Darwin’s Pious Idea

The Centre of Theology and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham has posted more information regarding Conor Cunningham’s new book on evolution. I would encourage anyone to download and read the promotional sampler, which explains nicely what Cunningham is trying to do with this book.

If the sampler is accurate, I would also have to say that Conor’s book probably is where I find myself as well on this subject, that is, as the sub-title indicates: Why the Ultra-Darwinists and Creationists Get it Wrong.

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6 Responses to Darwin’s Pious Idea

  1. Burk Braun says:

    Hi, Darrell-

    How is this different from deism?


  2. Darrell says:

    How is what different?


  3. Burk Braun says:

    The sample gives little more than claims and assertions, (of compatibilism), so I thought you might be able to flesh out how an acceptance of the mechanisms of evolution is compatible with anything but a deistic theology (either on your own terms, or as argued in the rest of the book).

    Of course, the author starts right out with the counter-factual “in the beginning as the word”, so perhaps his standards on the science side aren't as high as they might be. That would be one solution to the conundrum.


  4. Darrell says:


    Well, the book hasn’t been released so I not having read the entire book I can’t speak to what his final thoughts may be over-all.

    However, from the sampler we read:

    “Another Life: ‘We Have Never Been Medieval,’” presents a more explicitly theological account of many of the issues encountered in the previous chapters, arguing that orthodox Christianity can offer an account of life and of nature that avoids such contemporary nihilism, and in so doing restore our commonsense world, and thus with it the possibility of beauty, truth, goodness, and lastly, our belief in evolution. We do so by examining the first two chapters of Genesis, the identity of Adam and Eve, original sin, the Fall, and death itself.”

    So clearly he is not talking about a general “theism” but the Trinitarian God of the Jewish-Christian narrative. Obviously if evolution is compatible with theism in general, which it is (to an extent anyway), it is only one step removed from suggesting who that theistic being is, so I’m not sure what problem is.

    In looking through the sampler again, I don’t see where he starts out with, “In the beginning as the word…,” perhaps you could be more specific.


  5. Burk Braun says:

    It was in Latin, actually..

    I don't doubt that orthodox, trinitarian Christianity can offer such an account. The question is whether that account is true. I guess the better angle to take is that humans require illusions in any case. We wear clothes, after all. Thus why not go for the most flagrant illusion possible and enjoy ourselves, rather than racking ourselves on the such tangential principles as logic and evidence?


  6. Darrell says:

    Hi Burk,

    No, the question, for our time anyway, is whether or not the Ultra-Darwinist account is true. It is, after all, an illusion, in the truest sense. An illusion, further, that undermines the very prospect of logic and for which no evidence exists. Or, in the least, there is no good reason on earth for why we need interpret the evidence in a way that would lead us to the conclusions such a fundamentalism would have us draw.

    As an aside, I thought that with the “in the beginning…” you were referencing something substantive in the body of his introduction, not something in the acknowledgments where his wife and poems are also noted. Does the fact that he acknowledges his wife also give you pause as to the substance of his book?

    Maybe you should just read the book.


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