Darwinism's Commitment to Materialism
The contemporary Darwinian establishment is philosophically committed to naturalism (or materialism) as a worldview and modus operandi. This cannot be stated too strongly. The natural world is all that can be studied and must, by itself, provide all the answers to scientific questions. Darwinian naturalism takes two forms: metaphysical naturalism and methodological naturalism. Metaphysical naturalism is the philosophical claim that only material states exist; there is nothing immaterial, spiritual, or supernatural. Methodological naturalism is the means of scientific inquiry, given the presupposition of metaphysical naturalism (namely, that what does not exist cannot be detected). This methodology can also be stated in supposedly agnostic fashion. A scientist claims that she is not ruling out God and the supernatural, but that science qua science should not attempt to study such things. Therefore, only natural explanations are allowable; only materialistic explanations are christened “scientific.”
While methodological naturalism appears modest and agnostic to the untutored, it is a ruse for metaphysical materialism. Methodological naturalism assumes that even if God or anything supernatural exists, this cannot be evident in the universe. It thereby issues a metaphysical veto against any empirical evidence for the immaterial—such as the soul, God, or the supernatural—regardless of the evidence that may be available. This is hardly a neutral strategy. If the mandate of science is to follow the evidence wherever it leads, and then to select the best hypothesis for any given field of study, methodological naturalism betrays science itself. The prevailing naturalism of biology is evident in this pronouncement by Richard Lewontin, an eminent biologist and defender of Darwinism.
We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.
As Philip Johnson has cogently argued in his pivotal book, Darwin on Trial (1991), if one is committed to naturalism a priori, something like Darwinism must be true, since naturalism disallows the existence of any intelligence behind the origin and development of life. Before this, but with less cultural impact, cultural critic Richard Weaver made the same essential claim, arguing that if naturalism is the only allowable worldview, then alternatives to Darwinism would not be considered. Even during
When Lewontin warns of “the Divine Foot in the door,” he means that anything but “absolute materialism” will undo science itself by allowing for haphazard divine interventions into the natural order that would subvert the regularities required for scientific observation and theorizing. That claim will be a taken up in the next chapter.
If empirical scientific study regarding the origins of life is separated from “absolute materialism,” the possibilities for explanation expand tremendously. This “wedge” strategy—i.e., introducing nonmaterialistic considerations into the investigation—is central in reopening the debate concerning the best explanation for the origins and development of life on earth. As Philip Johnson puts it, for naturalists, “In the beginning were the particles,” and the particles had to do all the creating. This stands opposed to the biblical claim that “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1).
Chesterton noted that the Christian need not be committed to a completely static creation, because natural development occurs in God’s world; but the materialist must not allow any element of design to creep into his theory: “The Christian is quite free to believe that there is a considerable amount of settled order and inevitable development in the universe. But the materialist is not allowed to admit into his spotless machine the slightest speck of spiritualism or miracle.”
 On methodological naturalism, see Cornelius Hunter, Darwin’s Proof (
Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books 2003), 147; William Dembski, The Design Inference ( : InterVarsity Press, 2004), 171-72; Alvin Plantinga, "Methodological Naturalism." Origins and Design 18(1) (1996): 18-27; “Methodological Naturalism? Part 2: Philosophical Analysis” Origins & Design 18:2 (1997). We will return to a proper sense of science in the next chapter. Downers Grove, IL
 Richard Lewontin, ‘Billions and Billions of Demons,” The
 Phillip Johnson, Darwin on Trial, 2nd ed. (Downer Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993).
 Richard Weaver, Visions of Order: The Cultural Crisis of our Time (orig. pub, 1964;
 See the discussion in Benjamin Wiker, The Darwin Myth (
 Phillip Johnson explains this strategy in depth in The Wedge of Truth (
 Phillip Johnson, Reason in the Balance (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), chapter five.
 G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (New York, Image Books, 1908), chapter two.