Over at Choice in Dying, Eric has a marvelous post about the Daily Mail’s use of David Attenborough’s agnosticism to show that New Atheism is on the wane. Eric’s piece, “Let’s keep new atheism strident,” is longish, as is his wont, but thoughtful and beautifully written, as is also his wont. And . . . it is far more strident than usual, as if Eric wanted to demonstrate how we should write and behave. It really is, I think, one of the best posts he’s ever done. I won’t spoil it by giving lengthy excerpts, but here’s one, relevant to a post I put up earlier this morning:
The pope and many other Christians, of course, don’t really believe in evolution at all, because they believe that, at some point in the development of life, god directly intervened and created a being with a soul, namely, us. This ontological saltation, of course, is not a part of the theory, but an addition that simply makes a nonsense of the theory. In order to create intelligent, rational beings, who had a ghostly kind of free will, god had to intervene directly in the process, and, as a result, an entirely new order of being was created. This is not supported by the scientific evidence. It is a theological presupposition — made up stuff! The evidence is quite clear. Human beings are animals, like all the other animals on earth, and like them, human beings are related to all of life, including plants and bacteria, amoebae, and even more primitive forms of life. There is no ontological jump from animals to human beings. Given the theory of evolution, there is simply no reason to believe such a thing. We can trace our lineage back to a common ancestor of gorillas and chimps, and further back to the beginning of life, to one-celled creatures just beginning their billions of years’ long journey to the amazing diversity we see in the world around us, including ourselves.
Even on this theological supposition, what are we to do with the billions of years of suffering of so many animals that have come to be and then lost the evolutionary fight, and were replaced by more successful forms of life? Billions of years of meaningless, pointless suffering, with no one around to respond with awe and wonder, as human beings can. It is simply intolerable to believe that there is a god who used this method for creating us, for bringing us into being. It is a completely mechanistic, algorithmic process, set in motion billions of years ago, and just by chance, happened upon beings like us who can think about the universe and our surroundings, and find it full of things at which we can wonder, and consider with awe. The entire reason for the stridency of the new atheism lies right there. There is no reason to believe a god necessary for the production of this evolutionary process, and any god that was responsible for it would have to be a monster.