Secular Science – Introduction
The core of Secular Science is well-summarized by George Gaylord Simpson, “Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind. He was not planned. He is a state of matter, a form of life, a sort of animal, and a species of the Order Primates, akin nearly or remotely to all of life and indeed to all that is material.”1
Belief in evolution is as crucial to Humanism’s worldview as are its atheistic theology and naturalistic philosophy. In fact, the Humanist’s ideas about the origin of life can be considered a special dimension of these disciplines. Without the theory of evolution, the Humanist would have to rely on God as the explanation for life, which would necessarily destroy his atheism. Therefore, every Secular Humanist embraces the theory of evolution.
The Humanist Manifesto I states, “Humanism believes that man is a part of nature and that he has emerged as the result of a continuous process.”2 This belief is echoed in the Humanist Manifesto II, which claims that “science affirms that the human species is an emergence from natural evolutionary forces.”3 And in Humanist Manifesto 2000 Kurtz says, “The theory of evolution and the standards of ecology should also be studied.”4
For the Humanist, atheistic evolution is not one option among many, but rather the only option compatible with their worldview. Creationism, or Intelligent Design, is considered an enemy of science.
Secular Science – The Role of Science
Humanists rely on secular science as the basic source of knowledge. They claim that a true definition of science excludes any supernatural explanation for any event occurring in nature, including the origin of life. For Humanists, the scientist must only study what takes place in nature and arrive at naturalistic explanations for all events. In this way, the supernatural is ruled out of bounds.
Obviously, when one assumes that science is the best method of obtaining knowledge and that science must exclude the supernatural, one cannot accept supernatural explanations for the origin of life. Julian Huxley sums it up: “Modern science must rule out special creation or divine guidance.”5
Why must “modern” science rule out creation? Because, as we have noted, science cannot observe or measure the supernatural and therefore is incapable of obtaining any knowledge about it. But by this definition science cannot render judgment on the theory of evolution, either. That is because one-time-only historical events, such as the origin of life, fall outside the parameters of the scientific method. The reason: such events cannot be repeated, observed, tested, or falsified.6 Accordingly, neither creationism nor evolution is strictly “scientific.”
Still, Humanists insist that evolutionary theory is scientific and the idea of a Grand Designer is not. Just how closed-minded the Humanists are toward creation is summed up by Isaac Asimov: “To those who are trained in science, creationism seems like a bad dream, a sudden reliving of a nightmare, a renewed march of an army of the night risen to challenge free thought and enlightenment.”7
Secular Science – Evolution as “Fact”
Secular Science is grounded in Darwinian Evolution. Carl Sagan states simply, “Evolution is a fact, not a theory.”8 Huxley claims, “The first point to make about Darwin’s theory is that it is no longer a theory, but a fact...Darwinianism has come of age so to speak. We do no longer have to bother about establishing the fact of evolution.”9 Antony Flew is scandalized by the notion that there was a time, “unbelievably,” when the Vatican questioned “the fact of the evolutionary origin of the species.”10
Thus, Humanists claim that the fact of evolution relates to changes within a species (microevolution) as well as macroevolution, or the transmutation of species. In other words, Humanists are not just claiming that science has proven that dogs can evolve into faster or bigger breeds; they also are claiming that all dogs, indeed all mammals, evolved from reptiles, and reptiles evolved from amphibians, amphibians evolved from fish, and so on back to the first speck of life. They wholeheartedly believe Darwin’s conclusion that because microevolutionary changes occur among species, these changes can accumulate over time to produce macro-changes.
Secular Science – Conclusion
Secular Science rests its case for evolution on six specific planks: spontaneous generation, natural selection, struggle for existence, beneficial mutations, adaptations, and the fossil record (see “Related Articles” in the right sidebar). However, over the past thirty years, the fossil record has only hindered attempts to prove macroevolution. Therefore, some evolutionists have been forced to abandon Darwin’s original theory of gradual change and postulate punctuated equilibrium in order to salvage the last plank of their theory.
Humanism relies on evolution for much more than a theory about the origin of life. The theory of evolution has significant implications for ethics, sociology, law, and politics. Humanists consider evolution the correct foundation for every individual’s worldview and believe that a proper understanding of the world comes only from this perspective.
For this reason, Humanists encourage teaching evolution as “fact” throughout our educational system—thereby relegating the supernatural, especially God, to the world of literary mythology. Humanists do not just expect evolution to be taught as fact in the biology classroom, but rather believe, in the words of Julian Huxley, that “it is essential for evolution to become the central core of any educational system, because it is evolution, in the broad sense, that links inorganic nature with life, and the stars with earth, and matter with mind, and animals with man. Human history is a continuation of biological evolution in a different form.”11
Since Huxley, however, a lot of discussion in the scientific community has been unfavorable for Darwin. As Stephen Meyer writes,