Friday, April 4, 2008

Why evolution doesn't contradict religion (Part 2)

Earlier, I argued that evolution is a poor objection to religion. Atheists, not religious people, make up my target audience for the essay, so I skipped over a bunch of arguments. But I forgot an argument that I shouldn't have skipped. (Why didn't anyone else point it out?)

Argument 3: Evolution decentralizes humanity

This argument goes as follows: Religion views humanity as being the centerpiece of creation. Evolution views humanity as a single branch of the tree of life that is in no way special compared to all the others. These views are ultimately incompatible.

Looks easy! Let me try an analogous argument. Chemistry views chemicals as being of central importance. Physics views chemicals as being one result of many, contingent upon various accidents of particle physics, and a very narrow example of the behavior that is possible under quantum mechanics. These views are ultimately incompatible.

Of course, that's blatantly false. Different fields of inquiry can have different focuses without the slightest bit of conflict.

The same applies to religion and evolution (also religion and heliocentrism). Evolution doesn't place the human species in the center because that's not really what it's about. Evolution is about explaining the origin of species, of which we are but one. The focus of evolution needs not in any way correspond to the focus of humanity in general. Whether or not humanity is a mere speck in the cosmos, humanity is still important because that's who we are.

This is, by the way, the same argument that I would use against atheistic nihilism. Nihilism states that we don't matter in the grand scheme of things, and therefore nothing matters. But whether we matter in the grand scheme or not, we're still important to ourselves, because we are ourselves. Evolution does not lead to atheism any more than atheism leads to nihilism.


Anonymous said...

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miller said...

I anticipated such a response, and I believe I've already answered it. It's not a matter of whether you think religion is self-consistent, but of whether you think it is any less consistent given evolution.