Darwin, God and the Meaning of Life: Darwin and the Big Questions
Stewart-Williams (Steve)
Source: Stewart-Williams (Steve) - Darwin, God and the Meaning of Life, Chapter 1
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Book Abstract1

  1. Part I: Darwin Gets Religion
    1. I open with the question of the existence of God. Did God create us in his image, or did we create him in ours? Or, as Nietzsche put it, 'Is man one of God's blunders? Or is God one of man's blunders?' Here are some of the other questions we'll be asking in this section:
      • Can someone who believes in evolution2 believe in God as well?
      • Did God directly guide the evolutionary3 process?
      • Did God choose natural selection as his means of creating life indirectly?
      • Must we invoke God to explain the origin of life, the origin of the universe, or the origin of consciousness?
      • Does the suffering entailed by natural selection suggest that there could be no God - or that if there is a God, he must be evil?
    2. We won't be concerned with the full range of arguments for and against God's existence, but only those directly related to Darwin's theory.
    3. Here's a synopsis of the chapters that make up Part 1 (Chapters 2-7).
  2. Part II: Life after Darwin
    1. Moving right along, our second major topic is philosophical anthropology, the sub-discipline of philosophy that deals with questions about human beings, their status in nature, and the meaning and purpose of human life. Here are some of the questions we'll be asking in this section (Chapters 8-10):
      • Does the mind survive the death of the body?
      • Is the universe conscious?
      • Are we superior to other animals?
      • Are we inferior to other animals?
      • Does natural selection inevitably produce progress or is this a misunderstanding of Darwin's theory?
      • What is the meaning of life?
      • Does evolutionary4 theory imply that life is ultimately meaningless?
    2. Chapters:-
  3. Part III: Morality Stripped of Superstition
    1. Next we'll turn to the important field of ethics and morality. Here are some of the questions we'll be addressing in this section (Chapters 11-14):
      • If a behaviour has an evolutionary5 origin, does this imply that it is natural and therefore morally acceptable?
      • Does an evolutionary6 approach to psychology justify the status quo, imply that we can't hold people responsible for the things they do, or justify inequality and war?
      • Are suicide or voluntary euthanasia ever morally permissible?
      • How should we treat non-human animals?
      • Are there ever circumstances in which the lives of human beings should be sacrificed for the good of other animals?
      • Does exposure to evolutionary7 theory make people immoral?
      • Does evolutionary8 theory imply that, ultimately, nothing is morally right or wrong?
    2. Chapters:-
  4. Conclusion
    1. So, that's our subject matter: God, man, and morality in the light of evolution9.
    2. These topics are densely interconnected, such that whenever evolutionary10 theory has implications for one, this usually has downstream implications for the others. For example, evolutionary11 theory lowers the probability that we are the privileged creation of a supernatural being. This has implications concerning our place in nature (it lowers the probability that non-human animals exist merely to satisfy our needs), which in turn has implications within the domain of ethics (it forces us to re-evaluate the way we treat other animals).
    3. This example also illustrates something about the structure of the book, namely, that Part I (on the existence of God) lays the groundwork for much of what follows, and that Parts II and III (on humankind and ethics, respectively) contain the more original and less widely discussed ideas.
    4. Regardless of your starting point, though, I hope you'll take the entire journey with me. Along the way, we'll meet a diverse and colourful cast of characters, including Creationists and Theistic Evolutionists12, vitalists and mechanists, evolutionary13 psychologists and Blank-Slate Darwinians, Social Darwinists and human supremacists.
    5. We'll challenge some commonly-held beliefs, such as that Pope John Paul II accepted evolutionary14 theory; we'll assess some ancient dating advice (from Plato, no less); and we'll even contemplate the ultimate destiny of the universe.
    6. Last but not least, we'll reach definitive answers to some age-old mysteries:
      • Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
      • Why do innocent people suffer?
      • What happens when we die?
    7. There's a lot to get through, so we'd better make a start. The first item on the agenda is God.

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1:

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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