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Darwin and Darwinism
BY BRIAN WELTER
The Darwin Myth is a sometimes irritating but highly relevant, interesting book. Relevant and interesting because of statements like the following: “Darwinism is not a synonym for evolution. Darwinism is a particular approach to the evidence for evolution, a reductionistic, materialistic approach that excludes the Divine on principle.”
Irritating because of overly conciliatory statements such as this: “As for me, I shall always prefer a theory of evolution that can explain so great a man as Charles Darwin.”
Given the harsh, disrespectful tone of many involved in the culture wars, including atheists, scientists and Christians, Wiker’s gentlemanly approach towards Darwin the man seems a most welcome alternative. The author succeeds at cutting through the anti-Darwinian rhetoric. He goes to great pains to show that Darwin was kind and fatherly, sacrificing in the little ways for his friends and family. He nursed the kids when they were sick and, once, passed on for publication an anti-Darwinian article an acquaintance had mailed to him.
This seems a most welcome alternative: In Benjamin Wiker’s attempt to make the entire debate more gentlemanly, he has failed to adequately condemn the coldness in Darwin’s heart towards people he considered beneath him, such as the tribes he met on the Falklands Islands and in South America. It is incumbent on Christians to take a harsh view of the thoughts and also the person behind those thoughts, whatever grandfatherly qualities he may have had.
The Descent of Man contains thoughts like the following: “[T]he civilized races of many will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races.” Darwin again: “f we do not ‘prevent the reckless, the vicious and otherwise inferior races from increasing at a quicker rate than the better class of men, the nation will retrograde.”
Who cares if Darwin was a kindly father? Darwin and his followers knew their thinking would lead to terrible consequences, which it did. Wiker points out that even many of Darwin’s scientific friends feared the outcome of such harsh, racist thinking. They also opposed Darwin’s assertion that natural selection explained everything — that the process whereby animals (and therefore physically weak humans?) poorly suited to their environment would quickly die, unable to pass on their “defective” genes.
One of the many strengths of The Darwin Myth is the carefully constructed portrayal of how Darwin wanted desperately to keep God out of the picture. Rather than starting as a religious thinker who gradually grew out of his superstitious beliefs and came to understand the scientific basis of reality, which is how Darwin and his followers have often portrayed his development, Darwin started out with deep-seated antipathy to religion. His grandfather had written an account of nature based on evolution. Several generations of the Darwins were evolutionists and atheists/agnostics.
In other words, Darwin set out from the beginning to formulate an account of evolution that left God out. This is the real thesis of Wiker, and rather than repeatedly digressing to Darwin’s vocation as a father and friend, The Darwin Myth, an otherwise skillfully written book, could have been harder hitting here. Darwinians believe that their account of evolution — the godless account — is the only scientific account. Wiker takes us in a few steps towards other options. Leaving God out of the theory of evolution is not a scientific but a philosophical and theological matter. Scientists have no right to exclude God automatically from creation.
Brian Welter writes from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
The Darwin Myth
The Life and Lies of Charles Darwin
By Benjamin Wiker
Regnery Publishing, 2009
196 pages, $27.95
To order: regnery.com