In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

3 Beyond Biology An Evolutionary Weltanschauung Introduction The German term ‘weltanschauung’, meaning a conceptual understanding of the world from a particular perspective, aptly describes what this chapter will establish: a philosophy extrapolated from the evolutionary science presented in Chapter Two. In our review of Dawkins’ scientific position, we discovered that his view on evolution was significantly hermeneutical. Polemical divergences between Dawkins and Gould on aspects of evolution had profoundly philosophical connotations. This realization adds weight to the view asserted by Ricoeur, Küng, and others, that science can be influenced by ideology. As Ricoeur suggested, the world is accessed through a detour of interpretation.1 This chapter will therefore explore the philosophical dimension of Dawkins’ interpretation of evolutionary science. The theological implications for this philosophical approach will open direct passages for interdisciplinary engagement between theology and evolutionary science as it is presented by Dawkins. In researching this work, correspondence was sought and received from the American philosopher Daniel C. Dennett (see appendix), who has been identified as a ‘staunch ally’ of Dawkins (I have as of yet been unable to contact Prof. Dawkins himself).2 There is very little that separates the two thinkers in terms of their conceptual approach to philosophy, science, and theology. When I put the question to Dennett whether he disagrees with any aspects of Dawkins’ perspective on evolution, he responded as follows: “On some technical details I don’t feel qualified to disagree publicly even when I have my doubts. We discuss these issues, as yet unresolved. I haven’t seen anything beyond a few rash overstatements to disavow in his work”.3 Moreover, Dawkins and Dennett have publicly endorsed each other on several 93 occasions.4 As such, Dennett can also be taken as a representative of the school of thought Dawkins espouses. Consequently, given the similarities between Dawkins and Dennett, this work will also feature Dennett’s philosophy of evolution prominently throughout, while maintaining its primary focus on Dawkins. Given that this work is advocating a theological paradigm that seeks to engage with antagonistic worldviews, I thought that the nature of theology itself should be an element of this dialogue. To illustrate, I questioned Dennett on his views on the illegitimacy of theology (a view he shares with Dawkins). I suggested that given the importance of religion in human history, theological ideas need to be studied and understood, therefore highlighting one element of the importance of theology that may be acknowledged even from an atheist perspective. Dennett responded as follows: I am sure that theology can be studied objectively as a complex and fascinating set of intellectual systems, but I don’t think that inquiry would count as theology, since it would be 100% uncommitted to any of the doctrines. It would be a kind of anthropology, or like the sociology of science (an intermittently useful field plagued by lots of silly misunderstanding), or like literary criticism, I suppose. Dickens experts have a scholarly love of all his fictional characters, and a Christianity expert should have the same informed (and respectful) acquaintance with the many characters, saints, stories, liturgies . . . of the denominations. That is not theology, methinks, but it is what theology could become, if divorced from apologetics and sectarian loyalties.5 Therefore, Dennett accepts that theology could be an objective discipline, though he feels that this would not count as theology—however, we should not leave him as the arbiter of what constitutes theology. If one were to adopt a theology that is, as Dennett says, divorced from specific religious doctrines, then it would seem from this correspondence, that Dennett would be open to the possibility of a dialogue with such a theology. I do not necessarily seek to propose such a theology. However, it will be suggested in Chapter Five that certain aspects of the ongoing dialogue between theology and evolutionary science may be too narrowly Christian in the context of a dialogue with Dawkins. A similar point was stressed by Karl Rahner in Theological Investigations, as he noted that an engagement with atheism “. . . would have to be addressed to human beings in all their dimensions and in the way 94 | Reading Richard Dawkins that they are today . . . a shift of emphasis in our proclamation is absolutely indispensable”.6 This cautionary approach to Christian themes may be substantiated by referral to the above correspondence with Dennett. However, there could be objections to this approach, following the thought of Émile Durkheim, who suggested that “[h]e who does not bring to the...


Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.