Evolution is Not the Problem. Darwinism is the Problem.

Original Article

As I have argued at length in my Darwin Myth, evolution and Darwinism are not the same thing. Darwin’s version of evolution is properly called “Darwinism.” Darwinism was largely defined by the skeptical Enlightenment secularism of the 18th and 19th centuries. Evolution is the thing that happened, the marvelous and still largely mysterious complex of evidence that gives every indication that nature is a spectacular work in progress.

Do you see the distinction? Darwinism is a particular theory about evolution.Evolution is a fact that Darwin tried to explain in a particular way, an entirely reductionist, materialist way so that he could avoid at all costs letting a divine foot in nature’s door.

This distinction allows me to say a most astounding thing: one can heartily accept evolution on scientific grounds and roundly reject Darwinism on scientific, philosophical, moral, and theological grounds. Evolution is not the problem. Darwinism is the problem. It is perfectly possible to have a God-friendly account of evolution. The notion that evolution has to be Godless to be scientific is a myth, a secular ideology, one that Charles Darwin himself promoted with great energy.

This distinction is important for many reasons, but I’d like to focus on one in particular, namely the relationship of Christianity to evolution. Those Christians who reject evolution because they believe that it leads to atheism are indeed proceeding from a proper fear.

Insofar as Darwinism has swallowed up all of evolution into itself, the evolutionary theory partakes of the deep anti-theistic bias that Darwin built into it. It in fact does lead to atheism because it was designed to do so. The enormous push that secularization received from Darwinism should be proof enough that the theory of evolution so understood destroys belief in God.

The problem with this side—if we recall our distinction between Darwinism and evolution—is that these Christians then feel they must attack evolution itself, that is, all the evidence from the great age of the earth to the fossils, that indicates all too clearly that God did not create the earth and all its creatures, fully-formed, just six thousand years ago. Needless to say, Christians of this camp then appear entirely irrational and unscientific.

But there are other Christians who make an opposite error. These Christians take themselves to be of the more sophisticated sort. They accept evolution and deny that it leads to atheism. They blithely ignore the obvious historical fact that Darwinism has been the most significant contributing cause in the de-Christianization of the west, and what should be the obvious contemporary fact, that most evolutionary biologists today (or at least most of the famous and influential ones) are atheists becausethey regard evolution as having proven that the whole God thing is intellectually obsolete.

The problem with this camp—if we again recall our distinction between Darwinism and evolution—is that its denizens feel that they must uncritically defend Darwinism itself, as if all the evidence must be sifted through an entirely reductionist, materialist filter, and also that they must attack anyone who has any reservations at all about uncritically accepting Darwinism.

I would like to introduce someone into this debate, a stranger to be sure. We might call him the reasonable Christian. He is to be distinguished from the Christian fideist who wrongly attacks evolution because he rightly sees the damage caused to the faith by Darwinism, and from the rationalist Christian who wrongly defends Darwinism at all costs because he rightly sees the damage caused to reason by the attack on evolution on behalf of Christian faith.

The reasonable Christian holds, first of all, that science cannot contradict the faith because he assumes that the Creator God and the Redeemer God are one and the same God. He differs markedly in this from both the Christian fideist and the rationalist Christian. The fideist is often driven to deny science that seems to contradict the faith; the rationalist to deny every aspect of faith that seems to contradict science. The reasonable Christian does not allow that a contradiction is possible on either side. He knows from the history of science itself that science, including evolutionary science, is a merely human activity, and that despite its pretensions, scientists are often wandering in confusion, hobbled by bad theories, and misled by their very victories into assuming that they are omniscient. He knows that nature, as a creation of the profound wisdom of God, is much more magnificent and mysterious than our human attempts to grasp it, and so assumes that evolution must be something far grander than Darwin made it out to be, something so marvelous that, if we fully understood it, it would appear miraculous—a manifestation of the glory and wisdom of the Creator. Darwinism is too small for him as a theory of evolution because nature is too big for Darwinism to be true.

A proper theory of evolution would not (as Darwinism does) reduce the real complexity of human beings to make them fit within a tight materialist and reductionist framework; it would expand the theory of evolution so that the real moral, aesthetic, and intellectual complexity of human beings, as the pinnacle of evolution, defines the framework to understand all of evolution. It would place human beings, once again, at the very center of creation.

Benjamin Wiker

Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Benjamin Wiker holds a PhD in Theological Ethics from Vanderbilt University. A Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, he has taught at Marquette University, St. Mary's University (MN), and Thomas Aquinas College (CA), and Franciscan University of Steubenville.