Each of us lives within at least one of a number of stories about where we’ve come from, what’s gone wrong, how we fix it, and where we are going. I’ve just finished reading Glenn Sunshine’s Portals: Entering Your Neighbor’s World, which lays out the prominent stories guiding peoples’ lives today.
One option, for example, is the story of Secular Naturalism, which goes something like this. Where we’ve come from is a result of natural selection at work within a larger process of evolution. What went wrong has to do with either genetics, societal dysfunction, or both. The solution to this problem is to pursue a utopia in which humanity can work together to overcome the deficiencies caused by genetics and social dysfunction. Where we are going is nowhere in particular, which means the best we can do is seek to maximize our own self-fulfillment.
This story leaves me with some key questions. First, what evidence is there to justify a belief in natural selection in particular and evolution in general? For example, if evolution were true, why is it that complex life exists on earth but apparently nowhere else in our solar system? Shouldn’t natural selection be as operative on those planets as it is on our own?
Second, can all of our problems really be attributed to either genetics or societal dysfunction? Is there not a moral conscience that each of us possesses? Is evil not a reality in the world?
Third, if genetics and social dysfunction really were the core problems, then wouldn’t we all be happy communists or Nazis by now?
Fourth, is self-fulfillment really possible in pursuit of a utopia that is seeking to rule out both genetic and societal defects? Ask any Russian about the “Paradise of the Soviets” and they will chuckle.
Does the above seem like a reasonable portrayal of the secular naturalist story? To what extent do you find this story persuasive and to what extent do you find it wanting?