Kingdom of Priests

I like Robert Wright and enjoyed his recent book The Evolution of God. One thing I value about him is his candor. Thus in his New York Times op-ed yesterday proposing a “grand bargain” between religion and science (i.e., Darwinism), he can’t help but blurt out what would be asked in this bargain even of religious believers who think they’ve already managed to square God with Darwin. Such believers, notably adherents of “theistic evolution,” with their minimalist view of the Deity, should be prepared to “scale back their conception of God’s role in creation.” If I’m reading Bob Wright correctly, even the theism-lite of theistic evolution can be reconciled with a full-bodied Darwinism only at the cost of further “scaling back” any remotely traditional estimation of God’s role in the history of life. Have I not said that to you before? Now do you believe me?
Wright is smart, honest and likable, yet, I think, misses some key points. For one, contrary to the first sentence in his essay, there’s no “war” going on between science and religion. There is, however, a struggle between two visions of science — one that keeps its mind open to evidence of purpose being worked out in detail (“intelligent design”) in nature, and one that rules out such evidence on principle (represented by a range of perspectives from theistic evolution to atheist materialism). The former vision asks questions of evolutionary theory that the latter can’t answer. How did the first life begin? Where did the information coded initially in the genome come from? Given that this same information is grossly inadequate to explain the levels of organization that most interest Robert Wright and other believers in evolutionary psychology, namely those levels associated traditionally with the operation of the soul, and given that natural selection has only genetic information to operate on, how can Darwinian theory explain the development of those features of human life that set us apart from animals? For that matter, how does it explain certain levels of organization in animals that simply can’t be explained by DNA coding for proteins? In genetic terms, what exactly is being selected?
We were discussing astrology earlier today. On evolutionary psychology and its peculiar parallels with that ancient art, David Berlinski had this to say several years ago in The Weekly Standard:

As so often happens in the sciences, molecular biology has resolved its mysteries by magical thinking. Whatever the process, it is DNA, according to official doctrine, that is still crucial, still in charge, an agency capable of achieving every biological effect. Evolutionary biologists now assign to the human genome full responsibility for altruism, date rape, aggression, eating disorders, and a taste for Mansfield Park. The truth is we do not know how the genome achieves any effect beyond the molecular. Although more powerful by far than astrology, molecular biology is not appreciably different in kind, the various celestial houses having about as much to do with human affairs as the various genes.

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