Darwinism Is an Inadequate Explanation

In a response to the segment in Ben Stein's Expelled that makes a connection between Darwinist thinking and the Holocaust, Richard Dawkins said the following:

My own view, frequently expressed . . . is that there are two reasons why we need to take Darwinian natural selection seriously. Firstly, it is the most important element in the explanation for our own existence and that of all life. Secondly, natural selection is a good object lesson in how NOT to organize a society. As I have often said before, as a scientist I am a passionate Darwinian. But as a citizen and a human being, I want to construct a society which is about as un-Darwinian as we can make it. I approve of looking after the poor (very un-Darwinian). I approve of universal medical care (very un-Darwinian). It is one of the classic philosophical fallacies to derive an 'ought' from an 'is'.

The problem for Dawkins is that if Darwinism--the foundation of his worldview--is true, then there is no "ought." An real ought can only exist in a place that has been designed for a purpose; only if there's a standard we need to meet--a standard outside of ourselves that we're obligated to--can there be an ought. In a naturalistic world, there is only "is," and yet even Dawkins recognizes that this is not the case with our world. Here's what he's saying: Natural selection is the explanation of all life and society . . . and it is contrary to what we know to be true about life and society. In other words, there are things we know to be true about the world--about morality ("oughts")--that are contrary to what we would expect to find in a world without standards, purpose, or value.

Dawkins's sincere defense of "oughts" reveals the inadequacy of his own worldview. The best worldview is the one that makes sense of all of what we know to be true about the world--life, beauty, goodness, evil, morality, and yes, even science.  Naturalism simply can't do this.

Now, Stein is rightly concerned that a society that settles on an answer like Darwinism, which attempts to explain only one area of life (biology) at the expense of denying the real existence of the others (e.g., a standard of oughts, including human value and rights), will eventually act in a way that reflects its true beliefs.  But from what I've heard about Expelled, I wish that Stein had stuck to the scientific questions rather than confuse people by bringing up the Holocaust in what will be (and has already been) interpreted as an emotional appeal. I do think he's right that there's a philosophical argument to be made for the consequences of Darwinian ideas, but if this movie was supposed to be about science, they should have stuck to that topic. (On contentious issues you never want to distract people from the main point because they will follow the distraction every time.) I fear that the Holocaust discussion in this movie could make it appear that people are promoting intelligent design simply because they don't like the results of Darwinism (not liking a thing doesn't make it false!) and not because they think ID is scientifically true.

Amy K. Hall

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