Everyone has an opinion. The most outrageously opinionated people get attention and are often published almost regardless of what they have to say; especially in our liberal media. No balanced views just bold, aggressive, exaggerated and aggravating viewpoints that make preconceptions popular news. I do like to read opinions since they are typically easy reads and can be so transparent, revealing the underlying bias and willful ignorance of those so motivated to be heard.
A well-known writer and instructor David Barash is easily published in the New York Times. David is a professor of psychology at the University of Washington. He has no degree in psychology but is a biologist/zoologist and has written prolifically on human violence, sexuality, culture conflict with biology, human nature and other topics relevant to socio-biology. He is, of course, an adamant evolutionist and atheist. He is a bright fellow and cannot be accused of being caustic or inflammatory against religious persuasions. David writes with a confidence that is both appealing and convincing. This does not mean he is not biased or that he is correct in his affirmations of faith in evolutionary biology to explain everything. He made it to a right-wing list of the top 101 most dangerous atheists.
In a recent article* to the NYT entitled, “God, Darwin and My College Biology Class”, David discusses his need to have a “Talk” with his students right off the bat so students deal with any apprehensions they might have on his views and cut to the chase on the matter of God versus evolution. He offers them his opinion on the matter and it seems he gets if off his chest rather than concern himself with his student’s discomforts.
He says, “It’s irresponsible to teach biology without evolution, and yet many students worry about reconciling their beliefs with evolutionary science. Just as many Americans don’t grasp the fact that evolution is not merely a “theory,” but the underpinning of all biological science, a substantial minority of my students are troubled to discover that their beliefs conflict with the course material.
Until recently, I had pretty much ignored such discomfort, assuming that it was their problem, not mine. Teaching biology without evolution would be like teaching chemistry without molecules, or physics without mass and energy. But instead of students’ growing more comfortable with the tension between evolution and religion over time, the opposite seems to have happened. Thus, The Talk.”
Dr. Barash compares his approach to biology lessons with those of the late Stephen Gould. Gould held the position that religion reigns in the area of human values where evolution defines the material realm of biological existence. The two represent magisterial of their particular domains. Though this gifted writer himself did much to promote a more congenial approach to resolving the conflict between science and religion, anyone who has studied Gould’s approach may realize his position is used even by the National Center for Science Education primarily to promote the acceptance of evolution by the American public. The philosophistry of the NCSE’s position is more of a façade of a middle ground in order to advance an agenda in favor of a materialistic position favoring evolution. Dr. Barash will not compromise in this way and believes it has become more apparent that little room is left for a deity as science has matured.
“As evolutionary science has progressed, the available space for religious faith has narrowed: It has demolished two previously potent pillars of religious faith and undermined belief in an omnipotent and omni-benevolent God.”
He evidences this destruction of religious faith in two ways. The argument for complexity holds that features of biological systems are far too complicated, interdependent and irreducibly complex for any naturalistic forces to have achieved such specified and information-rich content in such systems. Barash is convinced as most evolutionists are that random variation plus natural selection is all that is needed to create the appearance of design. He says that we have come to understand that biological complexity is well within the range of statistical probability and that all life is the product of an entirely mechanical phenomenon.
Secondly, to Barash, it is apparent that science has proven human beings have no distinctions that set us apart from other forms of life. He says that a literal and phylogenetic linkage exists between us and the animals that make us indistinguishable from the rest of the living world. No divine traits are apparent in our species, though he limits his comments to the level of our structure and physiology.
Barash includes human suffering to his critique of religious artifacts for which reconciliation of any type is insufficient to explain such a conundrum. How could an omnibenevolent God allow suffering? (Where does the Bible ever call God omnibenevolent?) Only a pinch of biological knowledge reveals what he calls ethical horrors that are sufficient to convince him that we are the product of an amoral process of natural forces, devoid of a benevolent creator. Among the list of such horrors are predation, parasitism, fratricide, infanticide, disease, pain, old age, and death. Suffering and joy are the nature of things. Supposedly the more we know about evolution the more obvious such a conclusion is warranted.
Dr. Barash concludes with a conflicting if not cryptic comment that God has not lost the battle yet. He insinuates that people will find a way to believe both evolution and the Bible regardless of the facts. The mental gymnastics required to accept such opposing views may be acceptable to some people but for Barash, this is no longer science.
Well, we are all entitled to opinions and Dr. Barash has one. Though not intending to be a scientific proof of his position, some of his comments are far too terse and extremely simplistic. Like a child warning of a fire as Mount St. Helens blows, the topics he brushes against have deeper underlying and unresolved issues as any informed evolutionary biologist will agree. To even suggest that the old position of random variation and natural selection has weight in the creation/evolution argument betrays a disconnect Dr. Barash has with current discoveries and novel positions about how evolution is being viewed in biology. It is no longer sufficient to placate oneself with this old adage since it no longer fits the facts. The discoveries of the ENCODE project, the hierarchy of multiple codes in the genome, the role of epigenetics in regulation of development and cell physiology and the admission by most molecular biologists of the failure of mutations to provide the source of variation for improvements in heritable characteristics are just a few objections to such a dogmatic approach to demolishing religious faith.
Secondly, to assert that human beings are not special and have no particular features that separate us from the other animals is a betrayal of everything this scholar has ever written on the subject of human behavior; and he has written 30 books on humans and our biology. In his book, “Homo Mysterious: Evolutionary Puzzles of Human Nature”, Barash writes,
“We members of Homo sapiens are almost literally immersed in mystery; the evolutionary enigmas of human kind are the seas in which we swim (p.7).
So which is it David; are we unique as you say or are we not unique as you demand? Or does it depend on your audience? To students who need to adopt your evolutionary view you say one thing but when writing popular science literature you invoke a creativity that borders metaphysics. Among the many unique traits listed in his extensive writings concerning humankind are bipedalism, big brains, hairlessness, human sexuality, language, religious propensity, music, and art. War and violence and the many degrading behaviors of humanity are not lost to David’s musings.
In essence, Dr. Barash does, as many other evolutionists do, invent stories of how and why humans are humans by naturalistic means. Still, he is left empty of answers to the great strangeness of our place in nature. It is as though the entire world was made for humankind and we alone were plopped here and left to ponder our origins. In fact, both biology and religion have come to the exact same conclusion. No amount of storytelling by biology or religion comes to a satisfactory answer. They allow us to lean one way or the other but the ultimate truth in the matter appears to come by faith and nothing on the planet or in the mind of men will change this.
It is for this reason that many religious folks, those who certainly know as much about biology as Barash are contentious and even factious over the idea that evolution has solved anything and so there must be a God. It is enough that intermediate life forms between species are missing in both the living and the dead on the planet and that the cosmos, solar system, and planet earth have no scientific explanation of origins worthy of mentioning or that the only obvious conclusion to explain the designs of life is that life is designed, but the strangeness of human beings puts the icing on the cake of all of the creation. No amount of evolutionary blather will change the fact that we have not explained anything with evolution; though we have made up a lot of new myths that need to be challenged. So why is God so preposterous to the thinking man when evolution hasn’t solved anything?
Finally, to answer Barash’s objection to a good God creating a horrible world; not a single scientific evolutionary explanation for those same horrific “ethical” dilemmas he cited exists that satisfies beyond doubt our demands for understanding. If evolution cannot explain parasitism, why do you think God should? It is as though the world is the result of a perfect mix of joys and horrors to keep any sane being in doubt. And doubt is the basis for faith. The fact is that Barash has put his faith in a metaphysical that has no moral, ethical or purposeful fulfillment. Religious folk put their faith in hope and in love, putting their faith in revealed knowledge and trusting that the greater answers will come. To suggest that science has relegated God to mythology is simply not true, though I am certain of Barash’s certainty of his views.
It is true that one cannot honestly hold both positions at the same time. God said one thing and science says the diametric opposite. Isn’t that interesting? The two are not just opposed but they are in exact opposition in every detail on the created order and the means of creation. Ultimately, there is no shame and no intellectual compromise in a belief in God and to have faith in what was penned by His disciples. On the other hand, it is not only embarrassing but delusional thinking to suggest that biological evolution is anything more than a materialistic philosophical proposition as it has no actual proof, only conjecture, extrapolations, and suppositions on things that defy natural origins.
*New York Times
SundayReview | OPINION
God, Darwin and My College Biology Class
By DAVID P. BARASH
SEPT. 27, 2014