The Honest Atheist

In an age when it appears that public truth boils down to whoever has the best spin doctors, it’s comforting to know that there are some atheists who are publicly honest about the philosophical dividing lines between their worldview when compared to Christianity.  When atheists and Christians alike try to obfuscate or blur the lines of division between the opposing worldviews, then each side becomes suspicious that the other side is trying some intellectual hocus pocus on the other.  This suspicion quickly retreats into either public shouting matches (“We’ve got truth. Yes we do. We’ve got truth how ’bout you?”) or sectarian bigotry (“He’s obviously wrong because he listens to NPR”).  When public debate and discussion devolves to this point, very little can be said.  Chesterton likened this way of public discourse to walking near a cliff in a fog.  On a clear day, a man will walk right up to the edge of the cliff because he can see the exact point where gravity would take effect to his detriment.  But in a fog, a man will stay a hundred yards from the edge of a cliff because the dividing line between safety and a full-body cast has been obscured.  So in that spirit, I salute the following atheists (both living and deceased) for their public honesty concerning Darwinian evolution and what it has to say about who we are and what we should or should not believe.

“…matter is the ground of all existence; mind, spirit, and God as well, are just words that express the wondrous results of neuronal complexity.”  –Stephen Jay Gould, paleontologist

“…man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind.”  George Gaylord Simpson, Harvard paleontologist

Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion—a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality. I am an ardent evolutionist and an ex-Christian, but I must admit in this one complaint. . . the literalists [i.e., creationists] are absolutely right. Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.”  Dr. Michael Ruse, author of Taking Darwin Seriously, Darwinism Defended, and a contributing author to The Companion to Ethics 

Morality . . . is merely an adaptation put in place to further our reproductive ends. . .  In an important sense, ethics as we understand it is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to cooperate.” -Michael Ruse

Commenting on how helping the poor, healing the sick, caring for the mentally ill, and inoculating people against small pox affects natural selection, the father of evolution wrote, “No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man.” — Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man


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