By Casey Luskin
It’s not often that Christians join forces with atheists, but in recent decades certain elite members of both groups have formed a loose coalition known as the Darwin lobby.1 Their common ground is joint alarm over the low numbers of religious Americans who accept evolution. In response, they’ve embarked on an aggressive campaign to convince Christians to accept neo-Darwinism.
Atheist Darwin lobbyists wage the campaign trusting that increased public acceptance of evolution will corrode religion’s influence on society. Religious members of this alliance believe they are saving religion from embarrassing brethren who ignorantly reject the “consensus.” Ultimately, these theistic evolutionists hope their campaign will make faith more intellectually attractive to a skeptical world.
Though couched as cultural analysis and buried under piles of recent historical references, the subtext of Randall J. Stephens and Karl W. Giberson’s 2011 book The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age aims to make a case for the Darwin lobby’s campaign.
ONE LONG AD HOMINEM ARGUMENT
According to this Harvard University Press book, “almost two-thirds” of evangelicals are “at war with science” because they reject Darwinian evolution. Evangelicalism purportedly has a “tortured relationship with modern science,” where its scholars are “amateur” and “out of touch with their putative fields.” In the view of Stephens and Giberson, evangelicals are “unable to distinguish between meaningful scholarship and…‘gibberish,’” and are stuck in “intellectual isolation.” In a New York Times op-ed, they likewise lament the “simplistic theology, cultural isolationism and stubborn anti-intellectualism” that they claim characterizes evangelical Christians.2
This embarrassing state of affairs cannot be tolerated by Christian scholars such as Stephens and Giberson, who seek favor with mainstream academia. Their solution is to embarrass evangelicals further by cherry picking examples that reinforce the worst cultural stereotypes of Christians. (Ironically, they protest supposed ad hominem attacks against theistic evolutionists.) Their strategy extends not just to evolution, but also to American history, bioethics, and family counseling. They hope readers will be embarrassed into capitulating to the “consensus,” presumably just like they were.
FALSE CHOICES AND ERRORS OF OMISSION
Though Giberson is not a biologist, and Stephens not a scientist, The Anointed relies heavily on credentialism. The book opens quoting Don McLeroy, a dentist who chaired the Texas State Board of Education during its 2009 hearings on evolution education, stating, “I disagree with these experts.” In their pejorative style they write, “The self-assured McLeroy” ignored the “several scientists” who testified in favor of evolution, and instead “invoked ‘other’ authorities” who “pointed to Earth’s being 6,000 to 10,000 years old, just as the Bible taught.” Having sat through the Texas evolution hearings, I can self-assuredly say the authors are revising history to suit their narrative.
It’s true that McLeroy is a young-earth creationist, and he did say those words. But context is critical. McLeroy made it unmistakably clear during the hearings that he opposed teaching creationism in public schools. Moreover, the authorities he endorsed were well-credentialed scientists and scholars who were not young-earth creationists.
The hearings invited six experts to testify: three endorsed teaching evolution dogmatically and three encouraged teaching the “strengths and weaknesses.” The latter group included Ralph Seelke, now department chair and professor of microbial genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, Baylor University biochemistry professor Charles Garner, and Stephen Meyer, a Ph.D. in philosophy of science from Cambridge University. They testified extensively about scientific challenges to evolution and presented more than one hundred mainstream scientific papers challenging key aspects of biological and chemical evolution.
Somehow these facts were excluded from The Anointed, which instead paints McLeroy as an ignorant, unqualified, crusading fundamentalist who scoffs at credible scientists. These omissions are important for two reasons…
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