Is progressive ideology subverting biology?
Evolutionists Jerry Coyne and Luana Maroja think so
Evolutionary biologists Jerry Coyne and Luana Maroja have written an article complaining about the growing impact that progressive ideology has on the science of biology, even suggesting that biology is being poisoned. They argue that biology as a science may become unrecognisable if this continues unchecked.1
Coyne is an atheist and fierce critic of biblical creation, whose writings undermine Christian faith and its role in the foundation of science.2 But with Christianity effectively removed from science, we also see the loss of scientists’ commitment to morality, values, and objective truth—so, the scientific process itself has been damaged. Scientific endeavour is now subject to alternative belief systems, including from people that seek to impose their political ideology upon it. This is to the detriment of good science and society as a whole.
What do Coyne and Maroja say?
In the article, Coyne and Maroja bemoan the new strictures on biological enquiry:
“Biology faces a grave threat from ‘progressive’ politics that are changing the way our work is done, delimiting areas of biology that are taboo and will not be funded by the government or published in scientific journals, stipulating what words biologists must avoid in their writing, and decreeing how biology is taught to students and communicated to other scientists and the public through the technical and popular press. We wrote this article not to argue that biology is dead, but to show how ideology is poisoning it.”1
They conclude their paper with a gloomy warning, but one in which biblical creationists may see a certain irony:
“Unless there is a change in the Zeitgeist [spirit of the times], and unless scientists finally find the courage to speak up against the toxic effects of ideology on their field, in a few decades science will be very different from what it is now. Indeed, it’s doubtful that we’d recognize it as science at all.”1
A biblical creationist response
Of course, as biblical creationists we too are concerned about the impact that progressive and godless ideology has upon the development of science. We have some sympathy with Coyne’s comments about the direction science is taking—for instance, where scientific conclusions are becoming subject to the dictates of influential voices, people with extreme left-wing ideology. Such ideologies sometimes even have a “form of godliness” to them (2 Tim. 3:5), because advocates seem to care for disadvantaged groups. However, this is applied without seeking Christian values of mercy, truth, repentance and reconciliation. Australian musician and writer Nick Cave commented that:
“Without mercy a society loses its soul, and devours itself. … [it] grows inflexible, fearful, vindictive and humourless. As far as I can see, cancel culture is mercy’s antithesis. Political correctness has grown to become the unhappiest religion in the world. … It has become quite literally, bad religion run amok.”3
But we are also concerned about the dominance of atheism in science. We are told by Coyne, and other leading humanists such as Richard Dawkins and Michael Ruse, that science must follow methodological naturalism. This is an approach that, in effect, removes God from His own creation. Instead, Coyne and Co. wish to reinforce philosophical naturalism as a godless self-supporting worldview. Both Coyne’s approach to science and that of the progressive ideologues are underpinned by atheism.
In his book Faith vs Fact: Why science and religion are incompatible Coyne claims that science and faith cannot coexist, and that there is no evidence for the biblical claims for miracles and the supernatural. Like his fellow atheists, Coyne insists that science must exclude God as an explanation for the beauty and incredible complexity we see in the world—and yet he is far more willing to make extraordinary claims for the power of evolution to form and shape the world.2
We would point out that the determination of secular humanists, like Coyne, to remove Christian faith from science has itself helped to undermine the scientific process. Coyne rejects Christian morality (see: Darwinism fosters moral decline), claiming that belief in evolution undermines traditional ethical boundaries. He writes that the evolutionary narrative “contravenes many common religious beliefs … dealing with morality, meaning, and human significance.”4 But with that argument, he is unwittingly undermining the commitment to truth itself as a value to be prized, both in the scientific enterprise, and in society more generally.
Only biblical Christianity logically provides an objective foundation for truth and morality, because we hold that human beings are created in the image of a loving heavenly Father, and from that proceeds divine grace, and our legal system of rights and duties. Without that basis, atheists must found their beliefs upon subjective criteria, ones that arise in human minds alone. Such people disagree about what those truths and values are, so atheistic humanism leads to a multiplication of beliefs, whether secular beliefs and values, or even pagan beliefs. G.K. Chesterton wrote insightfully, in the Oracle of the Dog, that loss of faith in God leads to a multitude of beliefs; or to use the well-known paraphrase, “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing, but in anything.” Chesterton’s actual words were as follows:
“It’s the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense, and can’t see things as they are. Anything that anybody talks about, and says there’s a good deal in it, extends itself indefinitely like a vista in a nightmare. … and all because you are frightened of four words: ‘He was made Man.’”5
Coyne and other atheistic scientists have actually helped to create this “vista in a nightmare” by actively undermining the foundations of Christian faith. While understandably frustrated about the subversion of biological science by progressive ideology, they are in effect reaping what they have sown.
While Coyne claims that science can be done without religious beliefs, he ignores evidence that it was biblical Christianity that led to the scientific enterprise in the first place. In the early modern period, it was those committed to reading the Bible literally that gave rise to science, as Australian historian Peter Harrison has shown. From the back cover of his book The Bible, Protestantism, and the Rise of Natural Science we read:
“Peter Harrison examines the role played by the Bible in the emergence of natural science. He shows how both the contents of the Bible, and more particularly the way it was interpreted, had a profound influence on conceptions of nature from the third century to the seventeenth. The rise of modern science is linked to the Protestant approach to texts, an approach which spelt an end to the symbolic world of the Middle Ages and established the conditions for the scientific investigation and technological exploitation of nature.”6
While biologists Coyne and Maroja may complain about the growing influence that progressive ideology has upon science, their own atheistic commitments have opened the door to the rise of such beliefs. This is because they undermine the commitment to objective truth and values that arises from Christianity. It was Christianity that allowed science to begin in the first place, then to flourish.
References and notes
- Coyne J.A., Maroja, L.S., The Ideological Subversion of Biology, Skeptical Inquirer 47(4), July/August 2023. Return to text.
- For example: Coyne, J.A., Faith vs Fact: Why science and religion are incompatible, Viking Press, New York, 2015. And see review by Woodmorappe, J., Atheist fantasies vs facts, Journal of Creation 30(2):40–45, 2016. Return to text.
- Cave, N., Why cancel culture destroys the creative soul, The Spectator, 31 December 2020; spectator.co.uk Return to text.
- Coyne, J., Why you don’t really have free will, USA Today, p. 3, 1 March 2012. Return to text.
- Chesterton, G.K., The Incredulity of Father Brown: the Oracle of the Dog, Cassell and Co., London, p. 96, 1926. Return to text.
- Harrison, P., The Bible, Protestantism, and the Rise of Natural Science, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1998. Return to text.