BORN ATHEIST
Chapter 24. Darwin should have done it.

I am bewildered . . . I own that I cannot see, as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to
do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery
in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have
designedly created the . . . [parasitic wasps] with the express intention of their feeding within
the living bodies of caterpillars.
Charles Darwin

I am a strong advocate for free thought on all subjects, yet it appears to me (whether rightly
or wrongly) that direct arguments against christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on
the public; & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s
minds, which follows from the advance of science. It has, therefore, been always my object to
avoid writing on religion, & I have confined myself to science. I may, however, have been
unduly biassed [sic] by the pain which it would give some members of my family, if I aided in
any way direct attacks on religion.
Charles Darwin


Evolution science, begun by Charles Darwin, should have dealt a death blow to Judaism, Christianity
and Islam. That is what I mean by the title of this chapter, “Darwin should have done it.” Judaism,
Christianity and Islam were invented by men before the rise of modern science. Sure, pre-Darwinian
scientists like Copernicus and Galileo challenged the scriptures by declaring that the earth revolved
around the sun, but scriptural statements that the earth is fixed in space are few and are unessential
to the religionists’ myths. But evolution science shoots an arrow straight through the heart of the
religious creation myth.

The monotheisms have essentially the same creation story. The Koran does not have the creation
myth all in one section, it jumps around. But the essence is the same as the Torah/Bible. For example:

    Your Guardian-Lord is Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth in six Days, then
    He established Himself on the Throne (of authority): He draweth the night as a veil O'er
    the day, each seeking the other in rapid succession: He created the sun, the moon, and
    the stars, (all) governed by laws under His command. Is it not His to create and to
    govern? Blessed be Allah, the cherisher and sustainer of the Worlds!

           * * *

    And indeed We created man (Adam) out of an extract of clay (water and earth).

           * * *
           
    It is He Who has created you from a single person (Adam), and (then) He has created
    from him his wife [Hawwa (Eve)], in order that he might enjoy the pleasure of living
    with her.

           * * *

    And it is He Who spread out the earth, and set thereon mountains standing firm, and
    (flowing) rivers: and fruit of every kind He made in pairs, two and two. . . . And in the
    earth are tracts (diverse though) neighbouring, and gardens of vines and fields sown
    with corn, and palm trees growing out of single roots or otherwise: watered with the
    same water, yet some of them We make more excellent than others to eat.


In contrast, the creation myth in the Torah/Bible is organized and linear:

    In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

    Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and
    the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

    And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was
    good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the
    darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning--the first day.

    And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from
    water.” So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the
    water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse “sky.” And there was evening, and
    there was morning--the second day.

    Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the
    land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The
    land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees
    bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
    And there was evening, and there was morning--the third day.

    And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the
    night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be
    lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two
    great lights--the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night.
    He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth,
    to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that
    it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning--the fourth day.

    And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the
    earth across the expanse of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and
    every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and
    every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed
    them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let
    the birds increase on the earth.” And there was evening, and there was morning--the
    fifth day.

    And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock,
    creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.”
    And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock
    according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to
    their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

    Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over
    the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over
    all the creatures that move along the ground.”

    So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and
    female he created them.

    God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth
    and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living
    creature that moves on the ground.”

    Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and
    every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts
    of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground--
    everything that has the breath of life in it--I give every green plant for food.” And it was
    so.

    God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there
    was morning--the sixth day.

    Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.

    By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day
    he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because
    on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.


As an aside, the Jewish/Christian creation myth has some internal inconsistencies. To start with, why
does an all-powerful god need to rest after six days work? The Muslims improved on that aspect of
the myth by giving their god boasting rights for not having to rest after creating the world. Further, the
Genesis creation myth neglects to explain how light was created on day one but the sun was not
created until day four. But inconsistencies like these are the smallest of problems.

Darwin’s discoveries went to the heart of religion. Evolution science shows our world is the result of
natural selection and evolution over thousands and millions of years and the scriptures are wrong. A
bearded man in the sky did not create the earth in six days, the plants and animals were not created
in their current form, and the house of cards that is religion should come tumbling down.

Darwin published On the Origin of the Species in 1859, 151 years before this book. Darwin may be
the father of evolution science, but the field has grown so enormously that he would unlikely recognize
it. Over the past 151 years, countless scientific discoveries have supported Darwin and disproved the
scriptures.

Despite the enormous weight of fact supporting evolution, a 2009 Gallup poll reported that only 39%
of those surveyed believed in evolution, while 25% did not, and 36% had no opinion either way.
Another poll found that 44% of respondents believed that the world was created in six days.

Religionists label the teaching of their scriptural creation myth “creationism.” A 1987 U.S. Supreme
Court ruling prohibited teaching creationism in schools, but the Court left the door open to other
approaches by saying “teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to
schoolchildren might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of
science instruction.” The new strategy of teaching “intelligent design,” that a creator rather than natural
selection is responsible for modern life, is an attempt to teach religion while complying with U.S. law.
Even though prohibited by judicial ruling, 58% of Americans favor teaching creationism along with
evolution in public schools.

A complete industry has sprung up trying to support the scriptural creation theory. For example,
Answers in Genesis (named after the chapter of the Bible with the creation story) built a $27 million
creationism museum that opened in May 2007 and had more than 900,000 visitors by the end of
2009. Charity Navigator reports Answers in Genesis had $22 million income in 2008. The
organization says, “The Bible is divinely inspired and inerrant throughout. Its assertions are factually
true in all the original autographs. It is the supreme authority in everything it teaches. Its authority is not
limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes but includes its assertions in such fields as history
and science. The final guide to the interpretation of Scripture is Scripture itself. The account of origins
presented in Genesis is a simple but factual presentation of actual events and therefore provides a
reliable framework for scientific research into the question of the origin and history of life, mankind,
the earth and the universe.” The modern success of a project based solely on an ancient myth that has
been completely discredited by science is a testament not to the truth of the myth but to the power of
religion.

To someone raised without religion, it is inconceivable that religious belief persists contrary to all
scientific fact. However, this ignores the powerful position from which religion operates and the slow
pace of social change. As demonstrated by Answers in Genesis and as discussed in Chapter 2,
religion is incredibly powerful. It has worked its way into the psyche of believers over thousands of
years. It is not about to let go without a fight. However, the fact that religionists spend so much time
and money denying evolution shows that they know it is a threat.

Broad social changes occur slowly. Religions rise and fall over periods of thousands of years.
Humans have created the term “dog years” to describe a dog’s age in relationship to humans, using a
factor of 1:7 (10 years for a dog’s life and 70 years for a human’s) so a three-year-old dog is called
“21 years old” for relative comparison. Creating a similar comparison for religion, if the average
religion lasts 3,000 years, and a human lives 70 years (70:3000 or .023), then the 151 years since
Darwin’s book is only 3.5 “religion years.” Broad social changes like the elimination of religion will
likely take place at a much slower pace than the duration of one human life.

The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Most people are familiar with the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes, written by Danish author Hans
Christian Andersen. I have referred to it a number of times in this book, and now I will take the time to
refresh your recollection of its contents. In that story, two con men undertake making the emperor
clothes that “had a wonderful way of becoming invisible to anyone who was unfit for his office, or who
was unusually stupid.” Although no one can see the clothes, all say they do. The emperor tries on his
new clothes before his advisors, and:

    His whole retinue stared and stared. One saw no more than another, but they all joined
    the Emperor in exclaiming, “Oh! It’s very pretty,” and they advised him to wear clothes
    made of this wonderful cloth especially for the great procession he was soon to lead.
    “Magnificent! Excellent! Unsurpassed!” were bandied from mouth to mouth, and
    everyone did his best to seem well pleased. The Emperor gave each of the swindlers a
    cross to wear in his buttonhole, and the title of “Sir Weaver.”

The emperor marches before the people with his noblemen carrying a nonexistent train of cloth
behind him. Andersen concludes his story with:

    “But he hasn’t got anything on,” a little child said.

    “Did you ever hear such innocent prattle?” said its father. And one person whispered to
    another what the child had said, “He hasn’t anything on. A child says he hasn’t
    anything on.”
    “But he hasn’t got anything on!” the whole town cried out at last.

    The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, “This
    procession has got to go on.” So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen
    held high the train that wasn’t there at all.


In rereading the story, I was struck by how Andersen ended it. Even though the emperor knows he is
naked, he concludes “this procession has got to go on,” and continues to parade naked before the
people more proudly than ever, followed by his noblemen holding high the nonexistent train. The
application to religion is clear. The falsity of religion must be obvious to its participants, but each
supports the other by marveling at its truth. And even when the leaders understand that they are
promoting lies, they conclude, “this procession has got to go on” and forge forward despite their
knowledge. Religion is a lie. Yet the majority of people go on acting as if it is true.

In Andersen’s story, it took a while for the child’s cry to circulate among the crowd. And even when the
emperor shivers and realizes the crowd is probably right, he continues marching proudly. To me,
Darwin is like the child who pointed out the emperor has no clothes. In “religion years,” this happened
recently, so the word is only now circulating around the crowd. But eventually, just like the crowd in the
story, we will all recognize that religion is a lie. Until then, it is up to atheists to keep repeating that the
emperor has no clothes.

So, going back to the title of this chapter, “Darwin should have done it,” the premise stands. However,
the statement needs to be seen in the slow context of social change, especially when considering a
social institution as powerful as religion. There are encouraging signs that change has begun. In
countries like Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Japan, the majority of the population is nonreligious.
The United States stands alone among rich nations in having such a high degree of religious belief.
However, even within the United States, atheism is rising. In 1966, 2% of Americans had no religion.
In 1972, 5% of Americans had no religion. In 1981, 7% of Americans had no religion. In 2002, 10% of
Americans had no religion. In 2008, 16.1% of Americans had no religion. And among the youth, who
represent the future of our country, in 2008, 25% had no religion. Although change has begun in
America, religion retains a powerful hold. In order to open the minds of the remainder of the crowd to
the fact that the emperor has no clothes, atheists should repeat Darwin’s cry and take other action to
hasten the crowd’s realization.
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