Elliott sent me a link to another review of Michael Ruse’s new book. It’s no more convincing than any of the other articles, interviews, or reviews have been. No doubt the book is much much more so – or at least no doubt it makes clear what he means – but I wonder why all the secondary accounts are so unconvincing.
This one just feels as if something vital has been left out.
The crux of Ruse’s argument, however, is that this “religiosity” of zealous Darwinians is not just apparent, but real. Evolutionism (which I define more closely below) is a religion: a secular and godless religion, but a religion nevertheless…Evolutionism includes associated ideas of materialism and naturalism. Like the French astronomer Pierre-Simon Laplace (1749-1827), evolutionists have no need of the hypothesis of God. Evolutionism is also closely associated with the idea of human progress, for all that some evolutionists, notably Stephen Jay Gould, have argued that evolution itself does not imply progress from lower to higher life forms.
And that’s it. That’s all Alan Batten says by way of explaining why ‘evolutionism’ is a religion. Well, I don’t get it – that’s why I wonder if something has been left out. Why on earth does any of that make ‘evolutionism’ a religion? Because it includes associated ideas of materialism and naturalism, has no need of the ‘hypothesis of God,’ and is ‘closely associated with the idea of human progress’ – which isn’t true anyway? Why do those three items make it a religion? And why doesn’t Alan Batten explain why they do? It’s not self-evident, after all! It’s also, frankly, far from self-evident how a religion can be a secular godless religion. That’s kind of a special meaning of the word, surely. Buddhism is godless, yes, but is it secular? Anyway Buddhism is something of a special case. Religion as it is normally used in the Anglophone world (as I’ve stipulated some 900 times now) does mean at least theistic or supernatural or both – if it doesn’t, if we’re talking about something else, then it needs some kind of qualifying adjective to make that clear. Otherwise there’s some kind of cheating or fancy footwork going on.
Such as announcing that ‘evolutionism’ is a religion – without saying what is meant by ‘religion’ – and without properly explaining what qualifies an ism to be a religion. Just – what? – a set of ideas or beliefs or assumptions that are strongly held? Or does it mean rather a set of ideas or beliefs or assumptions that are strongly held in the absence of proper evidence – which is another matter.
Whence do these religions spring? Ruse traces them back to the Enlightenment, when the “Sea of Faith”…began to recede from our Western world. In reaction, many turned to millenarian speculation…Ruse argues that creationism is a form of pre-millenarianism and evolutionism is secularized post-millenarianism.
Because it includes associated ideas of materialism and naturalism, has no need of the ‘hypothesis of God,’ and is ‘closely associated with the idea of human progress’? That makes it secularized post-millenarianism? Why doesn’t that just make it, you know, common or garden science? We’re not told. Maybe the dog ate that page.