Evolution Icon Evolution
Free Speech Icon Free Speech
News Media Icon News Media

Inside the Evolution Silo — Darwinism as a Cult

Photo credit: Intricate Explorer via Unsplash.

I know that sounds harsh but think about it. I was listening to podcaster Scott Adams who discusses the phenomenon of a “news silo” where members of the public are sheltered from news that violates their preferred political or other narrative. A major news story can break outside of the silo but, because it goes against the narrative, those in the silo will never hear about it. The media they watch won’t let them.

I understand that in a sense we all live in a silo, following our preferred sources of information. But Adams points out that some communities, built around rigid narratives, are far more isolated than others. They function in a cult-like manner. All competing information is excluded. Debate is avoided. Contact with outsiders is discouraged. Anyone who leaves the cult and goes over to the other side is demonized. To admit doubts even in private is to invite censure. The other side is demonized and distorted. Thus a consensus in favor of the ruling narrative is maintained. Sure, those in the cult are well aware of the existence of people outside, but rarely if ever converse with them. Why anyone would wish to live outside, unless they are stupid, deluded, or wicked, is a subject of distressed bewilderment.

“Top Six Evidences”

Does all this sound familiar at all? The defense of Darwinian theory has definite cultish aspects. Our mathematician colleague Granville Sewell observes that if you listen to ID’s critics, you get a wildly simple-minded and ignorant distortion. He quotes an ACLU statement that ID “simply says that some things that seem very complex could not have happened based on natural causes. So where it sees complexity, it declares that it must have been created by a supernatural entity.” But that is an absurd, hopeless caricature. Dr. Sewell lists what he calls the “Top Six Evidences for Intelligent Design.” How many among the staunch defenders of Darwinism are even aware of the major areas of evidence for design that ID proponents offer? My experience is that very few could even name those areas. How many could tell you, for example, what Stephen Meyer says in Darwin’s Doubt or what Michael Denton says in his new book, The Miracle of the Cell? Vanishingly few.

A Curious Apologetics

Why is that? Darwin defenders practice a curious kind of apologetics where they steer clear of familiarity with the competing scientific view. Debate is avoided. They campaign to prevent high school students from hearing that evolution may have scientific weaknesses. Atheist biologist Jerry Coyne, an emeritus professor at the University of Chicago, writes a voluminous blog, Why Evolution Is True, where you would expect some engagement with the competition. But your expectation would be disappointed. In their community, the favored narrative is protected by the mother of all news silos. How many evolutionary scientists have even met a proponent of intelligent design? If they do meet them, they avoid them. When ID scientists and scholars participated in the important Royal Society conference “New trends in evolutionary biology: biological, philosophical and social science perspectives,” they were shunned.

Darwinists can’t understand why anyone would wish to be outside the silo. Atheist biologist Richard Dawkins has said he would “rather not consider” the possibility that the outsiders are “wicked,” but neither does he rule it out.

Perhaps the most cult-like aspect of Darwinism is the way it threatens and punishes those in the community who would consider speaking up about their doubts or would leave altogether. As Yale computer scientist David Gelernter has said, in the context of his own coming out as a Darwin skeptic, “You take your life in your hands to challenge it intellectually. They will destroy you if you challenge it.” The Free Science website tells the stories of scientists who nearly were destroyed for challenging Darwin from within the silo. 

The Community Rule

The editors of a prominent journal, the Journal of Theoretical Biology, published a peer-reviewed pro-ID paper recently only to, it seems, be reminded by the community that they had broken the community rule: no serous interaction with design arguments. They promptly published a disclaimer, rejecting their own article, and offered up instead another article seeking to rebut the first. You can understand why they panicked: they don’t want to have their own careers ruined for letting in a little light.

That Darwinism functions much as a cult doesn’t by itself rule out the possibility of its being a true picture of biological origins. To judge that question you would to have weigh the competing arguments. But that is what most evolution defenders have steadfastly refused to do.