Biology Textbooks and the “God-Talk” Problem
“Another school year is around the corner. Undergraduate biology students will once again take up their textbooks on a quest to explore the intricacies of life. Of course, these students are rarely exposed to a balanced assessment of evolutionary theory, including its empirical challenges.
But that’s not all: biology students will likely use a textbook that incoherently presents the case for evolution. Surprisingly, this muddle emerges from textbooks’ unprincipled use of theology, of all things. In a recent journal article, “Damned if You Do and Damned if You Don’t: The Problem of God-talk in Biology Textbooks,” Stephen Dilley and Nicholas Tafacory argue that textbooks falls prey to an intractable dilemma.
Originally published on: https://philosophynow.org/issues/46/The_Alleged_Fallacies_of_Evolutionary_Theory
Though I am, by no means or any stretch of the imagination, a fan of Richard Dawkins, I do think that he is often over-vilified. Certainly, his opinions are inflammatory and his antagonism of theists is controversial. But overall, I am sympathetic to his views (even if I think he misses far too many of the finer nuances of his perspective to ever be a capable philosopher). His intelligence and experience as an evolutionary biologist cannot and should not be dismissed out of hand. That is definitively his area of expertise.
But we must also be quite clear: his expertise is NOT philosophy (not even Philosophy of Science by way of proxy). So, while Peter Williams’ commentary may be useful for learning purposes (via negativa), it is ultimately misguided and one cannot help but wonder if he should have devoted his time and efforts to something more substantial…regardless, below is most of the original article from PhilosophyNow where Massimo Pigliucci and several of his graduate students take Williams to task for overstepping his own subject matter expertise and creating more confusion than clarity about several important philosophical topics related to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. The only difference is that I’ve italicized the excerpts that I personally found to be most relevant and poignant. Hope you gain something from it too! 😎
Finally, there is the 4th Love: Agape (Charity). Charity (agápē, Greek: ἀγάπη) is the love that exists regardless of changing circumstances. The chapter on the subject focuses on the need to subordinate the other three natural loves to Agape (Charity). As Lewis puts it, “The natural loves are not self-sufficient” and therefore must be subservient to the love of God, who is full of charitable love, to prevent their “demonic” self-aggrandizement.
Eros (erōs, Greek: ἔρως) for Lewis was love in the sense of “being in love” or “loving” someone, as opposed to the raw sexuality of what he called Venus. **Side note: Eros = root of erotic. Think about it for a second.** The illustration Lewis used was the distinction between “wanting a woman” and wanting one particular woman — your sweetheart, your soul mate, your better half. Eros turns the need-pleasure of Venus into the most appreciative of all pleasures but nevertheless, Lewis warned against the modern tendency for Eros to become a god to people who fully submit themselves to it and use it as a justification for extreme selfishness.
This love is known by the Greeks as storge and is translated as “affection, especially of parents to offspring.” Lewis states that this type of love is the least discriminating. With Affection, people who we normally wouldn’t find appealing or who bother us or who just don’t deserve any kind of love are still lovable and can still be loved. “It ignores even the barriers of species.” But, as Lewis points out, there are criteria that must be met. Affection is not felt towards those who are not familiar. Affection cannot be, or at least is not, felt towards people or objects or animals that are unknown.
Lewis begins this chapter by stating that Friendship is the least biological, the least necessary, the least instinctive of loves. Humans can and often did survive without friendship. They could rely on their herd or tribe to provide them with all of their needs. Friendship, in this view, is a luxury of sorts. It is not guaranteed nor is it necessary to live a happy life. Therefore, when this love is practiced and embraced in the proper manner, it is said to be sublime in nature. It is a Gift love and one that represents a spiritual maturity. “This alone, of all the loves, seemed to raise you to the level of gods or angels.”