Faith Is Anti-Science

I wrapped up my speaking tour of the South last Thursday by giving my Darwin talk at UNC, Charlotte. It was a very nice way to celebrate Darwin’s 200th birthday, although nobody brought any cake, unfortunately. I even managed to attract a few student supporters of “intelligent design,” which made for a lively Q&A session after the talk.

One audience member asked an interesting question, which I thought was worth blogging about. He asked, in essence, why can’t creationism coexist with evolution? Aren’t they just two different perspectives on the same question, each with its own merits?

Part of my answer–in the negative, of course–was that, fundamentally, creationism and evolution represent two opposite methodologies: faith versus reason.

To acquire knowledge about the world, as opposed to mere beliefs, requires a principled commitment to reason. Reason is the only means for discovering things that one knows to be true, as opposed to things that one merely imagines, or feels, or wishes to be true. One must firmly commit to accepting only conclusions based on perceptual evidence and logical inference from such evidence.

Darwin’s life and work exemplifies this commitment in spades. One of the points I emphasized in the talk is the extent to which he dedicated his entire life to the rational pursuit of knowledge and took nothing on faith.

But creationism (of all varieties, including “intelligent design”) rests on faith in certain religious beliefs–the Genesis creation myth, say, or the existence of a supernatural “designer.” As such, it doesn’t offer a method of acquiring knowledge, it offers an excuse for clinging to blind beliefs unsupported by facts or logic.

This is not a “different perspective” with its own merits. Given that we live in the world as it actually is, not as we might imagine or believe it to be–and given that we have to guide our actions in life by our knowledge, not by our hopes or wishes–there is no merit, whatsoever, to faith’s policy of willful ignorance.

P.S. For a systematic presentation of the Objectivist view of reason, see Leonard Peikoff’s Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand.