Steve Fuller and Christian Exceptionalism

Poor Francis Collins: now his book has been panned in New Scientist…by Steve Fuller. That Steve Fuller, the pompous pseudo-post-modernist who testified for Intelligent Design creationism in Dover. His criticism has an interesting angle, though. Collins is just like Richard Dawkins. Who knew?

In trying to accommodate too many camps, Collins ends up mired in confusion. Ironically, rather like Richard Dawkins, he treats religions equally, thereby homogenising them. Collins promotes “theistic evolution”, a philosophy sufficiently devoid of controversy, if not content, to be “espoused by many Hindus, Muslims, Jews and Christians, including Pope John Paul II”. It amounts to a treaty with God, whereby science does the “how” and religion the “why” of reality.

Dawkins and Collins clearly need a lesson in social science. The idea that, say, Hinduism and Islam can be lumped together is left over from 19th-century attempts to understand how complex social relations survived long stretches of time without the modern nation state. Repeating this idea uncritically in 2006 when we know better is bizarre.

That’s Fuller for you. Do you think neither Collins nor Dawkins can see the differences between Hinduism and Islam? Proposing theistic evolution (which I do not find at all interesting, and see as merely a weaker kind of anti-science) as a shared philosophical bridge that could reconcile different religions to science is not lumping them together.

However, that isn’t actually Fuller’s gripe, anyway. His problem isn’t that these fellows lack a sufficiently nuanced appreciation of the diversity of religion…it’s that they don’t go far enough in giving mad props to Jesus as the BEST, the GREATEST, the COOLEST Messiah ever.

As is Collins’s refusal to deal with Christianity’s uniqueness in being both most inspirational and most resistant to science. On the one hand, Christians extended the Biblical entitlement of humanity to understand and exercise dominion over nature. On the other, they baulked at theories such as Darwinism that failed to put humans on top. The alleged war between science and religion has really been a fight over the soul of Christianity.

Remember, if you want to make Steve Fuller happy with your position, it has to be a full-on sectarian promotion of a very specific religious dogma, and it must be solidly Christian. Don’t you go giving any credit to Buddhism, or he’ll wag his finger at you.

For all their faults, intelligent-design theorists grasp this much better than Collins. Immanuel Kant argued that moral law is no more and no less than our private imitation of God’s enforcement of physical law. Subsequently, as our understanding of nature changed, our relationship to each other changed too. So when intelligent-design theorists think of a Darwinist, they don’t imagine a Collins, who sees evolutionary theory as a boon to medicine. Rather, they see an animal-rights protester who wonders, on good Darwinian but anti-Christian grounds, why human comfort has priority over animal suffering.

Fuller is a wonderful example of an Alien Mind, one that just doesn’t seem to work in quite the same way as mine—it’s as if an ant or a sea slug had acquired the level of intelligence needed to communicate its ideas, and we find a whole slew of fascinatingly skewed perspectives that we struggle to understand. So when I’m seen through the lens of the Discovery Institute, I’m a vegan PETA acolyte who wants to give mosquitos my privileges? I’ve always known their views to be a bit cracked, but that’s more insane than I would have imagined. I hate to say it, but I think the gang at the DI are a little smarter than that (but not by much.)

Can somebody explain how this deranged cultist gets published in something like New Scientist? I really don’t believe that sociologists and philosophers simply pull stories out of their asses, but that seems to be Fuller’s usual approach.

Fuller S (2006) God and science: You just can’t please everyone. New Scientist 2566:48.


  1. #1 bruce hood
    September 13, 2008

    I guess this is really some time after the event (2 years!!)

    But the book is written, the comments are in and you can watch the movie

    take a peek if you have time