Evolutionary Thoughts: Strange Bedfellows

One of Diarmuid O’Murchu’s primary goals in his book Evolutionary Faith is to move beyond mere “scientific” and “religious” understandings of evolution and embrace the “mythical”.  He writes:

Unfortunately, the dualism between science and religion still stymies our minds and spirits.  It divides things up in a superficial and destructive way.  It often eschews the enveloping sense of mystery.  What is more disturbing is the collusion whereby both sets of wisdom (science and religion) enforce perceptions and values that distort and distract us from the inspiring vision of the evolutionary story.  (p. 51)

O’Murchu borrows a chart from Brian Goodwin to demonstrate the ironic similarity between Darwinian and traditional (Western Christian) religious worldviews.  In short: Richard Dawkins and Pat Robertson are basically saying the same thing. If anything, O’Murchu’s exercise demonstrates to me the essential nature of fundamentalism as a late-modern reactionary movement.  It did not and could not have existed in any other milieu.

I’ve tried to reproduce the chart below.  It can be found on page 52 of Evolutionary Faith.

Darwinian Principles Religious Principles
Organisms are constructed by groups of genes whose goal is to leave more copies of themselves. The hereditary material is basically “selfish.” Human beings are born in sin and they perpetuate it in sexual reproduction. Greed and pride are basic elements of that flawed, sinful condition.
The inherently selfish qualities of the hereditary material are reflected in the competitive interactions between organisms, resulting in the survival of the fittest. Humanity, therefore, is condemned to a life of conflict and perpetual toil in the desire to improve one’s lot in life.
Organisms constantly are trying to improve and outdo weaker elements, but the landscape of evolution keeps changing, so the struggle is endless, as in Steven Weinberg’s “hostile universe.” Humanity’s effort at improvement is jeopardized by the imperfect, sinful world in which we have been placed. The struggle never ends.
Paradoxically, human beings can develop altruistic qualities that contradict their inherently selfish nature, by means of educational and other cultural efforts. But by faith and moral effort, humanity can be saved from its fallen, selfish state, normally requiring the intervention of an external, divine influence.

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