Recently, we were discussing the work of Duke philosopher Alex Rosenberg, to the effect that our brains just didn’t evolve in such a way as to understand that atheism is true. And that even so, science, which is fallible and changes a lot, is our reliable guide to truth? Got that?
He also wrote a paper with Tamler Sommers in Biology and Philosophy 18: 653–668, 2003, “ Darwin’s nihilistic idea: evolution and the meaninglessness of life,” and here’s the conclusion:
Darwinian nihilism departs from naturalism only in declining to endorse our morality or any other as true or correct. It must decline to do so because it holds that the explanation of how our moral beliefs arose also explains away as mistaken the widespread belief that moral claims are true. The Darwinian explanation becomes the Darwinian nihilist’s ‘‘explaining away’’ when it becomes apparent that the best explanation—blind variation and natural selection– for the emergence of our ethical belief does not require that these beliefs have truth-makers. To turn the Darwinian explanation into an ‘‘explaining away’’ the nihilist need only add the uncontroversial scientific principle that if our best theory of why people believe P does not require that P is true, then there are no grounds to believe P is true.
It is worth noting by way of conclusion, that nihilism need not be a particularly disquieting doctrine. Embracing nihilism is not, as is commonly believed, a prescription for a-morality or immorality. Nihilism is not a prescription or proscription of any conduct. The nihilist may well admit that accepting categorical and hypothetical imperatives may often serve the parochial interests of oneself and others. To be an ethical nihilist commits one to nothing more than the denial of objective or intrinsic moral values and categorical imperatives.
Darwinian nihilism explains away ethics by showing that our ethical beliefs reflect dispositions very strongly selected for over long periods, which began well before the emergence of hominids, or indeed perhaps primates (vide the vampire bat). These dispositions are so ‘‘deep’’ that for most people most of the time, it is impossible to override them, even when it is in our individual self-interest to do so, still less when there is no self-interested reason to do so. Hence, the Darwinian nihilist expects that most people are conventionally moral, and that even the widespread acceptance of the truth of Darwinian nihilism would have little or no effect on this expectation. Most of us just couldn’t persistently be mean, even if we tried. And we have no reason to try.
But nice nihilism is hardly “a stronger, sounder version of our most important ideas.” If it is the right conclusion then we must respond to Dennett’s final question “Does Darwin’s idea turn out to be, in the end, just what we need in our attempt to preserve . . . the values we cherish?” with a simple “no.”
Well, of course, no. That’s why the Christian Darwinism of BioLogos seems, among other things, incomprehensible.
In an age when there is an increasing number of science-based reasons for doubting Darwinism, what on earth is supposed to cause Christians to want to get involved, other than hope of advancement or fear of the bad opinion of people whose point of view is honestly represented here?