Roughly coinciding with the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, this timely, interesting, and important book is a firm rejection of the attempts by the contemporary intelligent design (ID) movement to force a religious worldview into the domains of natural and social science. In their examination of the struggle between science and religion, the book’s authors come down forcefully on the side of science, and at the same time shed light on two critical aspects of this debate that have been hitherto largely neglected. First, the writings properly connect the current debate between materialism and creationism to its millennia-long history and thereby provide a valuable historical perspective. Second, they crucially expose the true objectives of the intelligent design movement, goals that entail not only redefining the natural sciences, but also the social sciences as well. The book starts out with a survey of the ID movement, a movement whose proponents have described their goals through the analogy of a wedge. They seek to destabilize the evolutionary consensus in natural science by offering what they see as an alternative scientific theory, and this forms the thin edge of the wedge: religious creationism repackaged in scientific garb. From there, the so-called wedge is to be driven deeper, eventually leading to the realization of a much broader objective, one that entails a restructuring of public life and the social sciences towards religious principles and a reconstitution of a religious foundation for society. Yet Foster et al. do not devote all of their energies to debunking the design argument, although they do reserve a chapter for refuting what ID proponents call “irreducible complexity.” Instead, they investigate the activities of Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, and Sigmund Freud in their attempts to free scientific thought from irrational elements, especially teleological and supernatural explanations of natural and social phenomenon. These three thinkers are then connected to the long line of materialist critique that has attacked the notion that the universe was designed by a supernatural force, a critique that was first thematized by the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus. While revisiting the intellectual development and writings of Marx, Darwin, and Freud, the book consistently points to the notion of human freedom that underlies their materialist worldview. This sharply contradicts the opinion of design proponents, who continually paint Marx, Darwin, and Freud as an “unholy trinity” whose intellectual tradition has led us into a “culture of death.” Their materialist perspective is actually an affirmation of life and a call to recognize our responsibilities to each other and to nature—responsibilities that are necessary to overcome the human alienation that plays a central role in maintaining the structures of domination that are characteristic of present-day capitalism.
This article appeared in the July/August 2009 issue of Canadian Dimension (The queer issue).