What they don't teach you about Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin is an early scientist who pioneers research in evolution – right? Wrong!

In the 1800s natural theology was growing and popular. William Buckland, for instance, argued in 1822 that the world was millions of years old. In 1824 he wrote the first full account of a dinosaur. He observed in the Scottish landscape evidence of an Ice Age. Buckland was a lecturer in Geology at Oxford and a clergyman.

He saw no tension between science and religion. On the contrary – he, and many other Christians saw science as natural theology. To study creation was to appreciate the creator – to think God’s thoughts after him. Part of how God created, argued Cope – another Clergyman Geologist – was to ordain the evolution of species.

What then was Darwin’s contribution? Darwin observed, correctly, that the evolution of species entails the strong overcoming the weak. For Darwin, the natural selection of the strong surviving, rather than the hand of God, was the pattern by which evolution unfolded.

All of this sounds scientific. Logical, about facts. Do not be deceived. Here is a quote from Darwin.

“We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of everyone to the last moment.” “No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that must be highly injurious to the race of man."[1]

Darwin theory of natural selection led him to the logical conclusion that the weakest ought to be left to die. The stronger are better.

Darwin visited Australia, encountered Aboriginals, and called them 'savages'. In Darwin’s mind, the “advance of civilization was a triumphant progress, morally justified and probably inevitable.” White pastoralists would use Darwin’s theories to argue for the extermination of indigenous people.[2]

Darwin was raised, and early in life confessed to being a Christian. His wife was a lifelong Christian. Darwin's move away from God towards science was a move from light towards darkness. Why does our culture esteem him?

Cope maintained an interest in science, an open mind, and belief in a God who created human beings in his image. We are all special and equal in God’s eyes. To be compassionate is to reflect God. I find Cope a more compelling person to esteem.

Rev David Rietveld

Senior Minister

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[1] Darwin, as cited by Holland, Dominion, 426. [2] Tony Barta (2005) Mr Darwin's shooters: on natural selection and the naturalizing of genocide, Patterns of Prejudice, 39:2, 116-137, DOI: 10.1080/00313220500106170


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