On Tuesday I provided an introduction and “why I was wrong” post about Karl Giberson’s Saving Darwin and then posted a chapter-by-chapter review of the book on Thursday. Today, we’re going to look at a number of the illuminating or memorable quotes that I found in the book, but please note this doesn’t mean I wholeheartedly endorse them… they were just the ones that were the most revealing or thought-stimulating to me.

“Darwin’s theory adds nothing to the complexities and challenges of believing in the Incarnation. It didn’t take Darwin to make Christianity offensive, complex, and intellectually challenging. The arguments against the Incarnation have been around for two thousand years, which is why Christianity is described as a faith, not as the conclusion of a logical argument.” (p. 11)

“Evolution in some guise appeared in about 20 percent of the essays [The Fundamentals]. What was remarkable about these discussions of evolution, however, was the almost total absence of the six-day creationist viewpoint. Leading “fundamentalist” thinkers spoke approvingly of progressive creationism, historical linkages between species, and an ancient earth. There were critical comments as well, of course. One author maligned evolution by connecting it to higher criticism and called it an enemy of the Christian faith. More typical, however, were the views expressed by George Frederick Wright of Oberlin College, who claimed that the challenges from philosophy were far more serious than those from science. “Hume,” he wrote, “is more dangerous than Darwin.”” (p. 60)

“I argued in an earlier chapter than creationism was not, from a religious point of view, particularly important at the beginning of the twentieth century. At Dayton potential religious witnesses sides with Scopes, although their testimony was precluded as irrelevant. The ACLU’s strategy included showing that the conflict was not between “religion” and “science”, but between a religion that was keeping up with science and one that was not. At Dayton, in Arkansas, at the Supreme Court, in Dover, and on every legal field where creation and evolution met, there were always strong religious voices in support of evolution. Biblical scholars and theologians from all but the most conservative Christian denomination were every bit as opposed to creationism as the scientists from their ivory towers. I have found, for example, after more than two decades as a faculty member at an evangelical college, that the most vigorous opposition to creationism comes from scholars in religion departments rather than in scientific disciplines. As strong as the scientific evidence against creationism has become, the biblical and theological arguments for rejecting it are perhaps even stronger. Expert scholars of religion made this clear in each of the trials.

But Americans have never been eager or even willing to be led by intellectual elites. A simple commonsense argument by someone you trust is worth more than the pompous pronouncements of an entire university of condescending eggheads. America is a nation that loves cowboys, and cowboys don’t need experts telling them what to think.” (p. 119)

“But why, asked Johnson, should an explanation invoking God be ruled out before even being considered? Was this not “stacking the deck” in favor of atheistic naturalism? Are the explanations provided by science really the “best” explanations? Or are they simply the “best that can be had without invoking God”? What kind of twisted logic was this?

Applied to origins, this restrictive naturalism excluded God from any involvement whatsoever in how things came to be the way they are. From the big bang, to the appearance of our solar system, to the origin of life, to the evolution of our complex brains, to the emergence of our sense of morality, God was simply not there. Or, if God was there, he was just watching, cheering from the sidelines like a fan at a football game who, although interested in the game, is irrelevant to the outcome. Everything happened by itself. Johnson found these conclusions unacceptable and began developing a strategy to level this highly sloped playing field. He would rehabilitate the argument from design and give the courts something they could not summarily reject as a branch of the battered but still standing wall between church and state. In so doing, he would single-handedly reenergize anti-evolutionism and breathe life into a new species of creationism, which he labeled intelligent design.” (p. 150)

Much of nature exhibits impressive levels of design. But so do torture chambers, gun factories, and liposuction machines. Design, even intelligent design, is not automatically desirable. Promoting “design” in isolation from God’s other attributes is a dangerous and ultimately self-defeating way to get God back into science. Christianity will be far better off if ID fails.” (p. 162)

The answer is, quite simply, that evolution has become the focal point of a culture war, which means that the goal of the protagonists is to win, not to discover the truth [see previous blog post]. Conceding minor points to your opponents, using inoffensive language, working out compromises, and finding middle ground are simply not allowed. Too much is at stake for such wimpy pussyfooting.

How else can we explain the offensive definition of the NABT? Or Santorum’s sneaky insertion of language into an education bill? Or the crazed overreaction to the Santorum ammendment, which, by the way, was removed, allowing the president of the Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society to sleep much better at night.” (p. 172)

“Books about evolution, for example, appear on the nonfiction best-seller lists; PBS science programs and radio talk shows often deal with evolution; and leading evolutionary thinkers are often quoted in news stories. In such settings it is rarely advantageous to speak with dispassionate scientific objectivity. Audiences want excitement, hyperbole, and controversy; if you can provide that, you will be quoted. If you say that creationists are “stupid, wicked, or insane,” journalists will return to you for commentary on subsequent controversies [see other blog post]. The media are no respecters of scientific boundaries, and few journalists will scold a scientist for stepping outside the bounds of science to say something colorful, no matter how irresponsible.

When scientists speak as scientists, as they would when writing for scientific journals or presenting results at conferences, they are scrupulously careful to the point of tedium to maintain a strict silence on questions outside of science. Evolution, when discussed in the prestigious journals Nature and Science, for example, would never be described as “unsupervised” or proposed as a replacement creation story. Critics would never be labeled “wicked” or “insane.” But when a scientist writes or speaks to popular audiences, the rules change dramatically.” (p. 176-7)

“Darwin joined all of life together in a most magical way and in so doing dismantled the wall that separated humans from the rest of nature. Critics of Darwin warn ominously that he has reduced human beings to the level of the animals and this accounts for our supposedly bad behavior of late. But this is the “glass half empty” perspective. Might we not say instead, and more optimistically, that Darwin has raised the level of the animals? Darwin provides for us a new appreciation an respect for the loyalty of our dogs, the devoted attention of the mother bird, the industry of the beaver, the playful spirit of the otter, the proud countenance of the wolf, the human-like curiosity of the higher primates. Darwin may have closed the gap between humans and animals, but he did that by promoting the other species, not demoting ours.” (p. 209)