Did Darwin Kill God?

Lynne McTaggart

I’m back again, after a long weekend catching the first spring sun and the pageantry of Palm Sunday in Sicily. 
Just before I left, I caught a fascinating documentary on the BBC entitled, ‘Did Darwin Kill God?’ that seems particularly pertinent to contemplate this Easter weekend.
The documentary was written and presented by philosopher and theologian Conor Cunningham of the University of Nottingham, and it was a refreshing look at what Darwin really wrote, and whether it is at odds with a theory of God. 
Cunningham aimed to examine in detail the received wisdom about Darwinism: that the theory of evolution must ultimately undermine religion and serve as ultimate refutation of the notion of God.
Although the documentary is no longer on the BBC site, the hour-long show, divided into six parts, has now been posted on YouTube. There’s also an excellent interview with Cunningham on his own University of Nottingham site:http://www.theologyphilosophycentre.co.uk/
War of extremes
In the documentary, Cunningham, author of a new book called Evolution: Darwin’s Pious Idea, takes the line that the culture war that now exists between scientific atheists like Dan Dennett, on the one hand, and Christian fundamentalists, on the other, is essentially a divide of two equally extremist groups, both of which have ignored history, science and philosophical argument.
Indeed, their hijacking of Darwin’s theories, and reasons for support or denunciation of them, bear little resemblance to Darwin’s original thesis – or indeed, to the scientific or historical evidence.
Cunningham traveled around the world, interviewing eminent Biblical scholars, historians and scientists, to unearth the roots of Creationism and its opposition to Darwinism, i.e., that the seven-day creation of the universe, as described in Genesis, should be accepted as literal fact.  He then deconstructs the theories of the Ultra-Darwinists, who believe that natural selection applies to all aspects of life, including our culture.
The selfish meme
Many scientists, such as Susan Blackmore (The Meme Machine) and Richard Dawkins, advance what has been called ‘Universal Darwinism,’ through the theory of ‘memes’.  This theory proposes that all human belief and endeavor, from popular culture to religion and morality – indeed, any information that can be copied from person to person with variation and selection – is a form of natural selection. 
As Blackmore put it, “ Memes are competing to use our brains to get themselves copied.” 
According to Universal Darwinists, everything, including our sense of self, is an illusion – the simple result of our being colonized by memes. 
Cunningham’s position is that Christian fundamentalists demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of Christian belief and tradition, in that many Biblical scholars, from St Augustine onward, encouraged Christian followers to understand Genesis as having metaphorical, not literal truth.
Indeed, Darwin himself did not believe his theories to be inconsistent with belief in God.
As for the Ultra-Darwinists, says Cunningham, their view – that all aspects of culture and belief, as well as genes, are evolutionary – cheapens natural selection as a true science. 
It also shoots itself in the foot.  If there is no final truth to anything – if it is all a contagion of ideas, whether true or not true, and the only point is that an idea survives, whether true or not  – then how do we know evolution has any truth to it? Or is it simply another popular meme, not substantially different than a catchy pop song? 
Explosive evidence
For me, the most fascinating and thought-provoking aspect of the show had to do with evidence provided almost parenthetically.  Cunningham traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with Francis Collins, who’d been director of the Human Genome Project between 1993-2008.  Collins emphasized that our current understanding of the gene as the Renaissance man of human evolution is fast going out of date. 
“A gene is just a packet of DNA,’ he says, ‘We don’t even quite know what the boundary is of that packet anymore.’
While working on the Genome Project, says Collins, he finally learned how few genes are present in the human body.
“First of all, came the shock that we didn’t have as many genes as we thought we did.  People had been saying 100,000 for a long time.  It’s probably only about 20,000, now that the dust has really settled.”
Even more astonishing was the evidence that human beings, supposedly the most complex organisms on the planet, don’t have as many genes as most things.  A grain of rice, for instance, has some 49,000 genes – nearly twice as much as the average person.
Universal music?
Cunningham went on to speak with Simon Conway Morris, from the University of Cambridge, who is one of the world’s pre-eminent evolutionary paleobiologists. Morris’s specialty is to study how divergent life forms with entirely independent evolutionary paths produce markedly similar results.  
What fascinates him, for instance, is the universal need for and form of music. 
“Animals,” he says, “have music remarkably similar to ours.  Some birds have drumming, for example, plus harmony, melody and invention just like ours.” 
There are even cultures of music, he says; in the oceans, for instance, whales swap songs. 
The presence of, and similarity between, the music produced by species of such disparity suggests that there is a ‘universal music’ out there — in which case, says Morris, evolution is more akin to a search engine. ‘
In that case, each species is “actually discovering something which arguably is even pre-existing.”
Beyond evolution
Both of these comments are revelatory, in terms of our current understanding of life. 
If human beings are supposed to be the most complex life form on the planet, and yet our genomes are half the size of that of a grape, then the gene cannot be the primary instrument of complexity and adaptation.
And if utterly diverse species of living things have universal commonalities that cannot be explained by natural selection, each species may ultimately evolve by tapping into a universal force or intelligence – a Field of information. 
As Morris puts it: “The very fact that music is discovered in this way suggests that . . .in fact we’ve hardly begun to understand who we are and why we’re here.”
As Conor Cunningham reminds us toward the end of the documentary, all science is provisional.  Newtonian physics was ‘true’ until it was amended by general relativity, and then amended again by quantum mechanics.
 “The question isn’t, is evolution true?” says Morris. “The question is: is evolution as a theory complete?  It’s as true as far as it goes, but we are very much dealing with unfinished business.”
Cunningham, the model of an intelligent inquiring theologian, defines God as “the source of life . . . he in whom we live, move and have in our very existence.” 
Nevertheless, he uses a theory like evolution, he says, as a reminder — to  “stop my understanding of God from becoming too domestic, too cozy, too small”. 
The question should not be whether Darwin killed God.  The question we should be asking is whether God – that is, the magnitude of the central intelligence being tapped into, including the science we periodically download to explain ourselves  – has in fact killed Darwin.

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Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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16 comments on “Did Darwin Kill God?”

  1. I am so shocked to hear the the news about Bruce.
    I really felt good about last week's Intention; not something that happens every week.
    I shall say an Intention for him every night for a week and want to wish him and his family peace, strength and hope.
    In love and peace Christine H.

  2. Lynn: On one of these e-mails there is the line"Oprah interview" I clicked on it but nothing. Has this taken place and is there an archive where I can see it? Or is it something coming up? I have been looking for this to happen and do not want to miss this.

  3. I hope Darwin has a sense of humor about how people fuss over what they believe he believed?
    I'm not science geek but I've always thought that cause and effect (whether seen as law of attraction or karma) and Prigogine 's work about Pertubation (that a system under stress eventually creates a higher level of complexity that relieves that stress and creates new options) are key elements in what appears to be Evolution with a capital E.
    The same can be applied to global warming. Everyone focuses on the possible failure of a system under stress and flails about for the causes and interventions. The other possibility is that natural pertubation will quickly result in unique unpredictable solutions with lots of positive outcomes.
    And now that physicists are mulling the idea that time is not a constant but a changing parameter like dimensions of space, the whole 'how long was a day' question about Genesis may be explained by realizing that time was much slower at that point in... um... time.
    In other words what DO we really know? Don't worry... be happy. (Which was Meher Baba not Bobby McFerrin)

  4. Your blogs are always informative and thought provoking. How about the work being done on the cytoskeletal structures at the subcellular level? The network of microtubules within the brain's neurons. Roger Penrose, Stuart Hameroff, Jeremy Narby[THE COSMIC SERPENT], et. al, theorize, with evidence, that the DNA does not originate "orders", but is a receiver of information from the microtubular network , which acts as an antenna of nonlocal[morphogenic] ordering information.
    Perhaps you could cover this more in depth, as you have the scientific connections and skill/knowledge to communication it to the public.?

  5. I am a journalist who interviewed a fine art photographer last year. She said that the ability to make art is what separates us from other species. But if there are cultures of music among animals, we may not be so separate after all. The question may be can animals appreciate, as art, their music, or other creations, such as the exquisite paper-making that characterizes the hives of certain wasp species. Or is it simply functional for them to communicate or build homes, etc. in a way that humans can appreciate aesthetically? Or do the best creations of any species (best in terms of evolutionary success), necessarily endowed with a quality of beauty, even if that beauty is only in the eye of a beholder of the creating species?

  6. I love reading the blogs and comments and generally feel I learn and broadly agree with all expressed. But when something rather than striking a chord strikes a discord, I have to speak.
    David I don't know what you meant about global warming and I may be misunderstanding you. I have been studying and working on that topic for 21 years and believe it is the big test. We either do or die, act or don't act. Current generations will decide on the future of all life on the planet. I love the fact that 'The Field' and all accompanying discussion and thought carefully considers evidence. It is rare that there is global scientific unanimity on issues and on climate change there is because the evidence is overwhelming. I could write for hours and hours on it because I have been observing and gathering evidence now for such a long time. Perhaps you were not doubting the undeniable causative factor that the human race is in that all life threatening problem - but if you were, please check out realclimate.com or search 'wake up, freak out - and then get a grip' on you tube and watch it or, also on youtube, a film I made myself with our youth group called 'A Change for the Better' for which you search 'Rite2no', which is the name of our group - NB it has four parts. Whether or not we agree on the problem, sure we will agree on the way forward - greater cooperation, compassion, peace and living the truth that all life on the planet is one as is our future.

  7. Pauline raises an interesting point about climate change and perhaps its significance as a marker in human evolution. I may be wrong, but I feel there is much that is a manipulation about the issue of climate change and I also feel the overarching issue for humanity is rather one of sustainablitity. I once had an interesting dicussion with a chap who claimed it is our arrogance that insists we protect a species of animal from extinction. Why then should we view ourselves as being anything different? After all, if we as humans are an expression of consciousness and that expression becomes redundant according to evolution why should it survive? And f we didn't survive would we not just assume another higher expression of consciousness more befitting of the new environment?

  8. Hi Ivan. Just seems a shame to me for us to cause our own extinction - and possibly that of all other beautiful and extraordinary species that currently live with us on the planet (and runaway climate change could well cause that). Course, whatever will be will be - and the majority don't want to see, stay in denial etc then I'm/we're powerless. I'm not attached to any outcome. But I hope for the best and spread information and the belief that we can do something - and technically we can - we have the technology to live sustainably, we just need to implement it. We also find in our group that acting on climate change itself is a consciousness raiser. Our young people rediscover games, song, dance, storytelling - rather than electronic isolation in front of a screen (which is fine in balance and in its place). Connected and collective goals are the only way to survive climate change and so it may well be that it, among other things, nudges us into a consciousness shift, or it might not, but I made a decision, and synchronicity seems to be helping, to go/flow in that direction. Do watch our film!!:):)
    And if that link doesn't work - search 'rite2no' on youtube. You'll see the way we work is fun, more fun than extinction! (Hope people can understand the Manchester accents)

  9. Using the power of intention and getting everyone in the world to have the same intention would no doubt turn things around and make climate change work for our benefit However the way the mind set of many people in the world of today, would prevent that from happening. It would seem that so many people and factions want to destroy the world. I feel in some way that they are causing disasters to happen in many countries. Is it not possible for we of The Field to start influencing the minds of terrorists nad evil leaders of certain countries. Can we not try?

  10. I believe that some souls (scientific fundamentalists?) sometimes incarnate with a block on spiritual matters in the interest of their particular soul lesson. In the case of the fundamentalist Christians, perhaps they intuitively feel that the Divine exists but are unaware of how spirit and matter work together, not least because the conventional church teachings were an attempt to understand spiritual truths through the intellect in an age when that was not possible. I would claim that 'cause and effect' prove that Divinity is real. 'Nature' is not an accident. If an astronaut found a no.9 London bus on the moon, would he imagine that it was abstractly created by natural means with no intelligent thought involved? The order in the Universe is itself the proof of intelligence and therefore Divinty, in my view.

  11. This reminds me of a Barnes & Noble Audio that is taught by Chandak Sengoopta, of the University of London.
    The last part of this new writing is added infomation that is great to hear the dubate is not over. I hope that in the end every one sees that all types of living is both spiritual and matieral.
    Could it be that some living group do not have a soul or spirit, just to try the paitents of those who do.

  12. We love you world. If we repeat for five minuts every day at 8 we'll be connected 24 hours a day to heal the world, than us!
    a big hug, Ben

  13. You cant fix something when you haven't the faintest idea of what it is. Science has not yet described the true nature of reality although it is, finally, inching a bit closer.

  14. I think the Intention experiment is great. Though, I also think that "taking away" the responsibility to heal yourself from a person is not healthy in the long run. I.e. all people that Lynne suggests that we should help, should after our help to them not just sit around waiting for more of our help. The only person that can heal is yourself.
    Lynne if you could possibly ask the experimental people to take FULL responsibility after the experiment maybe this experiment would be even more successful. =)
    PS. Maybe this was already thought of.... 😉

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