As a brief refresher, let me state again that it is the ultimate purpose of this four-part article to develop an understanding of how Darwin‘s theory of evolution came to be seen as a theory for nonbelievers. In order to pursue such a purpose, in part 1, I had to establish that historically, there were men of faith who supported Darwin when he published his “Origin Of Species.” I introduced you to B.B. Warfield and Charles Kingsley, and mainly, to Asa Gray.
Of course it isn’t as if only three Christian men supported evolution and no one else. Not at all — there were many more, and if you embark upon the journey to research the topic you will find them — but three examples for one-quarter of an article is sufficient. And yet, while it was proven to us at last, that indeed men of faith backed Darwin, and believed wholeheartedly that “contradictions” between scripture and science weren’t contradictions at all, but in fact merely spotlights that showed us it was our perception of biblical meaning that was in question — human pride, so often wanting to spare the dignity of mind and thus desiring to spare perception in order to save face — caused many to stick to their guns.
Bulldogs and deniers manned their ships for battle, and as cannons from both sides fired away, it was neither of them that foundered, but rather evolution itself — both sides paying so much attention to destroying one another, they heard not its cries for help. Sadly, evolution still finds itself at the bottom of the sea today, and the war between deniers and bulldogs rages on. We will examine the bulldogs in this second installment, beginning from the time of Darwin up until now.
First, we have a strange-looking
hobbit man from the Shire Middlesex, by the name of Thomas Henry Huxley. While Huxley was not an atheist, he did see the idea of his colleague Mr. Darwin regarding the “transmutation of species” as nonetheless confirming his own agnosticism, thereby giving more credit to evolution than what it could actually take.
He had a reputation for being loud, in-your-face and quick at wit. During his famous debate with the English bishop Samuel Wilberforce (son of the abolitionist William Wilberforce), Huxley was asked if he was descended from an ape on his grandmother’s side or his grandfather’s, to which he shot back that he would rather be descended from apes than be a man of great intellect who used his talents to suffocate truth — causing the entire room to erupt with laughter.
While we, as theistic evolutionists, smile at Huxley’s moxie when used in the service of defeating the preachers and teachers who used such positions to spread pseudoscience and blatant untruths, there comes a point with Huxley where we must part ways. Regarding the laws of nature and a “higher power,” Huxley stated that life was like a game of chess: “The chess board is the world, the pieces the phenomena of the universe, the rules of the game are what we call the laws of nature. The player on the other side is hidden from us.”
When we consider Huxley’s boisterous reputation in addition to his being convinced that evolution somehow backed up the notion that we could not know there was a God — because he was “hidden from us — and thus, humankind is all alone, with only our telescopes and digging utensils to guide us, we can see how the misconception that evolution was for nonbelievers began.
Second, we have H.L. Mencken, a guy I really didn’t want to pick on. As a writer who mastered the art of polemics and was a passionate defender of free speech during the era of Woodrow Wilson, Mencken was able to make compelling cases for things that today we would deem common sense — everything from women’s rights to ending the disastrous alcohol prohibition of the 1920s and early 30s. His writings and his opinions achieved a lot more good than harm.
Yet, when it came to the issue of evolution, Mencken was a die-hard atheist: “The effort to reconcile science and religion is almost always made, not by theologians, but by scientists unable to shake off altogether the piety absorbed with their mothers’ milk. The theologians, with no such dualism addling their wits, are smart enough to see that the two things are implacably and eternally antagonistic …”
Last and most recent of the bulldogs, we have Richard Dawkins. An evolutionary biologist, former University of Oxford Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and author of “The God Delusion” (rebuttal to that book linked here), Dawkins remarked in an op-ed for the Huffington Post:
Scientists divide into two schools of thought over the best tactics with which to face the threat. The Neville Chamberlain ‘appeasement’ school focuses on the battle for evolution. Consequently, its members identify fundamentalism as the enemy, and they bend over backwards to appease ‘moderate’ or ‘sensible’ religion (not a difficult task, for bishops and theologians despise fundamentalists as much as scientists do). Scientists of the Winston Churchill school, by contrast, see the fight for evolution as only one battle in a larger war: a looming war between supernaturalism on the one side and rationality on the other. For them, bishops and theologians belong with creationists in the supernatural camp, and are not to be appeased.
Of course Huxley, Mencken and Dawkins were not the only men who helped prop up the misconception of “evolution for the godless.” There were many more people involved. But showing a snapshot of these three, who lived largely in different time periods, and who were all influential to the culture around them, it is easy to get a glimpse as to why people, particularly Americans and the British, began to think of evolution as being for atheists and agnostics.
But how does their rationale hold up? The idea that, “Because the origin of the universe didn’t happen the way ‘God’ said it did in the Bible, and since for a reason unknown, ‘God’ is unlike any author in that he is not permitted to tell a fictional story with a deeper truth, we are going to claim that God does not exist and evolution proves it”?
What if we were to say, “Well, ‘Moby Dick’ isn’t realistic. It didn’t actually happen that way, so therefore, there was no Herman Melville”? It’s absurd.
Another objection is that a loving God wouldn’t allow for the supposed “brutality” of natural selection. But such an objection shows ignorance concerning natural selection, which we’re learning might have more to do with compassion and cooperation, rather than simply “the strong survive.”
Whatever the arguments, we can see very clearly, that the bulldogs can bark and growl and froth, but their bite is found wanting. I wish the same could be said for Darwin’s deniers, whom we will discuss next.
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