Springtime for Darwin

By JAMES PARKER  |  May 7, 2008

None at all? Is it only a matter of how politely you can tell the other person you think they’re crazy? He pauses. “I do have tolerance, but if it’s just social etiquette that we’re talking about, well that’s not that intellectually interesting to me. What is interesting is the tenets and whether or not they’re compatible or not. And to me, there is no compatibilism.”

Expelled features an interview with Professor Steve Fuller, of Britain’s Warwick University, in which it is suggested that an embrace of the Darwinian perspective might entail “a deprivileging of human life.” Can Graffin, a Darwinian to his bones, see where he’s coming from? “Oh, yeah! Of course! I mean, what was Darwin’s greatest achievement?” Uh . . . “What was his revolution? He changed the worldview of human nature. He said that no longer can we believe in the special creation of humans, because all species come from other species. So we are not privileged in that sense. Furthermore, we have to be seen as a part of nature. That was the revolution. In the dualist perspective, man is supernatural because he was created in the image of God and then somehow, we don’t know how, inserted into nature. But now, after Darwin, we’re on this big connected chain of heredity. So if you want to call that deprivileging, go right ahead. But that’s just a value judgment. I see it as more of a glorification — that we’re part of this immense and wonderful process that has been going on for billions of years. I find that rather magnificent.”

Arrayed behind Darwin’s sad old pioneer’s face, the producers of Expelled would have us believe, are all the shrieking cavalries of nihilism. Is this what we hear in words like Graffin’s? Or is this the testimony of a man who, with Joseph Conrad, is simply “too firm in [his] consciousness of the marvelous ever to be fascinated by the mere supernatural”?

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Richard Dawkins, that well-known moderate, has opined that creationists — disbelievers in evolution, that is — are “wicked, stupid, or insane.” What does Karl W. Giberson think? Giberson is professor of physics at Quincy’s Eastern Nazarene College, and his new book Saving Darwin: How To Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution will be published in June by HarperCollins. We meet in his office, on a quiet and sunny South Shore morning. “I would describe creationists as thoughtful, not well-informed, and . . . ” He vanishes briefly into his silver mustache. “Nice. They’re very nice, on the whole. Friendly, civic-minded, solid neighbors, all of that. Good people. Which is not to say that Richard Dawkins isn’t a good person. If he moved in next door to me, I’d look forward to having some very interesting discussions with him. But the majority of creationists do not want to become culture warriors. They just want to believe in God and not have some egghead from Oxford University telling them that they can’t.”

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