Thursday 2 April 2009

Did Darwin Kill God?

BBC's 2 Darwin season has provided some excellent, largely scientific expositions on Darwin and his theory but for the latest, screened on 31st March, it decided to smoothe any ruffled religious feathers with an unscientific look at an unscientific question (It depends what you mean by "Kill" and "god"). For this it parachuted in as presenter one Conor Cunningham. the Director of the Department of Theology and Philosphy at Nottingham University who, surprise, surprise, concluded after an hour of speaking in hushed tones and looking very sincerely into the camera that, no, Darwin did not kill God. Bearing in mind that God provides both Conor Cunningham's comfort blanket and bread & butter this is hardly 'end of the world' stuff.

To give him credit Conor did put his cards on the table right from the start. He is a Christian who accepts the Theory of Evolution and will have no truck with Creationism or ID. This being known, one could sit back and enjoy the ride which was a fairly useful review of the various interpretations of Genesis over the ages and it was evident that if all modern Christians had stuck with the philosophers of the early Christian era there wouldn't be any of the present fuss. Where Conor sees a real threat to "god" is with the subject of "memes" and its proponents the feared "Ultra Darwinists". Dr Susan Blackmore (one of these presumably) hove on the scene with a twinkle in her eye to discuss the subject of "memes". This was at a railway station if memory serves me correctly; perhaps to give the impression that she was in a hurry. At any rate she wasn't allowed to get very far. The conversation was obviously not going in a helpful direction.

I am a little hazy on the subject of memes. These are little packets of inherited information which may be subject to evolution by natural selection. Memes might be selfish and intent on colonisation. You and I and Conor may not exist at all except as collections of memes. This raises the disturbing question, 'can God exist without Conor Cunningham to believe in him?' Personally I think he worries unecessarily. Believers are adept at shifting the goal posts. Has he considered that God might be the sum from minus to plus infinity of all the memes in the universe? I would have liked to express this as a mathematical equation in the integral calculus but html doesn't do a sigma symbol. (I think)


  1. To be fair to Mr. Cunningham, he did show that: 1)Creationism is not integral or essential part of Christianity, it is a relatively recent phenomenon, a twisted road that early Christians would have considered laughable. 2)It is better, if you have faith, not to be in denial and accept that the God you believe in "created" life through evolution, as evolution is now proven. That said, I found intellectually dishonest that he put Dawkins and others in the same category as the Christians fundamentalists. I don't think Darwin "killed" God, as people still believe in him, even people accept evolution. Hell, the Catholic Church says that it is probably how life came to be and that the Genesis should be taken litterally! Darwin did, however, challenged many Christian notions regarding the nature of man (the notion of Original Sin, for instance, which is challenged even taken as a metaphor). That Dawkins dismisses the existence of God using Darwin does not make him an integrist: he is either right or wrong. I did not come to atheism through science, but if science has proven one thing, it is that no natural phenomenon so far has been explained by God. And this is something that the documentary failed to address, or did not want to. Cunningham can believe in God and think evolution was the way for God to create life on Earth, the burden of proof is on his side. We know that life did not come out of a divine action and that God was not needed to explain life.

  2. I completely agree Guillaume.

  3. Well, I'm glad because I am a lot of embarrassing typos in this comment...;-) Happy to see that the core of the message did not disappear.