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In Darwinâ€™s Pious Idea, Conor Cunningham dissects a range of popular anti-theological, anti-Christian readings of Darwinian evolution. With knowledge and philosophical sensitivity, he points out their many errors and argues that Darwinâ€™s idea is both valid science and compatible with good theology. Ultra-Darwinism and modern Christian fundamentalism are both ravaged by his assault.
Underlying his analysis is an acute awareness of the failure of modernity to produce a viable first philosophy, which leads to scienceâ€”a truth discourse after allâ€”falling into this metaphysical gap. Thus, secular â€˜naturalisticâ€™ science has become our first philosophy by default. Cunningham argues that this philosophically impossible situation can only be remedied by a return to theology as our first philosophy, and that such a return would make our science better.
This paper finds Cunninghamâ€™s arguments against pseudoscience to be both persuasive and timely. Yet, when it comes to Cunninghamâ€™s valiant attempt to synoptically align the horizons of Darwinian evolution with orthodox theology, deep difficulties arise. Perhaps it remains the case that there is a profound imaginative dissonance between cosmology and teleology within a modern, naturalistic set of scientific assumptions, and cosmology and teleology are situated within a non-modern biblical perspective. And perhaps this dissonance is an essential one. Further, if modernity as a socio-cultural life-form is now characterised by the deep rejection of any first philosophyâ€”and hence theologyâ€”in favour of resting on science itself for its imaginative orientation in the world, then forging an alliance between modern science and Christian theology may not be such a good idea for theology, however carefully it is done. So it seems that even after reading Cunninghamâ€™s book, the question, â€˜can modern science be theologically salvaged?â€™ remains live for the Christian theologian.
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