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Book review
Deeper than Darwin:
The prospect for religion in the Age of Evolution

Full description of book:
John F. Haught (2003), Deeper than Darwin: The prospect for religion in the Age of Evolution (Colorado, USA: Westview Press) ISBN: 081334199X


Scholarship: 7/10
Information content: 7/10
Spiritual content: 1/10
Overall rating: 4/10

Short Review:

This book is a philosophy of religion book written in an attempt to chart the dangerous waters of evolution to discover a place for religion. With the increasing attacks by militant evolutionary materialists like Richard Dawkins on Christianity in particular and religions in general, John F. Haught attempts to show how religion is actually viable in this era of evolutionary science, drawing particularly on the latest insights in 'religious studies' as he builds upon the works of Liberal theologians like the late Catholic Jesuit priest and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and liberal theologian Paul Tillich. As such, the idea of God's plan for the world being expounded by Haught follows in the direction of Process Theology. Although not explicitly promoted, Haught's conception of God follows in the same vein as Process theology, and thus is most consistent with Panentheism.

Throughout this book, Haught basically presupposes the validity and truthfulness of Evolution and the secular humanistic paradigm. In order for religion to co-exist with evolutionary theory, Haught proposes tiered reading levels, whereby science reads reality at a certain level and religion reads it as a different level, and both are correct. By so doing, there would be no conflict between religion and science, and both would complement each other in the enrichment of mankind. Haught then utilizes the rest of the book to define this theory of his and how it relates to humanity's basic spiritual longings, followed by rebuttals to both the physicalist or scientific materialist camp and to the ID (Intelligent Design) camp which are both seen as intruding into areas of truth which they have no right of intruding into.

This book thus come across as an interesting read, especially of how religion would probably develop in the light of Evolutionary theory. Therefore, it is given a scholarship rating and information content rating of 7. However, since it is essentially and totally a philosophy text which derives from human traditions and elemental spirits and principles of the world, and not according to Christ (Col. 2:8), whatever it says has no truth value for true Christian living and thus is spiritual garbage, thus is deserves a spiritual rating of 1. Nevertheless, since it possess great apologetics value in knowing where the latest fad of so-called Christianity is probably moving into, the overall rating is given a value of 4. Although Liberalism as a movement is waning, the Emerging Church Movement (ECM) is picking up where it leaves off intellectually, although not embracing all of liberalism (For example, ECM is post-modern as oppose to the modernism characteristic of Liberalism). Therefore, it is my opinion that this the essence and thoughts in this book would enter the mainstream of 'Christendom' through the ECM movement sometime in the future, and therefore the book's importance.

Full review:

Haught in this book starts by introduces the concept of 'depth', that religion and science are to be read at two different levels. As an example, he talks about how Herman Melville's novel Moby Dick is read by a dog, a monkey, a 5 year old child, the author when he was 14 years old and now. The dog 'reads' the book in terms of smell, the monkey 'reads' the book as a set of white pages dappled with small black marks, a 5 year old who recently learned her ABCs observes that the book is a treasury of letters of the alphabet, the author when he was 14 years old grasped the narrative outline but misses all the artistry, pathos and wisdom beneath the narrative's surface, which he now grasped in some fashion. Haught therefore suggest that religion and science are analogous in that both have different reading levels. Haught of course does not and intended not to tell us how such reading ought to be done at the religious level, except to inform us, quoting Paul Tillich, that 'we are to be in a state of being grasped by the inexhaustible depth that lurks beneath the surface of our lives and of nature too' (p. 27). Therefore, Haught's religious depth is Religious mysticism, meant to be experienced and to give us meaning in life. Of course, that does not mean that Haught does not try to explain to us how religion can survive in an age of evolution and give meaning to our lives during our living and after we die (Chapters 9-11), which we shall review later.

Using this idea of depth, Haught first attacks the viewpoints of the evolutionary materialists and atheists, followed by that of the ID (Intelligent Design) theists, to show them as being inadequate in explaining reality. He then gives practical applications of his teaching and finishes off with a discussion of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

In this review, we would first look at the fundamental issue involved, epistemology, followed by looking at the concept of 'depth', Haught's criticism of physicalism and ID theism, Process theology, and the concept of 'depth' and Process theology as applied to everyday living and death. We would not bother with the last chapter of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, as it has little significance for the overall topic.

Basic issue: Epistemology

Since the book presupposes the validity of Evolution and the secular humanistic paradigm, the fundamental core issue that a Christian should notice is that of authority claims or a clash of worldviews. The fundamental truth claims assumed by people like Haught and those who would follow him would seem totally alien to any true believer in Christ. Because of his presupposition of evolution and secular humanism, Haught invariably dismisses Creationism right from the start and true biblical Christianity with it (p. 16). With such stark contrasts of worldviews, there does not seem to be a contact point possible whereby meaningful interactions could be done. Such being the case, we must need go back to the most foundational question as stated in Epistemology, or the philosophy of knowing — How can anyone of us know anything in the first place.

It is on the basis of epistemology that we challenge the foundation of this secular humanistic rebellion against God's truth. Haught, as with most secular humanists today, has an elevated view of science and an overly optimistic view of human reasoning. We will tackle this one at a time.

Secular humanists and even many religious people have an elevated view of science. As science seems to have great explanatory power, and application of it has led to many inventions which have greatly changed and altered our lives, most people have great respect for science and thus respect the opinions of the scientific community. Although knowing the fallibility of Man, science has been depicted as being objective due to the fact that any subjectivity would be removed via the scientific method of hypothesis testing and the hard objective facts of reality (for both theoretical and application research), and the necessity for verification by a large group of scientists who would probably attempt to duplicate the research using the same methodology. If such were indeed the case, it is no wonder that many people think that Science is authoritative in its pronouncements. After all, regardless of what scientists do, facts would still remain facts, and logical reasoning utilizing the scientific method of hypothesis testing is sound. Even if deceit were to be attempted, other scientists who are not so inclined to believe in the facts, or who may even be out to get the other scientist, would immediately expose the deceit as their results would show otherwise.

However, science does not work out in such an ideal fashion. For example, although the scientific community is supposed to check on each other's research to ensure the correctness of the scientist's research, the fact of the matter is that typically, lots of research would be done and journal articles produced with little external quality control. Judging by the number of scientists, and the fact that scientists are paid to do research on their own field, who would have the time and money and will to check on another's research? This is especially so if the research being done comprises many areas, which most research projects are, and thus a minor error could remain undetected. Furthermore, in certain specialize fields in which few scientists are working on, for example the mating behavior of a rare and unimportant animal, how many people would be interested to even know about it, much less check it out for themselves. The scientific community also does build up on the discoveries of previous research, which both aids and discourages objectivity. It aids objectivity because if the facts discovered are way out, then the error is discovered and that may even prevent the research from being published. However, if the error is minor, it may be accidentally or intentionally overlooked. Once a journal is published, and as more and more people cites from that research article, the error within the original would be less and less able to be corrected by the scientific community. After all, so many research teams couldn't possibly be wrong, it is thought. The minor error may thus slowly build up and give rise to falsehood if someone bases his/her research on its truthfulness. After all, rubbish in, rubbish out.

However, this is not the worst. The fact of the matter is that science can never find the exact truth, only at the most an approximation to it. Science is fundamentally flawed as it commits the fallacy of affirming the consequent (If p, then q; q, therefore p). Therefore, science can only disprove what is false, but never prove what is true. Of course, it can be hoped that as science progresses, more and more theories are disproved, but as there may be an infinite number of possible theories, science can never come to the truth.

The most devastating weapon against such an elevation of Science for the purposes of evolutionists is that Science can never prove anything true about the past. Since the past is not accessible, what scientists can do is only to discover how things function in the present and extrapolate that towards the past. However, that is never valid. How does anyone know that the past function exactly as the present (the philosophy of Uniformitarianism)? For example, in soil erosion, why is it that there wasn't a large body of water flowing through the Colorado river at one time which eroded most of the rock layers in the Grand Canyon? If that actually happened, then how can we try to extrapolate the age of the Canyon from the present rate of erosion to determine its age? As such a thing, if it were to happen, is a historical event, it would be next to impossible to prove or disprove whether it happened. However, to act as if it never happened and create your theory of past events on the truth of such an assumption is totally fallacious.

This as such is the difference between historical/origins and operational science. Historical/origins science can never find out anything true about the past by itself, because it cannot know what happened in the past which may introduce elements of uncertainty (Operational science at least can make advances in approximating to the truth, as a curve to its asymptote). As such, evolution as a theory can never be proved via science, since its best proof rely on extrapolation of data sets or various assumptions which themselves can never be proven.

With regards to this, Haught has linked his entire thesis in this book to the truth or lack thereof of Evolutionary science. This place his view on very shaky ground, as Evolution is never provable.

The second part of Haught's assumption is based on the ability of Man to find truth based on pure reasoning apart from revelation However, how does this work? As we will see later, Haught attacks the physicalists/ materialists by stating that their position would render their thoughts and views fundamentally irrational as it is being done by thoughts arising from the flow of electrons in a brain which is created by random evolution. However, how does Haught himself ground his view of truth and logic? In other words, how can he know what is true and why his reasoning is indeed objective. Haught quotes from various liberal theologians who sought to explain the world by using various concepts from various religions primarily 'Christianity'. However, why is this approach to discovering the truth better than any other is never explained, just assumed. Why should I treat those liberals as being authoritative? Credentials mean nothing in the pursuit of truth, and if one were to appeal to 'best explanatory power' for their theories, that by itself is subjective and I deny that I find it to be so. Haught thus has nothing whatsoever to ground whatever he claims except on the credentials of men, and his reasoning from his own preferences, and this is enough to destroy his position already scripturally.

The concept of 'depth'

We have looked earlier at the concept of reading levels and 'depth' which Haught has used to harmonize religion and science. Such depth leads to a form of mysticism, and is used so that we can find meaning through religion.

Now, such a concept of 'depth' as it can be seen seems to be more of a way for religion to survive in an age of evolution. After all, Haught has realized the moral and spiritual bankruptcy of materialism. He realizes that if 'all humans became convinced that their most cherished beliefs are ultimately the products of their genes alone', wouldn't all the poetry and piety that had reassured our ancestors lose their power to comfort us today' (p. 3). Also, he sees the total ridiculous nature of evolutionary anthropology who asserts that "It is fortunate for us that people in the past were oblivious to the biological facts that drove them to produce their inspired works, for if they had been fully aware (as we Darwinian biologists and psychologists are) that religion was ultimately the work of selfish genes, they could never have felt the aesthetic and moral accomplishments . Lucky for us and for our genes, they did not yet know the Darwinian facts, for their freedom from evolutionary understanding allowed them to unleash powerful fantasies that laid the foundations of the cultural and ethical constructs that have shaped culture and civilization to this day" (p. 9). This concept of depth thus seems to be invented merely so that both evolution and religion can co-exist. Haught of course also realizes the bankruptcy of the materialist position logically and epistemology, which we shall show later. Unwilling to reject evolutionary 'science', Haught thus need to invent this concept of depth in order to keep religion viable.

In a short section dealing with the late Harvard evolutionist Stephan Jay Gould's overtures by his promotion of the theory of NOMA (Non-overlapping magisteria), or that science and religion have their own spheres covering two entirely disparate sets of topics or turfs; the realm of Science being that of "factual knowledge" while that of religion is "values and meaning" (p. 6), Haught rightly realizes that Gould's overtures was actually condescending to religious people because the values and meanings in religion make no sense apart from them being dependent on factual knowledge (p. 8). For example, in the situation of a promising God, Haught states that only if people believe that God actually exists then they will be enflamed by hope. Haught thus creates this concept of depth so that religions may still survive to function as they are supposed to do so.

For a Christian, however, what Haught has done is not much better than what Gould attempts to do. The invention of the 'depth' concept means that lots of Scripture would have to be allegorized or spiritualized, which of course is compatible with Liberal theology. However, such a requirement violates the plain meaning of Scripture and thus violates Scripture itself. Haught of course would charge us with 'biblical literalism'; as an example of 'hybrid reading' (p. 19-20) whereby we neglect the concept of 'depth'. However, the point of the matter is that Scripture interprets Scripture. If Haught wants to allegorize Scripture to make it harmonize with 'Science' falsely called, he is free to do so but don't ever call it Christianity; it is as Christian as chalk is cheese! As it is mentioned in the above section on Epistemology, Haught doesn't have a foundation upon which he can justly criticize true Christianity, but for us who believe in Sola Scriptura, the Scripture as our final authority is our foundation for rejecting his spurious novelties. Therefore, his concept of 'depth' is a mere invention to preserve religion under the onslaught of evolution.

Critique of Physicalism/ Materialism

Haught in chapter 7 states a logical argument that effectively destroys evolutionary materialism. This logical argument is very good, and therefore would be reproduced here with minimal alterations to show the bankruptcy of materialist epistemology.

Suppose you subscribe to evolutionary materialism. This means that you employ the tenet that all facts of life can have a purely and exclusively naturalistic explanation. More specifically, this means that Darwinian selection is the ultimate explanation of living phenomena. Since your brain is part of nature, it too must be the produce of adaptive selection. ...

Given the avowedly exhaustive explanation of your intelligence in terms of purely unintelligent causes, why should I, or anybody else except you, take seriously the claims that this purely adaptive instrument is now making? Why should I assume that this adaptive instrument (your mind) is able to discover truth? Obviously, you want me to accept your mind's evolutionary explanation of intelligence as true, and not merely as functionally adaptive. But how can I accept this as true, if, at the same time, your own intelligence may simply be engaging in one more adaptive — and that means possibly deceptive — exercise? How can I tell when you're being adaptive and when you're telling me the truth? Some of your friends among the evolutionary psychologists have even argues that the mind is adaptive because it is a great deceiver, never to be trusted, since its real objective is adaptation rather than arriving at truth (although they obviously want me to accept at least that truth as something more than mere adaptation).

In other words, there is a blatant contradiction between an exclusively selectionist explanation of mind, on the one hand, and the implicit trust you place in your own mind's capacity to arrive at the naked truth, on the other. Clearly, in asking me to accept the truth of evolutionary materialism's selectionist explanation of human intelligence, you have tacitly introduced something extraneous to your pure Darwinism. ... (p. 97-98)

With this settled, let us look at Haught's critique of ID theism.

Critiique of ID theism

Haught mainly criticizes ID theism as trying to make "intelligence" a category at the level of natural science, rather than at the theological or metaphysical level. Of these, of course, it must be seen which form of ID theism is being critiqued. ID theism in general is definitely susceptible to such a critique. Since ID theism is generally indifferent or hostile to biblical Christianity, we will leave them to the mercy of Haught and the evolutionists, except to say that their invented concept of "irreducible complexity" is definitely helpful to the falsification of Evolution as a whole, something of which Haught does not of course interact with.

Life and death

With the concept of 'depth', and a background picture of Process theology, which we shall cover later, Haught attempts to answer the questions of life, meaning and death. As Process theology sees 'the universe as a place of promise and purpose' (p. 149), while in evolution, things perpetually perish, Haught wonders if there is any purpose, especially for the individual person. Furthermore, he informs us, in an age of science, it has become more difficult to believe in a 'personal, subjective survival beyond death'. (p. 150). If life was just for us to live once, and then slip into oblivion, regardless of what we are able to achieve, what value does this life have in the end? Despair seems the natural response to such a future. To give us hope, Haught tries to put truth as a sort of immortality tool for us, so that we would be 'immortalized'; telling us that even though everything perishes in the end, the fact that things happened is imperishable (p. 152). He then postulates a sort of 'rock-solid registry that prevents the erasure of all facts from the indelible record of having happened', arguing that 'evolutionists and historians assume, whenever they delve into the past, that there is something about reality that fixes forever the facticity of things' (p. 152). Haught further states that 'As events perish into the past, the past amassment enters in the present, and each new event inherits or synthesizes the whole series of past occasions' and therefore 'nothing in the stream of universal and biological evolution is ever totally lost' (p. 153). Therefore, our hope consists therefore of being part of the truths that are fixed in the rock-solid registry of time, which could thus be called 'God'.

Such a concept of objective immortality which is supposed to give us hope and a purpose is indeed interesting. Definitely, biblically, what is stated here is pure nonsense. However, even judging philosophically, is it humanly satisfying? For this reviewer, I definitely do not think that being immortalized by having the fact that I have at one time existed and do such and such very comforting. What's the use of being recorded in such a fashion? Does it make any difference whether I live a certain way, or whether I exist at all, besides the record. Who cares about records, anyway, if they just exists for no apparent reason and purpose?

With regards to the statement establishing this 'rock-solid registry', definitely it's in some sense true that the facts of the pasts do not just perish, but Haught errs on stating that evolutionists and historians are assuming an impersonal registry. A cursory look at the civilizations of the world indicate that the keeping of dates and importance of history comes from a Christian worldview and civilizations that have such a worldview. Other civilizations date their history along the lines of the years of their King's rule etc. and not from an objective point of view, with the exceptions of those who date from the year of their religious founders (which shows the importance of such leaders as analogous to 'God' or something 'God' undertook — also borrowed). As such, evolutionists and historians are actually operating from borrowed Christian capital, whereby God is the personal "registry" and not some impersonal stuff.

With this, let us go into Process Theology proper.

Process theology

Process theology comprise the backbone of Haught's entire presentation in this book. This could be seen in his quotation of people like Alfred North Whitehead, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Paul Tillich, especially in the areas whereby he discusses the notion and purpose of the universe. Also, in other places, he made it clear that he follows Teilhard de Chardin's views that history is moving towards a perfection of Omega which then explodes "upwards into God"(p. 163). This of course shows Teilhard's panentheism and heresy. Haught similarly teaches this when he state that ' in humans the universe has awakened to consciousness, and evolution has now become conscious of itself', therefore 'it is inconceivable that any truly cosmic redemption would tolerate the suffocation of the very consciousness to which the universe has been straining so mightily to give birth' (p. 155). The universe is thus pictured as constantly evolving and improving, finally being God-like and absorbed into God.

If we are analyze this position by the Scriptures, this whole position is immediately shown to be heresy, as God has already make it plain that He is God and does not change (Mal. 3:6) and he is upright, just and transcendent (Deut. 32:4). Furthermore, it is abundantly clear from Scripture that Creation is real (Gen. 1-3; Rom. 1:20), the Fall is real (Gen 3; Rom. 3:9-18; 23), and that redemption is from our sins to Christ (Rom. 3:24-26) with the gift of eternal life (Jn. 3:16), and that we who believe would be personally and eternally in heaven with God in the end (Rev. 21:3). Process theology is simply no contest against the truths of Scripture. Even philosophically, Process theology can only survive if evolution is correct.

Conclusion & Final thoughts

Haught's thesis has been found to be informative and interesting in its presentation of spirituality in an age of evolution. As a spiritual book, it is definitely destructive and totally against Scripture. However, as informative material, it is good, especially of the direction Liberal Theology is moving.

As I looked through the book, I have reason for concern, because I have seen that the ECM is moving in this direction. Why is that so, you may ask? The reason why this is so is because Process theology is the theological system that can only survive in an age of evolution. Furthermore, because of its surrendering truth to mysticism in the guise of 'depth', this would suit the post-moderns very well. Of course, I would not expect a one-to-one correlation of the ECM beliefs to those of the Liberal movement, but definitely the influence would be there. Currently, the ECM seems to be embracing Open Theism. However, it is my opinion that the slide would continue into Process Theology, since both are rather similar, while Process theology is superior to Open theism because it allows for things like more mystery, acceptance of evolution & ecumenity with Eastern Orthodox on the question of Theosis.