An Orthodox rabbi criticized atheism masked as science, citing a prominent biologist who said scientists should undermine religion to advance popular acceptance of evolutionary theory.
Rabbi Moshe Averick, a columnist for the Jewish magazine The Algemeiner Journal, chided a recent article by University of Chicago professor Dr. Jerry Coyne which depicted religion as an opponent of evolutionary theory and as something associated with social dysfunction.
“It is clear that Dr. Coyne is not promoting Science, he is promoting Atheism and all that it entails,” Rabbi Averick said in his April 24 column. “Coyne sees his role as being much greater than that of just a professor teaching a scientific discipline; he has donned the mantle of Atheologist and is spreading the good word wherever he can.
“It is for this reason that many Americans are justifiably antagonistic towards the worldview of Jerry Coyne.”
The rabbi focused on Coyne’s article “Science, Religion and Society: The Problem of Evolution in America,” published online by the journal “Evolution” on April 17.
“Ultimately, the best strategy to make Americans more receptive to Evolution might require loosening the grip of religion on our country,” Coyne said.
“We could best promote evolution…by concentrating on bringing Catholics and mainline Protestants into the ‘no religion’ category!”
Religion, Coyne said, is the reason why Americans “hate evolution.” He added that resistance to evolution is “truly a byproduct of America’s extreme religiosity” because evolution “contravenes many common religious beliefs.” The contradicted beliefs, in his view, include both biblical literalism and beliefs involving “morality, meaning and human significance.”
Rabbi Averick countered that much of this “resistance to evolution” is against an atheistic version of evolutionary theory. Almost 40 percent of Americans accept a theistic form of evolution, a position also criticized by Coyne.
Rabbi Averick charged that the biologist is effectively engaged in “his own form of jihad on believers who refuse to display proper fealty to Coyne’s grand atheistic/scientific, and of course, Darwinian view of reality.”
In his article, the Chicago-based rabbi – author of the book “Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused and Illusory World of the Atheist” – zeroed in what what he called the philosophical consequences of Coyne’s stance.
He prefaced that American democracy is founded upon and bound to “fundamental religious principles.”
The Declaration of Independence, he noted, says that “all men are created equal” and “endowed by their Creator” with inalienable rights. The declaration also appeals to God’s judgment and states “a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence.”
Rabbi Averick underscored that human equality rests upon religious assumptions.
“Men are created equal as they stand in front of their infinite, transcendent Creator; they do not evolve equally at all! In fact, as pointed out by G.K. Chesterton, they evolve astonishingly unequal,” he said.
The rabbi contended that Darwinian evolution is not based on accountability to a higher power but is “the pitiless, indifferent, and unrelenting pressure of survival of the fittest.” An atheistic, humanistic philosophy like that of Coyne “ascribes dignity to human beings based on a religious principle, and when no one is looking, they simply subtract God from the equation.”
Coyne, he noted, has said that there are no objective moral truths in a materialistic universe and has contended that free will is an illusion.
“It seems patently absurd for Coyne to argue so vehemently for his position if his audience’s beliefs – and his own for that matter – are determined, not by decisions based on arguments, but by causes and effects beyond human control,” Rabbi Averick said.
Coyne’s article said that American social dysfunction is “associated with high degrees of religious belief,” citing a study that shows the United States ranking poorly on a measure of successful societies. In response, the rabbi credited religious belief with generating American “moral fortitude” in opposition to the totalitarian ideologies of the 20th century.
Rabbi Averick ultimately suggested that the “most important realms of human thought” are areas in which science has “little or nothing to say.”