(This is a guest post by Trina Hoaks. Trina is the Atheist Examiner at Examiner.com.)
In her article, Darwin shouldn’t be hijacked by New Atheists — he is an ethical inspiration, Madeleine Bunting accuses atheists of using Darwin as their poster boy, so to speak. With this in mind, it is not so hard to understand why she has such a bad reputation in certain circles. Her article, if nothing else, can be seen as controversial, as the original article has generated approximately 600 comments since it was posted yesterday. Add to that another 100+ comments to the same article on Richard Dawkins‘ site and it is obvious that people are outraged.
It is funny how she, who accused atheists of kidnapping Darwin and his work, used the upcoming 2009 dual Darwin anniversary as an excuse to point her condemning finger at atheists.
Pot, kettle — kettle, pot?
In her article, she pretends to know what Darwin’s reaction to atheists embracing his work would be. She said that “what would have baffled Darwin is his recruitment as standard bearer for atheism in the 21st century.”
I suppose now we can add the title “Psychic” to her professional repertoire.
She went on to say:
Yet bizarrely, the whole 19th-century collapse of faith is now pinned on Darwin. While he was poring over his pigeons, biblical scholars were hard at work radically revising the historical understanding of the Bible and arguably doing as much as he ever did to undermine the possibility of a literal reading of scripture. The work of the Victorian geologist Charles Lyell debunked the idea of seven days of creation in Genesis long before Darwin.
Does anyone else sense Bunting’s downplay of the significance of Darwin’s contribution to the understanding of life in her paragraph? Perhaps it was just poor wording choice on her part or faulty inference on my part. Speaking of “poor wording choice,” one can only hope that that is the reason she makes it seem that she thinks that Darwin was intentionally working to undermine the Bible. That is one of the greatest false contentions of religious anti-evolutionists — that scientists do their science to debunk religion.
When will these people realize not everything is about them? As I said in my own book, “[i]t is the misguided person who does not comprehend that when scientific evidence challenges religion it is, by and large, purely incidental.”
Bunting called out a couple of atheists who will be participating in celebratory events honoring Darwin in a less-than-favorable way. She said:
The fear is that the anniversary will be hijacked by the New Atheism as the perfect battleground for another round of jousting over the absurdity of belief (a position that Darwin pointedly never took up). Many of the prominent voices in the New Atheism are lined up to reassert that it is simply impossible to believe in God and accept Darwin’s theory of evolution; Richard Dawkins and the US philosopher Daniel Dennett are among those due to appear in Darwin200 events. It’s a position that infuriates many scientists, not to mention philosophers and theologians.
Dawkins wasted no time in posting a comment to Bunting’s article, included here, unedited, in its entirety.
A telling litmus test of an ignoramus on the subject of Darwin is their rendering of the title of his great book. The [diagnostic] solecism — remarkably common — is to stick a ‘the’ before ‘species’. Sure enough, Madeleine Bunting falls right into it, exactly as you would expect. The correct title, of course, is On the Origin of Species.
It is true that Darwin declined to call himself an atheist. But his motive, clearly expressed to the atheist intellectual Edward Aveling (incidentally the common-law husband of Karl Marx’s daughter) was that Darwin didn’t want to upset people. Atheism, in Darwin’s view, was all well and good for the intelligentsia, but ordinary people were not yet “ripe” for atheism. So he called himself an agnostic, largely for diplomatic reasons..
In any case, what Darwin chose to call himself, as a pillar of his local parish in the nineteenth century, is of less interest than the cogency of the arguments themselves. Before Darwin came along, it was pretty difficult to be an atheist, at least to be an atheist free of nagging doubts. Darwin triumphantly made it EASY to be an intellectually fulfilled and satisfied atheist. That doesn’t mean that understanding Darwin drives you inevitably to atheism. But it certainly constitutes a giant step in that direction.
So, what say you?
Are atheists “shoplifting the pootie” from Darwin? (Sorry for the Jerry McGuire reference. I couldn’t help myself.)