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Creationism For Liberals

By Jerry A. Coyne
Posted: July 27, 2009.

Print: The New Republic

The Evolution of God

By Robert Wright

(Little, Brown, 567 pp., $25.99)


Over its history, science has delivered two crippling blows to humanity’s self-image. The first was Galileo’s announcement, in 1632, that our Earth was just another planet and not, as Scripture implied, the center of the universe. The second—and more severe—landed in 1859, when Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, demolishing, in 545 pages of closely reasoned prose, the comforting notion that we are unique among all species—the supreme object of God’s creation, and the only creature whose earthly travails could be cashed in for a comfortable afterlife.

But there are some for whom the true evolutionary tale of human life is not sufficiently inspiring or flattering. After all, the tale seems to hold no moral other than this: like all species, we are the result of a purely natural and material process. While many religious people have been persuaded by Darwin’s overwhelming evidence, there still remains a need to find greater meaning behind it all—to see our world as part of an unfolding and divinely scripted plan. As the theologian John Haught notes, “For the universe to transform our hearts as well as our minds it must allow itself to be read—in one way or another—as having a purpose. To say that the universe has a purpose means quite simply that it is in the process of realizing something that is undeniably good, and that this good is also in some sense imperishable.”

And so the faithful—the ones who care about science at all—have tweaked the theory of evolution to bring it into line with their needs, to make it more congenial. Although life may indeed have evolved, they say, the process was really masterminded by God, whose ultimate goal was to evolve a species, our species, that is able to apprehend and therefore to admire its creator. This progressivist and purpose-driven view of evolution, rejected by most scientists, has been embraced by Haught and other theologians, by religious biologists such as Francis Collins, and, unsurprisingly, by the Catholic church itself…

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Comments (4)

1. John Wilkinson

No comments? Coyne is one of the greatest. I am very grateful for his taking all of this on which must have been annoying and time-consuming. A brilliant and withering destruction of another sad attempt to begin with a conclusion and crowbar what you find along the way to confirm it.

posted on July 27, 2009
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heh. it’s a good day when Sam hammers Collins and Jerry whips Wright.

posted on July 27, 2009
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3. Corporate Slave

Give me a day at least!  Reading it right now…  looks awesome.  Coyne writes brilliantly.

posted on July 27, 2009
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It’s interesting that Robert Wrights god evolves instead of our notion of what we might perceive what a perfect god is supposed to be.  Who is really the driver here and who is the passenger?  My imaginary friend Tim used to be a young sandy haired boy who used to think that his own imaginary friend was real but he’s since evolved into a man.  His hair has darkened and he now knows that his imaginary friend is not real!
Wright does rightfully look at facts “on the ground” but to then take those facts and posit a something (god. And whose?) is just what most religious institutions have been doing for years now (Remember when the catholic church finally admitted that Galileo was right about his observations but it was in fact god working divinely through him!  Bleeeuuugh!).  We can all place an imaginary something at the end of a list of facts about the world and this “something” will stand in the same relation to Wright’s god.  Even the most rusty ended and bluntest of Occhams razors would easily take care of this prickly problem.

posted on July 29, 2009
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