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Saving Darwin

Saving Darwin

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Karl Giberson, in his recent book, “Saving Darwin,” argues that religion and evolution are compatible, contrary to popular belief. He was asked to comment on Carl Sagan's version of the wonder of the universe, a feeling of wonder which Einstein unfortunately referred to as “God.”

Shermer pushed on, asking Giberson to comment on the following definitional statement from Carl Sagan's "Cosmos:"

"For we are the local embodiment of a Cosmos grown to self awareness. We have begun to contemplate our origins ... Our loyalties are to the species and the planet. We speak for earth. Our obligation to survive is owed not just to ourselves but also to that Cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we sprung."

"What’s wrong with that?" Shermer asked Giberson, with a smile.

This kind of thinking is "hardly going to inspire ordinary people" to be passionate about spirituality, Giberson replied. "I just don’t think it would be a functional religion."


Of course, as Giberson himself notes in another interview, “Virtually all the leading spokespersons for science – the ones on bookstands and public television – are strongly antireligious.”

So his view is a minority view, but it is also the view that eventually will stand in the way of a secular religion. Eventually, we might presume, evolutionary theory will come to dominate the popular conception of the universe, as it now dominates the scientific community's conception of the universe. Heliocentrism eventually won out in the minds of the average person long after scientists could not refute it, and as long as evolution remains the scientific theory of choice, it will follow suit.


Giberson's view is significant then, because it represents a reluctance to embrace alternatives to traditional religions even among the educated who understand that scientific evidence renders evolutionary theory incontrovertible.

Giberson thinks science is just not poetic enough, not inspiring enough. But why? The facts of evolution themselves are no less awe-inspiring than the facts contained in a Christian narrative. What could be more incredible than a universe billions of light years wide and billions of years old? What could be more inspiring than intelligence which pulled itself up by its bootstraps out of the toxic sludge of the early Earth, to look out at the glory of existence? Sagan's Cosmos makes Jehovah look pitiful and unworthy.

But it's not Giberson's fault that he fails to be inspired by the truer and grander story. He was raised in a Christian land to have Christian values, with no widely available way to practice “spirituality” (what I would call positive thought) and also embrace science. The reason Giberson fails to be inspired by the scientific view is that it has not been suitably framed in an engaging narrative. The scientific community is concerned with learning the truth and teaching the truth. But it has no reason to engage in the kinds of activities or build the kinds of infrastructure needed for personal fulfillment that religion does, despite the fact that such infrastructure could exist.

 

 

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