Let’s admit, for a moment, the Archdeacon’s argument. William Paley will continue to impress, as he did initially Darwin himself, and countless others over the last two centuries, with his bit about watches and watchmakers, design and a Divine Designer. It is, indeed, pretty hard to believe, as I look at my garden in the twilight and the magnificent sky above it, that all this happened by chance, that everything, including life, just evolved, without any Intelligent Design or purpose. How many atheists like me are tempted by the flesh-pots of biblical, or at least religious, certitudes ? Science, everyone agrees (for once), cannot explain the meaning of human existence. This is the readily assumed rôle of religion(s). The short-cut is tempting. Unless you have checked in your brain at the cloak-room, it is not hard to recognize that evolutionists, not to say atheists, are asking a lot in expecting believers to admit that it all just happened. This, of course, is why the debate will continue. Darwin was right. But his opponents have millions of people (not to say the generous Templeton Foundation, as well as Harun Yahya, pseudonymn of the wealthy Turkish Muslim preacher, Adnan Oktar, for whom ” the theses of Darwin explain both Nazism and terrorism”, and his widely distributed “Atlas of Creation”) behind them, who continue to refuse Darwin’s evidence, corroborated by paleontology and especially by the scientific data of contemporary genetics (the fact that birds and fish, in quite different separate parts of the world, share the same genes, should surely give pause for thought to the non-atheist who refuses to recognize the common ancestry of living beings). They want to believe, and will continue to believe, in an Intelligent Designer. “Up the long ladder and down the short rope. God bless Paley and God bless the Pope, and if that doesn’t do, we’ll tear ’em in two and send ’em to Hell, Charles Darwin and crew !” (with apologies to the Clancy Brothers in Carnegie Hall).
It’s an uphill battle, proposing to people comfortable with their religious certitudes, a vision of life that has no purpose, an end but no finality. Nevertheless I will continue to invite them to recognize and accept the reality. “From dust we came, and unto dust we shall return”. More to the point, “from nothing we came and to nothing we shall return”. I am convinced of this, but I can appreciate why many refuse to agree with me. They think they are right. I think – no, I know – they are wrong.