? The implications of Darwinism for theology are terrible. It would imply a God who bases his movements on Natural Law to which he is subject! It would require a God who realized that progress and beauty require pain and suffering. Such a God even might allow some sort of selection process to occur to sort out who is fit for which eternal ends and advancement in the next life! God using selection to move his children forward? Unthinkable. Such a God might even allow Evil to exist to assist in this selective process. A Darwinian God would have to recognize that it is in this opposition that true complexity and freedom and good arises. This would imply a horrid dualism in which the struggle for existence might reach into the Eternities. That might even imply war in heaven. It might imply that ultimately the fittest might be continued to be selected for until we have a set of beings that are God’s peers. No, the picture that Darwinism paints for Theology is completely unacceptable for an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God who can do anything. Creating through struggle and selection? That opposition was necessary? Absurd.

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8 comments to Darwinism is just too dang harsh to be good theology

  • So, is eternal progression Darwinian as well? Heaven forbid.

    I think I will just stick with the “red in tooth and claw” data as the science of this world, and then have faith and hope that the lion and lamb will lie next to each other in the celestial world. Maybe the genes change in the resurrection. I am dying to know.

  • Yeah, you’re right. Certainly, a loving God would not require trials, suffering, and opposition in all things. Adam and Eve are to blame for all our troubles. God did it right in creating the Garden, and if Adam and Eve had behaved themselves, we’d all be there in happiness and joy without any of the problems of mortality.

    Thanks for an enjoyable and interesting post!

  • nbk

    The parallel between the role of opposition in spiritual progression and competition giving rise to natural selection is appealing. However, I see an important difference: Eternal progression is the development of individuals with persistent identities, while evolution by natural selection is the development of genomes in which each individual exists only for a brief moment. To make the parallel work in more than a loose way, you’d have to talk about the collective spiritual progression of humanity without too much reference to individuals.

  • Nat Whilk

    Let me get this straight:

    (1a) ID is absurd, because empirical science can’t tell us anything about the existence of an intellgent designer, let alone the existence of a supernatural one.

    However:

    (1b) Empirical science can tell us that the Mormon God is more likely to exist than the Nicean God.

    Hmmm.

  • [...] Mormon Organon has a funny satirical post on how Darwinism is too harsh to be good theology. Well worth [...]

  • nbk,

    I think the resolution to this is to free oneself from the constraints of thinking about “individuals” as progressing. When I have a child, I think of him as a new individual, but I could also think of him literally as extension of myself and my wife. “His” life started completely from “ours.” I think the Western bias toward individualism severely distorts our ability to comprehend the collective nature God, but that’s just one agnostic’s opinion.

  • CBE

    As the atheist he was, I’m sure Darwin would be quite surprised to be given such credit himself.

    Now I’m beginning to understand why I’ve had four children enter BYU as conservatives and then go forth to serve as liberals, one agnostic and one atheist.

    Good work!

  • steve

    I should point out that Darwin was not an atheist, he was agnostic and it wasn’t evolution that drove him to despair of organized religion, it was the death of his beloved daughter Anne. Darwin was an exemplary father and husband and was active in his parish all his life. He would have made a perfect Mormon.

    University education often creates liberals, which of course is a wonderful thing, especially given that the university is designed to give a liberal education—with liberal used in the finest sense of the word. But that students, especially BYU students, become atheists or agnostic is tragic, I’m sincerely sorry to hear that. However, it often follows from their belief that faith and science are incompatible. They become convinced that they have to choose one or the other. That’s the error–making people think they must choose between them. I’ve had many students come to me who feel like they must choose that’s why I fight that perception so hard. The rescue comes in helping them understand that Faith and science are compatible. When students are set up by well meaning educators to think one OR the other is right (and I have seen this in some of my children’s seminary teachers), when they are confronted with the massive evidence for evolution they choose science. What they need to understand is that they don’t need to choose. You can have both. It’s not an either/or it’s an and/both. If your children sadly came out of BYU as atheists, you may want to look more closely at what they got in the way of religious education rather than science. The science educators that I know all have strong testimonies and spend a great amount of time helping students overcoming the feeling that they must choose between science in religion. As I’ve argued throughout this blog. That is the problem. Not science, but the perception that you can’t have both science and religion.

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