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"These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own." G.K.Chesterton

"You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion." G.K.Chesterton

"As you perhaps know, I haven't always been a Christian. I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that."C. S. Lewis

"I blog, therefore I am." Anon

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Home alone

Nature features exquisite adaptation at overwhelming relative frequency. But the unkindest cut of all then holds that this order, the very basis of Paley's inference about the nature of God, arises not directly from omnipotent benevolence, but only as a side-consequence of a causal principle of entirely opposite import - namely, as the incidental effect of organisms struggling for their own benefit, expressed as reproductive success. Could any argument be more subversive?...

We all understand, of course, that the force of Darwin's radicalism extends well beyond the inversion of an explanatory order; he also undercut a primary source of human comfort and solace. [I]... cannot address such a vital issue at any depth, but I must record the point - for this wrenching became so salient in subsequent human history. If the natural footprints of Paley's God - the source of our confidence in his character, his goodness and, incidentally, the only hint from nature that we should accept other revealed doctrines, in particular the idea of bodily resurrection... must be reconceived as epiphenomena of a struggle for personal success, then what becomes of nature's beauty, instruction and solace? What a bitter cup Darwin offers us, compared with Paley's sweet promise (1803, pp. 578-579): "The hinges in the wings of an earwig, and the joints of its antennae, are as highly wrought, as if the Creator had had nothing else to finish. We see no signs of diminution of care by multiplication of objects, or of distraction of thought by variety. We have no reason to fear, therefore, our being forgotten, or overlooked, or neglected."

But then, the man who served as the primary focus of Paley's veneration had also promised that the truth would make us free; and Darwin justly argued that nature cannot provide the source of morality or comfort in any case.

S.J. GOULD, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Mass.), London (England). 2002

...And no Christian, including Paley, would say that nature can "provide the source of morality or comfort in any case". God alone is that source. As an atheist, as he was, and as an ethical atheist, as I'm sure he was, Stephen Jay Gould, like Darwin was surely privy to no other source of morality or comfort than "nature"... except perhaps wishful thinking.

6:47:00 pm