Darwin Today

Posted by Bertrand Russell site

Image: Charles Darwin (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) was an English naturalist and geologist, best known for his contributions to evolutionary theory. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors. Darwin considered it “absurd to doubt that a man might be an ardent theist and an evolutionist” and, though reticent about his religious views, in 1879 he wrote “I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God. I think that generally an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind”. The “Lady Hope Story”, published in 1915, claimed that Darwin had reverted to Christianity on his sickbed. The claims were repudiated by Darwin’s children and have been dismissed as false by historians.—But what is there to revert to, if nothing was left in the first place?

“On most topics the atmosphere of my childhood was liberal; for instance, Darwinism was accepted as a matter of course. I had at one time, when I was thirteen, a very orthodox Swiss tutor, who, in consequence of something I had said, stated with great earnestness: “If you are a Darwinian, I pity you, for one cannot be Darwinian and Christian at the same time.” I did not believe in the incompatibility, but I was already clear that if I had to choose, I would choose Darwin.” — Bertrand Russell, My Religious Reminiscences (1938), p. 4

Is there a child in most countries who has not heard of Darwin? Of what he represents? I had thought when I was younger and still a fledgling of naivete, that the Scopes (monkey) trial had settled the issue. The Bible, as a literal instruction book of humanity and history was proven incorrect. But in the battle of science vs Christianity, the veracity of science lost. Even then. Even then, at the end of the trial when science “won” the battle, science lost in the schools. It still could not be taught. Imagine that.

And we wonder how we got to today. It became then and still is today in many places, a matter of faith. Imagine that. Do you believe in God and Christianity (the Bible), or do you believe in Science? Good God almighty!

I am reminded of a conversation an interviewer had with the Dali Lama. Within it was noted that the tenets of Buddhism adhered to the principles of science. Buddhism had, in fact, arrived at some conclusions prior to the postulates of science. The Dali Lama agreed. He was then asked what would happen should there be a difference, an actual disagreement between science and Buddhism. Where the proofs were indisputable for science. The Dali Lama smiled and said, “Well then, we would have to correct the Dharma, wouldn’t we.” Change the Dharma. Imagine that.

And so we sigh, and picture the mice again chiming in at the bottom of the page, “The wayyyyyyyyy things are,” in their squeaky, high-pitched little voices.

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