The Long Arm of Darwin

Darwinian philosophy today controls the educational and scientific communities and influences most other aspects of society just as inflexibly and stiflingly as did Aristotelian philosophy in Catholic Europe during the days of Galileo. The reach of Darwinian ideas into our lives is nothing short of amazing. 

For example, Alfred Kinsey, whose work profoundly influenced the Western world’s view of sexual mores, was fundamentally motivated by his belief that humans are merely the product of evolutionary forces. The problems and suffering arising from just this one area of misunderstanding based on evolutionary philosophy have been profound. 

Historian Gertrude Himmelfarb, in her book Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution, identifies numerous other well-known and influential people who, like Thomas Huxley, celebrated the arrival of an alternative explanation for the existence of life on earth and used it as a basis for their own ideas. 

She quotes, among others, German Bible critic David Strauss, who praised Darwin for showing atheists how to eliminate the need for a miracle-working God by showing how life could exist without a Creator. Darwin, he said, “has opened the door by which a happier coming race will cast out miracles, never to return.” 

Pointing out the connection between Darwinism and some of the worst concepts in all of human history, Himmelfarb notes: “The subtitle of [The Origin of Species] made a convenient motto for racists: ‘The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.’ Darwin, of course, took ‘races’ to mean varieties or species; but it was no violation of his meaning to extend it to human races. . . . Darwin himself, in spite of his aversion to slavery, was not averse to the idea that some races were more fit than others. . . . Thus it has become a portmanteau of nationalism, imperialism, militarism, and dictatorship, of the cults of the hero, the superman, and the master race. . . . And it is by an obvious process of analogy and deduction that they are said to derive from Darwinism.” 

Himmelfarb also observes: “When Marx read the Origin, he enthusiastically declared it to be a ‘basis in natural science for the class struggle in history.’” She also asserts: “There was truth in Englels’ eulogy on Marx: ‘Just as Darwin discovered the law of evolution in organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of evolution in human history.’” 

On the other hand, she notes that “George Romanes, a devoted friend and disciple of Darwin, later came to deplore the spiritual consequences of modern science: ‘Never in the history of man has so terrific a calamity befallen the race as that which all who look may now behold advancing as a deluge, black with destruction, resistless in might, uprooting our most cherished hopes, engulfing our most precious creed, and burying our highest life in mindless desolation. . . . The flood-gates of infidelity are open, and Atheism overwhelming is upon us.’” 

In light of the horrors of Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China, George Romanes’ lament must qualify as one of the most prescient statements to come out of the 19th century.