They key point in all of this is that Manzi was not denying, say, that all existing life forms have a common ancestor. Rather, he was pointing out that Coyne (and many others discussing the “findings” of evolution) take these results and then derive a far more sweeping conclusion, having to do with the “meaning” or “significance” of it all, particularly its relationship to common religious or spiritual attitudes.
To epitomize what I mean, here’s an excerpt from Manzi’s second piece:
In my post, I said that Coyne claimed in his review that “evolution through natural selection demonstrates that there is no divine plan for the universe. Coyne, in his reply to me, says this about it:
[Coyne:] Wrong! What I have said repeatedly is that there is no evidence for a divine plan for the universe.
Well, here is the first paragraph of Coyne’s review [of another writer’s book], which I quoted in my post [Bold added by Manzi]:
[Coyne:] Over its history, science has delivered two crippling blows to humanity’s self-image. The first was Galileo’s announcement, in 1632, that our Earth was just another planet and not, as Scripture implied, the center of the universe. The secondand more severelanded in 1859, when Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, demolishing, in 545 pages of closely reasoned prose, the comforting notion that we are unique among all species, the supreme object of God’s creation, and the only creature whose earthly travails could be cashed in for a comfortable afterlife.
He doesn’t say that there is no evidence for it, but that Darwin demolished this notion.
As I say, this beautifully illustrates what happens all the time in these debates: An atheist familiar with evolutionary biology will say things like, “The findings of Galileo and Darwin destroyed the Christian’s notion of self-importance” and then when a Christian objects, the atheist will retreat to, “Oh I never said you couldn’t believe in God, what’s your deal? We’re talking about mechanical properties here; there’s no philosophical ‘meaning’ involved. Don’t you understand the boundary lines between science and religion?”
So in conclusion, it is NOT correct for people to say things like, “Murphy denies evolution.” (I don’t see that anymore on my Wikipedia page. Now it appears that my career consisted of 50% writing some books and testifying to Congress, and 50% betting David R. Henderson that there would be double-digit inflation. I guess as with organisms, so too with Wikiepedia entries: I can only hope for incremental improvement.)
Rather, when I write on evolution as it’s discussed in the public arena in the United States, I am pointing out that the atheist/agnostic commentators often smuggle in a lot more than they are admitting, perhaps than they are even realizing.