Daniel C. Dennett is at it again. In his new book, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, Dennett applies his radical vision of Darwinism to belief in God, and the entire question of faith and belief. As you might expect, Dennett doesn't think much of belief in God.
Dennett is famous for his idea that Darwinism functions as a "universal acid" in contemporary thought--an idea that relativizes all other ideas and reshapes the intellectual culture so that all other ideas must give way or disappear.
Atheism is a central tenet of Dennett's faith, and he has previously argued that the belief in a personal and self-existent God--any kind of God for that matter--must simply give way to the inexorable progress of evolution. As he sees it, belief in God is a "meme" that functioned for some time as an evolutionary advantage, but has long since outlived its usefulness and now serves as an impediment to the forward progress of the human species.
1 In the beginning God created F1 the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was empty, a formless mass cloaked in darkness. And the Spirit of God was hovering over its surface.
3 Then God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. 4 And God saw that it was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light "day" and the darkness "night." Together these made up one day.
6 And God said, "Let there be space between the waters, to separate water from water." 7 And so it was. God made this space to separate the waters above from the waters below. 8 And God called the space "sky." This happened on the second day.
9 And God said, "Let the waters beneath the sky be gathered into one place so dry ground may appear." And so it was. 10 God named the dry ground "land" and the water "seas." And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, "Let the land burst forth with every sort of grass and seed-bearing plant. And let there be trees that grow seed-bearing fruit. The seeds will then produce the kinds of plants and trees from which they came." And so it was. 12 The land was filled with seed-bearing plants and trees, and their seeds produced plants and trees of like kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 This all happened on the third day.
14 And God said, "Let bright lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. They will be signs to mark off the seasons, the days, and the years. 15 Let their light shine down upon the earth." And so it was. 16 For God made two great lights, the sun and the moon, to shine down upon the earth. The greater one, the sun, presides during the day; the lesser one, the moon, presides through the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set these lights in the heavens to light the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 This all happened on the fourth day.
20 And God said, "Let the waters swarm with fish and other life. Let the skies be filled with birds of every kind." 21 So God created great sea creatures and every sort of fish and every kind of bird. And God saw that it was good. 22 Then God blessed them, saying, "Let the fish multiply and fill the oceans. Let the birds increase and fill the earth." 23 This all happened on the fifth day.
24 And God said, "Let the earth bring forth every kind of animal – livestock, small animals, and wildlife." And so it was. 25 God made all sorts of wild animals, livestock, and small animals, each able to reproduce more of its own kind. And God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, "Let us make people F2 in our image, to be like ourselves. They will be masters over all life – the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the livestock, wild animals, F3 and small animals." 27 So God created people in his own image; God patterned them after himself; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and told them, "Multiply and fill the earth and subdue it. Be masters over the fish and birds and all the animals."
29 And God said, "Look! I have given you the seed-bearing plants throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. 30 And I have given all the grasses and other green plants to the animals and birds for their food." And so it was.
31 Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was excellent in every way. This all happened on the sixth day.
It's All in the Design The Creational Pattern for Human Life
How well can you translate psycho-babble? Here's a test from J. Budziszewski's new book, WHAT WE CAN'T NOT KNOW. Not many years ago a physician wrote an article for a medical journal about a certain condition that affects only women. This condition, he wrote, should be regarded as an "illness" which is "almost entirely preventable." He said that the illness had "an excellent prognosis for . . . spontaneous recovery if managed under careful medical supervision," but that it may also be "treated" through "evacuation of the uterine contents."
What "illness" did the physician have in mind? Why pregnancy, of course. Yes, you read that right. He thought pregnancy should be defined as an illness. He didn't mean something that can go wrong in pregnancy -- he meant pregnancy itself. Most people see instantly that defining pregnancy as an illness is crazy. Pregnancy isn't something that goes wrong with a woman; it is provided for in her nature, her God-given design. It's something that goes right.
Budziszewski argues that you can learn a lot by studying the design of human nature. Not just our physical design, but our behavioral design as well. For example, we are designed for families. No mere human invented the family; no mere human could. Yet it exists everywhere, and for nurturing children, nothing can take its place.
Not only were we designed for families, but we were also designed for one-man, one-woman marriages. As sociologists Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur observe, "If we were asked to design a system for making sure that children's basic needs were met, we would probably come up with something quite similar to the two-parent ideal. Such a design . . . would provide a system of checks and balances that promoted quality parenting. The fact that both parents have a biological connection to the child would increase the likelihood that the parents would identify with the child and be willing to sacrifice for that child, and it would reduce the likelihood that either parent would abuse the child."
At some level, everyone recognizes facts like these. Marriage and family have been cherished in every society on earth, even places where God's Word has never reached. And this isn't an accident. As the Apostle Paul says in Acts 14, "God has not left Himself without witness," even among the pagans. And one of His witnesses is the way He designed us and made us.
Budziszewski points out that even in polygamous societies love poems are addressed from the lover to the beloved -- just two people. A love song "to my darlings, Mary, Ellen, Susan, Penelope, Martha, Hortense, and Gwen" would be recognized everywhere as farce.
Even the pagans knew that when we fight against the creational design for human nature, design wins. The Roman writer Horace wrote, "You can drive out nature with a pitchfork, but it always comes running back." We were made for marriage between a man and a woman and for family. These are things we can't not know.
To find out more about our creational design, I suggest that you read J. Budziszewski's new book, WHAT WE CAN'T NOT KNOW. You will find great apologetics material to use in defending the Christian faith with non-believing friends.