Amazing what people have tried to get out of it.
In “Darwinism and the Quest to Cheat Death”(ABC Religion and Ethics | 28 Mar 2011), British pundit John Gray tells us
Like so many others, then and later, Sidgwick looked to science for salvation from science. If science had brought about the disenchantment of the world, only science could re-enchant it.The result of scientific inquiry seemed to be that humankind was alone. Evolution would bring about the extinction of the species and eventually, as the sun cooled and the planet ceased to be habitable, life itself would die out. It was a desolate prospect, but one that could be accepted if science could also show that human personality would survive the universal extinction.
Paradoxically, Darwin’s theory of evolution rekindled the hope of immortality.
None of these questions can be answered, and in truth Darwinism cannot be reconciled with any idea of a post-mortem world.
Victorian secular thinkers imagined that when God had faded away, morality would fill the space that was left. But when theism has gone the very idea of a categorical morality becomes meaningless.
Almost no combox responders there got this; all kinds of atheists want us to know that one can be good without God. What they don’t seem to get is that “good” ceases to mean much other than “what produces good results”, which usually means “what suits us.”
Now, I’ve never felt that theistic religion was essential here; Eastern systems have managed with ideas like Karma (one cannot escape the consequences of evil actions). But any such system assumes that a cosmic law or mind underlies everything, not that everything is meaningless, and hardly that we must bravely build our own morality. As if.
Which reminds me: Atheists are always telling me that an atheist can be a good person. I don’t get that. I suppose it is true, but can’t imagine saying, for example, that “a Christian can be a good person.” It’s more like this: A Christian had better try to be a good person, and Someone Else is the referee.
Denyse O’Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.