Friday, September 19, 2008

Darwin said...

In the US, no scientific paradigm is more misunderstood, misrepresented and distorted than Evolutionary Biology (EB), often simplistically and disparagingly referred to as "Darwinism", "evolutionism" or even more confusingly, "evolution". It's no small wonder then that Charles Darwin, seen as the "chief Darwinian miscreant", suffers also the brunt of lies and distortions that serve the noisy Creationist movement's agenda.

So, for any lurking creationists out there, here are some things the man really said/wrote:

From Timesonline
So, in the interests, of rescuing him from the no-man’s-land in which he has become trapped, here are 10 Darwin quotations, from his later years, which you are unlikely to hear from the mouths of either creationists or atheists in 2009.

1. “The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic.” (Autobiography)

2. “It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist & an evolutionist.” (Letter to John Fordyce, May 7 1879)

3. “I hardly see how religion & science can be kept as distinct as [Edward Pusey] desires… But I most wholly agree… that there is no reason why the disciples of either school should attack each other with bitterness.” (Letter to J. Brodie Innes, November 27 1878)

4. “In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God.” (Letter to John Fordyce, May 7 1879)

5. “I think that generally (& more and more so as I grow older) but not always, that an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind.” (Letter to John Fordyce, May 7 1879)

6. “I am sorry to have to inform you that I do not believe in the Bible as a divine revelation, & therefore not in Jesus Christ as the son of God.” (Letter to Frederick McDermott, November 24 1880)

7. [In conversation with the atheist Edward Aveling, 1881] “Why should you be so aggressive? Is anything gained by trying to force these new ideas upon the mass of mankind?” (Edward Aveling, The religious views of Charles Darwin, 1883)

8. “Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?” (Letter to Graham William, July 3 1881)

9. "My theology is a simple muddle: I cannot look at the Universe as the result of blind chance, yet I can see no evidence of beneficent Design." (Letter to Joseph Hooker, July 12 1870)

10. “I can never make up my mind how far an inward conviction that there must be some Creator or First Cause is really trustworthy evidence.” (Letter to Francis Abbot, September 6 1871)

But despite the author's laudable intent of clarifying Darwin's positions, all is not well with this piece which contains at least one grossly contentious description of the relation between Evolutionary Biology, Darwin and atheism/agnosticism:
In the other trench lie the militant Godless who – bizarrely – wholly agree with the creationists. Darwinism, they proclaim, does indeed undermine religious belief and a good thing too. Darwin is their icon and they frantically genuflect before his image, in a way brilliantly parodied by the satirical magazine The Onion.

Nick Spencer is director of studies at the public theology think-tank Theos but clearly hasn't studied that part of the creationist kerfuffle all that well or is promoting his own little agenda.

No serious atheist or agnostic believes that "Darwinism does indeed undermine religious belief", let alone engages in "frantically genuflect[ing] before his image". Evolutionary Biology, as a by-product, does indeed disprove a literal interpretation of Genesis (the Young Earth) but otherwise makes no pronouncements about the existence/non-existence of god or gods. The First Cause Problem makes dismissing a creating entity altogether more difficult even though the overwhelming evidence of EB points to the fact that man (and the entire biological kingdom) were not created by an acting entity (deity).

But mankind's hopeless addiction to reductionism, Manicheism and thirst for bipolar explanations does lead to a certain fraction of atheists defending EB with quasi-religious zeal.

The above quotes were found in a linked article embedded in this Times article, titled Anglicans back Darwin over 'noisy' creationists, hat tip to Bacon Eating Atheist Jew.


At 5:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All I know or have ever heard/read of Darwin and Darwinian theory comply with your point: mainly that he was a practicing Christian not despite but rather in harmony with his evolutionary theory.

At 3:38 PM, Blogger Baconeater said...

I think that if Darwin had lived today, he most probably would have been agnostic or atheist.
Back then, there were very few agnostics and atheists, and still many questions that left room for deities.
Plus there was the overwhelming social pressure to believe back then too.


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