Andrew Marr – The danger of worshipping Darwin

Andrew Marr has written and presented a three part BBC TV series on the impact of “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea” – I managed to cath the second half of last night’s installment, which was the first.  He’s written an article on the BBC News website, The danger of worshipping Darwin, in which he writes about his atheism and asks whether we are elevating Darwin to a religious figure.  In fact I don’t think he really thinks this is the case (and I wonder whether the article is really intended as a publicity piece for his TV series).  At the end of his article, he concludes

I believe Darwin was right and that as science advances, he is proved more prescient, not less.

But religions are absolute. They bring their truth and then repel all boarders. They divide mankind into the saved and the ignorant damned.

In this story, there is no us and them. Darwinism, as I take it, is a creed of observation, fact, a deep modesty about conclusions and lifelong readiness to be proved wrong.

I don’t say it offers everything that religion can. But I do say that, in this respect, it is better.

However we celebrate the old man, we mustn’t let his work crust into creed or harden to dogma.

I think in the course of his article, Marr answers his question – there is no chance of Darwin’s work, or that of his successors crusting into creed or hardening into dogma – for there lies the difference between science and religion.  Being founded on evidence, evolutionary concepts will always be subject to revision and modification. I think that the possibility of the perception of “Darwin worship” has been one of the potential problems with the Darwin 200 celebrations, but I think if there is such a public perception, it is mistaken.

15 thoughts on “Andrew Marr – The danger of worshipping Darwin

  1. Darwinists always bang on about the EVIDENCE for evolution (cf. religious faith) when in fact the whole issue is based on an existing world view, i.e. "there is no God." There is no evidence for evolution, how could there be? There are only the present life forms and a few fossils which all have to be INTERPRETED according to a set of assumptions.
    If as Andrew Marr asserts evolution is a fact why does he lean on long debunked cases such as the Peppered Moth fable and Ernst Haekel's (forged) embryo pictures? You would expect better.

  2. I suggest you read "Why Evolution is True" by Jerry Coyne for a clear summary of the evidence for and of evolution.
    My view that there is no god of any kind (God, Allah or the Flying Spaghetti Monster) is based on the complete lack of any evidence for any of these supernatural entities.

  3. In ref to what grumpybob is saying, I think it is quite ignorant for people to say that there is no god of any kind at all without challenging oneself to look deeper into profound theological study. There is plenty evidence of Jesus's life on earth and his resurrection and claims in the bible and other historical documentation that there is a god.
    By one having personal experiences of faith, reading the timeless gospels that are still applicable today, prophesies etc there is that evidence. However at the same time you cannot prove god and disprove him like you can prove something tangible, however looking at both sides of the coin of how the universe was created etc…there being a sovereign god who is beyond human conceptualisation is a more plausible answer. And yes religion and science can work very well together – science without religion is lame and religion without science is blind or the other way around……As for evolution it is fantastic and god is all for it..

    1. No, he is saying 'there is no God' because there is no evidence. In other words, God shares this characteristic with the Flying Spaghetti Monster and the cheese teapot orbiting Alpha Centauri. "there being a sovereign god who is beyond human conceptualisation is a more plausible answer" – this is the statement that is ignorant and is a typical God of the Gaps argument. There isn't water in this sealed container therefore there must be gold – we don't know how the universe formed so God did it.

  4. Well perhaps if you study both theology and science in depth then you may come up with a good reason to what you believe. Science has made great progress but haven't yet come to an answer to many things. Christianity has survived and is constantly growing at an alarming as the centre point is Jesus christ which there is evidence for him and what he did. The plausible answer isn't ignorant as it is stating that there more likely is a god which we can't empirically prove like we can with 2×2=4. What is ignorant is not looking beyond ourselves in order to find out the meaning of life and whether god does exist which unfortunately many don't want to think about because it offers too much of a challenge or we're so busy existing in this materialist world, or the usual 'religion controls people' which is not only an insult to the many people worldwide who have faith but doesn't bother to ask what is christianity and why does it exist..

    1. I'm afraid I find your comment slightly incomprehensible. You raise several points. I'd like to ask you why you feel there must be a "meaning of life"? I'd also like to ask what evidence there is that an individual named Jesus carried out supernatural acts (i.e. miracles). And the bible does not represent evidence in my view.
      You also need to exit the "Christianity" thing and consider all the other religions that exist or have existed. What makes Christianity more correct than the others?
      I remain confident in my assertion that there is no evidence that a god (any god) exists.

  5. The reason for looking at the meaning of life is I believe that we were made to have meaning. This is why people try dubious methods like astrology or physics to discover it. When life has meaning you can bear almost anything, without it nothing is bearable. I think without god life has no purpose, and without purpose life has no meaning, without meaning life has no significance or hope. Christian theology offers intelligent understanding and challenges profound ways of thinking about the essence of god. The conception of god is naive in many places and Dawkins trades on that. I have nothing against other religions but Iike the fact that christianity's centric focus is love and grace which unfortunately many churches are not good at conveying across, hence why so many people reject it as boring, unrelevant and controlling in today's world. I spent many years thinking like you, until I had a change of heart by delving deeper into this. I believe we were created by a loving god to have free will and whether you embrace him or reject him is up to you. I think debates on both sides are good for healthy questioning about life.

    1. Yes, I get the idea *you* need a god, but what is the evidence for the god's existence? I'm afraid your comment comes across to me as wiffle-waffle!
      I think life has no purpose other than that we, as individuals and communities construct for ourselves.

  6. No worries if you think that, it's cool!

    For me Evolution doesn't answer:
    1) How did the Earth/universe come into existence?
    2) How did life start?
    3) How did life get to where it is today – (Evolution explains only #3)

  7. Thanks for your latest comment…in answer to your three questions,

    1) Evolution does not seek to answer the question of the origin of the earth or the universe. Never has done. I don't know how the Universe came into being, but being a scientist I don't find that a problem. Nor do I know whether we can ever figure that out. A physicist might be able to say more.
    2) Evolution does not seek to explain the origin of life, and never has done. Evolution by natural selection only works on organisms. There are good hypotheses on how life might have originated, many with quite interesting experimental data to back them up. Most of these concern ways in which complex biomolecules could have arisen given what we know of pre-biotic conditions on earth.
    3) This is the one which evolution does explain, as you note. It also explains it particularly well.

    The issue is really whether not knowing something (e.g. the orgigin of the Universe) is an excuse for grasping at unsupported supernatural activity as a pseudo-explanation, or whether we might be better just saying "I don't know", but collectively working to work out how it may have come about.

    For me, retreating to a belief in supernatural entities is intellectual cowardice in the face of present limitations in our understanding.

    I'm interested by the suggestion I see in your comments that there is/must be some purpose of meaning to the universe. I personally think that meanings or purposes are human constructs, within which some need to frame their lives. In that world-view, we create our own "meaning", which of course is a bit easier that seeking one out.

  8. To me this is much more that the origin of the universe in justifying believing in god. It's a shame that you think belief in god is intellectual cowardice. Science is wonderful when trying to explain things between forces in the material world, but when it comes to explain value and meaning it doesn't do that. What about the search for truth and understanding. God makes better sense. It involves the intellect, heart, reason, and wisdom. Strange, your so adamant that there is no need for meaning in life. If there is no purpose what is the point? How does justice prevail? If you were about to lose someone in your life who is the first person you would turn to and pray to for HOPE, in my view that is god! Why do scientists always want evidence for everything. I would rather have faith and some mystery which is the beauty of it. Would you marry your wife on evidence alone? In faith we go beyond evidence to a deep personal relationship with god. I suggest you read questions of truth; god, science and belief by John Polkinghorne above, or if you read the synoptic gospels, scripture, apocolyptic literature you may be pleasanty surprised. Amen Mr Bob

    1. No, you misunderstand me. I generate my own meaning, purpose, and moral framework. Of course these are influenced by outside agencies, but these are human influences (in which I include those potty religious views of a host of different and incompatible belief systems), not a supernatural entity.

      No, I would never pray under any circumstances, even under the most trying circumstances.

      I have no religious faith, and I enjoy plenty of mystery in the world around me. You are completely mistaken if you believe that my rational life involves no "intellect, heart, reason, and wisdom" you are mistaken.

      Yes, I would marry on the evidence (though my experience is actually cohabiting rather than formally marrying). The evidence being the strength of our feelings for each other, and the evident compatibility that has kept us together for about 27 years now.

  9. And you are completely mistaken if you believe that religious views consist of a host of incompatible belief systems when you know nothing of it….since you only look at science without theology. You may then know why people actually believe in god. I've seen present day healing from divine intervention but I guess you would struggle to believe that. I've had the most strangest things happen that can only be godincidences that changed my view in time and made me look deeper into religion and faith. You cannot see god but he is present through the holy spirit in us and that is richness in my eyes, something that athiests will never try and open their mind too.

    Working in the secular IT world I am so thankful that I can experience something so entirely different and look beyond what is tangible.

    1. Please explain how the following belief systems are not incompatible:
      Old Norse mythology
      (feel free to add others)

  10. You have to take each on for what they are. Some religions are more cultural than others e.g Islam, hinduism so therefore due to it's strong cultural ties it always remains as the dominant religion in that culture. Christianity to me remains the most challenging one to think more deeply due to it's richness and complexity and is prevalent worldwide.
    The African nations e.g where out of the turmoil of colonial experience bore out their own adoption of christianity. Seeing Jesus through a non -European lens has been the key to transformation of chrisitianity for them.

    Buddhism/Sikhism is more spiritual as it concentrates more on meditation and the spiritual realm. All religions offer something valuable. One thing they all have in common is a belief in god. How they practise might be different, but as humans are slaves to their own human nature we will never agree entirely on things.

    Man was made to have free will and due to the sinful nature of man we will always have religious conflicts whilst on earth. As for scientology will have to look into that a bit more too.

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