Sometimes I am tempted to think that Andrew Brown has a brain, and then he writes something like his op-ed this morning, and it seems obvious that he must have been getting along without one for years. “Atheists,” says his title, “need to run and Alpha Course of their own.” It’s not altogether clear what the article is about — that’s always a bit of a conundrum with Brown – he tends to write things, and only then does he ask himself what he meant – but, unless I miss my bet, it’s one more Richard Dawkins put down. It’s so easy to do, formulaic. He starts off by saying some nasty things about Dawkins – so far following the usual formula – and then he needs to say something that looks suspiciously like it is based on the facts, but without a shred of evidence to show that it is. Here are those first two movements:
Just at the moment when it seems that Christian evangelicals are learning to engage with the outside world, the atheist ones are disappearing entirely into their own self-righteousness.
That’s the first. Brilliant, isn’t it? Doesn’t say anything, but it pretends to. But then, here’s the second:
But if you do think scientific literacy is valuable his tweet is depressing because there is increasing evidence that the Dawkins approach is actually cementing creationism as a mark of Muslim identity in the west.
So, it’s all up to “the Dawkins approach.” Without that Muslims would be flocking to sit at the feet of Darwin and his successors, lapping up as much knowledge about evolution as it is possible to cram into their minds. But Dawkins just had to queer the pitch – now didn’t he? – by wondering why Muslims are Muslims, just as he wonders why Christians are Christians, Jews, Jews, or Hindus, Hindus. Dawkins is, it has to be said, an equal opportunity critic of any religion – while recognising, as is only just, that Islam is a bit more of a threat than other religions, since it so easily theologises violence, and justifies its use in its missionary endeavours. That beings said, Dawkins has shown no evident love or kind regard for any religion.
Or is it just because Dawkins spoke about Muslims and Islam? Is that the problem? He should have known better than to speak about Islam, because for the world’s best known atheist to speak about Islam is, by any measure, a stupid thing to do, and certain to raise the hackles of Muslims, and we certainly don’t want to do that, do we? And if he’d just stop talking about Muslims and evolution, then doubtless Muslims would get over their fear of Darwin and join the parade. Salman Hameed, an astronomer turned sociologist, has done research — in five countries! — into why Muslims are creationists. Here’s why:
The overwhelming answer is not that they reject the fact of evolution but that they reject the name Darwin, because he is associated in their minds with atheism, racism, and imperialism. None of these associations are strictly justified, of course. But the association with atheism is still popular.
I guess Brown is assuming that the reason they identify Darwin with atheism, racism and imperialism is all down to Dawkins, then. Yet, surely, by any reasonable account, the main reason Muslims are creationist is because their scriptures, just like Christian scriptures, speak about the world (or the universe) as having been created by god. After all, man was created from a clot of blood (Qu’ran 96.2). All this is familiar. And this really doesn’t play into evolutionary theory very well. And since Muslims are, almost by definition, fundamentalists, the Qu’ran having come directly to Muhammad by the intermediary of an angel, none of its words can be gainsaid. The same thing works for Christian fundamentalism too. And these fundamentalisms were on the scene a long time before Darwin set pen to paper. And what associates Darwinism with atheism is not Dawkins or Darwin, but the fact that evolutionary theory explains the development of life without any need to posit a creative god. That being the case, any such theory is going to be immediately threatening to religious believers. Which is why Biologos is turning itself inside out trying to prove that there is no conflict between evolutionary theory and an historical Adam and Eve.