Did Darwin Kill God? was the question posed by Dr Conor Cunningham as he presented the program of the same name. I thought that this would be an interesting program and that it would be worth hearing what Cunningham, a Christian who sees the theory of evolution as compatible with his faith, had to say. Unfortunately, I was disappointed.
He made some interesting points about how the bible should not be taken literally and that it should instead by interpretted in order to grasp the deeper meanings it seeks to convey. He supported this with reference to the slightly different and contradictory versions of the Genesis story as told in Genesis 1, and retold in Genesis 2. He appeared to claim that one of these versions was intended as an account of creation and the other as a vehicle for exploring the deeper meaning behind that story. This struck me as odd, and unlikely, because logically I would expect the underlying sequence of creation to remain constant in both versions even if one version of the story was intended to bring out a deeper understanding of creation. Otherwise you’re just left with confusion and contradiction – hardly the places to start if you’re looking for a deeper understanding of anything.
It was also interesting to see, however briefly, inside the heads of the fundamentalists behind the lunacy of the Creation Museum and the idea of Young Earth Creationism. It was good to see their ideas getting short shrift too.
But when it came to the fundamentalist side of those who support evolution I felt that Dr Cunningham’s arguments started to take the shape of something resembling a straw man. He made much of how prominent atheists (i.e. Richard Dawkins – of course – and Daniel Dennett) loudly assert that Dawkins and evolution have killed god or, I suppose, have at least proven that he doesn’t exist. This is, so far as I have read to date, not true. The reality of the atheist position is that if you accept the theory of evolution as valid then you have a working concept which demonstrates that a god (of any flavour) is unnecessary to account for our existence. Logic and a scientific approach therefore infer that the existence of a god is highly unlikely. However, because science is an ongoing affair, the possibilty that his/her/its existence may yet be proven remains.
As to the central question of the piece, Did Darwin Kill God?, well there wasn’t really an answer provided. It was asserted that Darwin’s loss of faith had more to do with the death of his daughter at 10 than it did with his establishing the theory of evolution. From my reading of Darwin, I disagree. The death of Darwin’s daughter had a part to play but I feel it was more of a starting point than a deciding factor – causing Darwin to question the existence of a caring god. The conclusion came later as Darwin spent years developing his theory and wrestling with its consequences.
So rather than killing god, I reckon that Darwin undermined god’s position and established a theory which has since grown and is, dare I say, evolving in a manner that makes it less and less likely that god ever existed at all.