Godless: The Church of Liberalism by Ann Coulter, Three Rivers Press, New York, 2007, 326 pages
Ann Coulter is always witty, pithy and funny, and a dead shot at hitting her targets. A rational political analyst if ever there was one, she writes a barbed prose that is a delight to read, especially when she is about the business of exposing the absurdity, hypocrisy, and the sheer bad faith of the Left.
Sometimes her jibes seem exaggerated but are essentially true: ‘Environmentalists want mass infanticide, zero population growth, reduced standards of living, and vegetarianism. The core of environmentalism is that they hate mankind’. Or, ‘the Left’s most dangerous religious belief is their adoration of violent criminals.’
She’s an expert in throw-away lines such as: ‘The democrats’ leading geopolitical strategist, Bianca Jagger, said …’ And she’s funny even when she stalks the wilder shores of nonsense as with: ‘Why hasn’t the earthworm evolved into a beagle? Just for being cute, a beagle can acquire a six-room coop apartment on Park Avenue, surely an evolutionary advantage.’ On a liberal’s objection to another liberal’s argument for bestiality that an animal cannot ‘consent’ to having sex with a human being, she remarks: ‘It is only through a quirk of its species that the poor mute goat is unable to communicate its consent, and man and beast are forever condemned to being star-crossed lovers, like Tristan and Isolde.’
When she comes to religion, however, clarity of thought fails her. Though still funny, still trenchant and eloquent and highly readable, she soft-pedals reason as she lets us hear it for her faith. Like a great many American conservatives, she is a believing Christian. To her, ‘liberal’ is synonymous with ‘atheist’, and both are synonymous with ‘Darwinist’ .
Darwin’s theory of evolution she regards with the utmost contempt and irritation. She observes that Darwinists – or ‘Darwiniacs’ as she frequently calls them – cling to their theory with fanatical faith rather than subject it to scientific criticism. Not that she is against fanatical faith as such. She can see great merit in it as long as it is faith in the supernatural.
Evolution, she claims, cannot stand up to rigorous scientific testing. It has no proofs. That is why evidence for it, such as the Piltdown Skull, has had to be forged. Having no proofs, and failing the Popperian ‘falsifiability test’, it is ‘pseudo-science’. Those who embrace it do so, in her opinion, only to spite God or God-believers, and to let themselves ‘off the hook morally’ – as if moral laws really had been dictated to us by a divine legislator and not, as they must have been, conceived for sound reasons by human beings.
‘No [lack of] evidence will ever shake their confidence in the theory of evolution,’ she accuses Darwinian biologists. And I suspect that no lack of evidence will ever shake her confidence in the theory of divine creation. But is it not passing strange that while she absolutely cannot believe in the possibility of simple life-forms evolving into complex life-forms, she has no difficulty at all in believing that a virgin gave birth to a son? It is always interesting to hear the religious demanding iron proofs of any and every scientific finding or idea that calls a divine Creator into question, while they themselves hold unshakeably to beliefs which have no proofs whatsoever.
So how does Coulter account for the world being as it is? She ascribes creation – following the current intellectual fashion among the religious when they argue with evolutionists – to an ‘Intelligent Designer’, aka God. And although evolution, to her certain satisfaction, is a busted theory, if it really did happen then it was God that made it happen. ‘God can do anything, including evolution.’ In fact she discovers that if you look at evolution as God’s handiwork, it is not so absurd after all. The higher species came into existence because God was learning as he went along:
‘The successive appearance of more complex species does seem to show something that looks like progress. But that has nothing to do with the Darwinian mechanism of natural selection. One also sees progress in the Wright brothers’ increasingly complex air-planes, a master’s paintings … progressions all notable for being the product of “intelligent designers”. The appearance of progress hardly establishes mutation and natural selection as the engine of change. To the contrary, the similarities that so mesmerize Darwiniacs look more like the progress of a designed object than the result of a series of lucky accidents. Far from the fantastic competition of a dog-eat-dog struggle to survive, we see a fossil record that reveals a rather clean, well-organized sequence.’
So the Intelligent Designer had to work on his ideas to get them better and better? He needed to improve? Quite apart from the question of what an intelligent designer was intelligently designing the world for, which the religious never can tell us, doesn’t the idea that He or It has to learn as He or It goes along ruin the notion of a perfect, infallible, omniscient, omnipotent Being? Coulter doesn’t notice that, or at least doesn’t say.
One of the facts she raises to question Darwin is the ‘explosion’ of species in the Cambrian period. Darwin himself, she says, referred to the great difficulty of explaining the absence of ‘vast piles of strata rich in fossils’ before it. Therefore, she implies, they could not have evolved and must have been – what? Plonked down on Earth all at once by the hand of the experimenting Creator? And where was Man then? ‘We have dominion over the plants and animals on Earth,’ she writes, because the Book of Genesis says so. Where was Man when the dinosaurs stalked the Earth? Why did we not have dominion over them? Or did we? Perhaps Man was already there enjoying dominion over those gigantic creatures, and maybe his fossil remains will yet turn up in the geological strata. Just when did God fashion a man from the dust and a woman from one of his ribs and set them down fully-formed in Eden?
And why did He give them an appendix?