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Lewontin’s Confession and Mamet’s Principle

Michael Egnor

Jerry Coyne and his Darwinist/materialist/atheist brethren make public assertions that are nonsense on their face: they claim to be mindless meat machines, they deny the indisputable evidence for intelligent design in biology and for teleology in all of nature, they deny the obvious evidence for the supernatural in cosmological singularities such as black holes and the singularity at the origin of the Big Bang, and they deny the manifest corruption of modern science by materialism and arrogance and egotism. Materialists tout determinism and deny free will, despite the fact that determinism in physics has been quite decisively refuted and the fact that free will is well supported by neuroscience and that denial of free will negates the ability to make a truth claim of any sort (if a materialist’s opinion is forced by chemical reactions, there’s no reason to think it corresponds to truth. Chemistry is not a propositional and can be neither true nor false). Atheists deny the existence of God because of evil in nature, without realizing that the recognition of evil presupposes an objective moral standard that can only be grounded in a Mind outside of man. 

Darwinism/materialism/atheism (the three are nearly always found together) is beset with self-refuting non-sequiturs. This triad is not even a genuine ideological perspective as much as it is an incoherent mistake. Yet, ironically, many who tout it are quite intelligent people. 

What to Make of All This? 

Playwright David Mamet noted a characteristic in politics that applies broadly to flawed belief systems. It struck me as a key to understanding the philosophical perspective of those who deny free will, design in nature, God’s existence, and the like. Mamet originally applied it to a particular political philosophy, but I apply Mamet’s principle to Darwinists et al: 

…in order for [Darwinists, atheists, materialists, etc.]  to continue their illogical belief systems they have to pretend not to know a lot of things.

The pretense not to know things is at the root of Darwinist/atheist/materialist ideology. It was stated with astonishing candor by Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin, one of the past century’s leading Darwinists:

Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. 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 absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door…

Fury at Intelligent Design

Lewontin’s confession is a remarkable invocation of Mamet’s principle: in order to maintain the Darwinist/materialist ideology, atheists have to pretend not to know a lot of things. 

The fundamental reason that Darwinists have vented such fury at the intelligent design movement — even to the point that a prominent scientific journal openly advocates government censorship of ID — is that ID has forced Darwinists and other atheist and materialist ideologues to publicly explain themselves, and that has made their pretense that there is no design in nature so much harder to pull off. 

Photo: David Mamet, by David Shankbone / CC BY-SA (