Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Personal Aside: The Wall Street Journal Strikes Out With a Weak Defense of God by a Liberal Ex-Nun.


Understand, the first paper I read each morning is The Wall Street Journal because on economic and political matters it says more cogently than can I certain irreversible truths on politics and economics. That is more than sufficient to expect from a newspaper. Unfortunately last weekend when in a supplement it pretended to run a pro-and-con on Darwin vs. Belief in God, I expected more. Much more. What I got was a maze of nihilistic musings by a disgruntled ex-nun.

The proponent of the preposterous contention that Darwin abolished the concept of God forever was written by…you guessed it… Richard Dawkins, holder of the fatuous title “Professor for Public Understanding of Science” at Oxford, which Christian scholar Paul Johnson translates as Oxford’s first chair of atheism.

Dawkins I met briefly in the early `70s when I was a visiting fellow at Saint John’s College, Oxford (a stint that lasted a week including an appearance at the Oxford Union in a symposium on Richard Nixon). Dawkins was then a lecturer and what they later called a Reader in zoology. Since then he has become quite famous as “Darwin’s Rottweiler” as an avowed atheist and secular humanist. He presupposes that to accept Darwin one must endorse the non-existence of God. He struts the stage arrogantly but his balloon was popped brilliantly by none other than Ben Stein, the economist and believer in Intelligent Design…not in private discourse but on film where Dawkins was forced to attribute a mathematical proposition that included the theorem that very possibly God DOES exist.

The unfortunate thing about the Wall Street Journal “debate” is the paper’s selection of the person to defend God. She is Karen Armstrong, also a Briton, the angry former Roman Catholic nun. And if you need further exposition as to Ms. Armstrong’s beliefs, know that she wrote the book “Through the Narrow Gate” which outlined her convent agonies and that she has been a frequent guest on Bill Moyers’ public television show “Now—with Bill Moyers” (paid for partially by our tax dollars, of course) before he left with the announcement he was going to write a biography of his former boss Lyndon Johnson…in whose service as faithful assistant Moyers directed the taping of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s extra-marital affairs…and on Terry Gross’ “Fresh Air” on National Public Radio (also paid for partially by our tax dollars).

Armstrong is a widely published author among whose works is the book “Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time” which Jihad Watch described as “notable for the coherence of its incoherence.” A fellow of the “Jesus Seminar [sic],” she was offended by Benedict XVI’s statement “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”

Her response: “We cannot afford to maintain these ancient prejudices against Islam.” Oh, I see: we are to exchange fact…beginning with his document and extending through the centuries, stated definitely in Qu’an 47:4 “Therefore, when ye meet the unbelievers in fight, smite at their necks; therefore is the time for either generosity or ransom, until the war lays down its burdens…But those who are slain in the Way of Allah He will never let their deeds be lost”—exchanging these indissoluble facts for Sister Karen’s New Age fantasy.

This is the woman whom the WSJ chose to define the case for God.

Obviously Ms. Armstrong agreed with Dawkins on all important grounds but goes on from there to project an airy New Age wish for God. Thus there is no mention in her work which has become a provable fact: that Darwinism is a contrivance which he invented to give his atheism full sway. And of course she does not point out that Darwinism is something far different from evolution. One can believe in evolution as a manifestation of God’s handiwork with the proviso that (a) there is an essential superiority of man in relation to animals by reason of his spiritual soul, (b) the derivation of the first woman from the first man and to which I add (c)-- at a certain stage an immortal soul was infused by God…a soul so united with the body it animates—far different from any animal—that together they become one autonomous, responsible individual. One can believe this and be perfectly consonant with the Divine Story.

To which I then add (d).

And what is (d)? In the beginning narrative of Genesis the sacred author avoids the materialistic side of evolution: Adam’s soul was infused by God…but says nothing directly as to how the body of Adam was formed. That leaves two questions on whether God used extraordinary power, as with angels, to form Adam’s body…and whether the “dust from the soil” contained in Genesis implies that Adam’s body was created beforehand, ready for the action where God “breathed into his nostrils a breath of life and man became a living being” [Gn. 2:7]. True, Catholic theologians agree that what they call transformism…the evolution of Adam’s body from a lower species, where God exerted a special providence to inculcate the soul…in such manner as Adam was not literally generated from a brute beast…but I am of the simpler school, my friends, because for me the evolutionary story, even when sanctioned by Catholic theologians, gets sticky when there is involved the mystery of Original Sin.

Whatever, as they say…and now we proceed to the blunt truth.

It is vital to understand that evolution is far different than Darwinism. Stretching mightily as he did, Darwin failed to prove…and his inheritors have failed to find…proof that testifies that man evolved (as he wrote) “from a hairy, tailed quadruped, probably arborial in its habits.” That link is still missing but not missing is Darwin’s virulent atheism that came before his convoluted theoretical attempt to justify it. Thus his promoters cannot answer the fact that as an atheist, Darwin was and is a failure. And even if the evolutionary story can be proven, there continues unassailable by any reasonable attribution of science the fact that God brought the world into existence, that He sustains it by his almighty power and continues as the First Cause of all created activity.

But why the Wall Street Journal, an organ of great reliability, should turn to Karen Armstrong to defend God when so many exist in science and theology to do a better job, ranks with one of our contemporary journalistic mysteries.

Lesser than God-centered evolution but not inconsiderable nevertheless for a brilliantly-edited paper.


  1. I am a retired scientist in the applied biological sciences. In my view, theories are valuable not only for what they explain in summary but also for the development of testable hypothesis. Darwin cum evolution theories fail in leading to new research.

  2. Actually, the Pope was quoting that line but the question posed wasn't answered then or now. WSJ is only good on the editorial page, hisorically, and that may under new ownership go downhill. Journalism, like teaching, is a profession with few intellectuals and no firewalls.

  3. I read the on-line version of the WSJ daily. Yesterday I read the article by Karen Armstrong and found it convoluted and difficult to understand. Then last night I read you column about Obama in the Sept. 17 issue of the Wanderer. That article caused me to go to your web site for the first time. This article cleared things up. Thanks