“Freak chances of evolution in an indifferent cosmos”

In a criticism of Richard Dawkins’ upcoming series, The Root of All Evil, attacking religion, Guardian columnist Madeleine Bunting tries to find space leftover for, well, god: “It’s also right for religion to concede ground to science to explain natural processes; but at the same time, science has to concede that despite its huge advances it still cannot answer questions about the nature of the universe — such as whether we are freak chances of evolution in an indifferent cosmos”.

Well, no.

Evolution, per se, says that our existence is indeed a freak chance in an indifferent cosmos. What it doesn’t tell us — because we don’t yet know enough about the origin of life here, let alone anywhere else — is whether life is common in the Universe, and if so, whether intelligence is a common result of evolution. But we, humanity, are indeed a contingent, freak occurrence. Any meaning that it may hold is up to us to impose.

I haven’t seen the show yet, but on the other hand I don’t think Dawkins’ shrill attacks on religion are particularly sensible — it’s a human institution like any other, and all institutions are as fallible as the people in them, irrespective of their so-called rationality. Again, it’s all in the meaning and the order that we impose on that “indifferent cosmos”.