Who, Really, Is Closed-Minded?

Author Alan Shlemon Published on 04/22/2013

Alan’s monthly letter for August 2010

Dear Friend,

“Christians are closed-minded,” the saying goes. Many people think that’s true, especially on the topic of evolution. According to our critics, we read the Bible and then close our eyes to everything else. We’re dogmatic about our beliefs while the rest of the world is rational and open-minded. But the irony of this characterization of Christians is that the opposite is true. When you look more closely, it turns out that evolutionists are closed-minded. And sometimes they even admit it.

There are everyday evolutionists and then there are the heavy-hitters. Richard Lewontin is the latter. He has a degree in biology from Harvard University, a master’s degree in mathematical statistics from Columbia University, and a PhD in zoology also from Columbia. Now he’s a geneticist at Harvard and has been a leading evolutionary thinker for decades.

But in an article in the New York Review of Books, Lewontin made a revealing concession—one that should embarrass any evolutionist. Lewontin began:

Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism [emphasis in the original].

Why are many evolutionists willing to accept claims that are “against common sense,” patently absurd, and unsubstantiated? It’s because they have a prior commitment to materialism, Lewontin writes. Materialism is the view that only material objects, no matter how large or small, exist in the universe. No God, souls, or angels exist in a materialistic universe.

Do scientific methods or experiments lead evolutionists to accept materialism? No, says Lewontin:

It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world...

Why, then, accept materialism? There must be a good, rational reason if you’re an open-minded person.

On the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute...[emphasis in original].

This is an astonishing admission. Accepting materialism and, consequently, evolution has nothing to do with reason, evidence, or open-mindedness. Lewontin says it’s because evolutionists have an a priori commitment to materialism. That means they accept materialism before looking at the evidence.

Is their belief in materialism open to new data, evidence, or reason? No, says Lewontin. Materialism is absolute. It’s religious dogma that’s impervious to falsification.

And since secular scientists accept materialism, this forces them to accept evolution. They have no other choice. Why? Because if you believe the universe only contains physical things, then your explanation of how life emerged must also be physical. That’s part of the definition of evolution.

But why would evolutionists shut the door to reason, evidence, and open-mindedness? Lewontin answers:

For we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

And that explains a lot. This isn’t about a testable hypothesis. Nor is it about following the evidence where it leads. It’s a desperate attempt to keep God from playing any role in reality. The cost, however, is great. It entails being locked into materialistic philosophy that demands evolution as the only acceptable answer, even when evidence contradicts that conclusion.

The Christian worldview, on the other hand, doesn’t have this liability. When evaluating evidence, Christians aren’t obligated to ignore parts of that evidence in order to draw one conclusion over another. When the data suggests a physical explanation (e.g. the effects of weathering), then a Christian can accept this conclusion. If, however, investigation reveals obvious design elements (e.g. tiny biological motors in bacteria), then the Christian can offer a non-physical explanation. The Christian is open-minded and able to follow the evidence where it leads.

This is one of the reasons the Christian worldview is so powerful. It not only makes sense of reality, but it provides the best tools to investigate and discover the universe that God created.

And thanks to you, I was able to teach these concepts last month for three days at a missions conference at the University of San Diego. Your faithful prayers and financial support allowed me to train Christians to recognize false claims and respond with clarity and confidence. That means you’re helping Christians become better ambassadors and taking part in fulfilling God’s plans. It’s a privilege to serve our King with you.

For His kingdom,

Alan Shlemon