Saturday, January 17, 2009

Mr Darwin's sesquicentennial

There appears to be great excitement in intellectual circles about the century and a half that has passed since Mr Charles Darwin published his tome The Origin of the Species. Indeed it even appears to be casting a pall over my bicentenary as an event of note from the 19th century.

I was among those who expressed concern at this publication and its reception within those circles who wished to use it to disprove the traditions of the Church. In reviewing the events of this sesquicentennial event, I find little cause for celebration, even if it is true that the scientific evidence continues to support Mr Darwin's bold hypothesis.

It is apparent that the present proliferation of literature and visual output is intended to drive the last vestiges of the Christian faith from this country. And yet, and yet, those who celebrate have failed to consider the dangers of such a course of action and the eradication of Christian morality.

An early example has been the advertisements that have appeared on a number of omnibuses stating the following: "There is probably no god. So don't worry and enjoy yourself." I do not believe the eminent Mr TH Huxley, with whom I had many disagreements, would have supported such a statement, even though he declared himself to be agnostic. For Mr Huxley and the humanist movement that surrounded him expected with confidence that mankind itself could evolve to embed the moral values of Christianity - albeit shorn of belief in the Godhead. The statement displayed on the omnibuses represents a new morality - or rather an absence of morality - that does indeed derive from the work of Mr Darwin. It is unsurprising that the British Humanist Association should endorse these advertisements but it is nevertheless regrettable; and at a time when many thousands are in peril of their livelihoods it was ill-timed and may suggest that Mr Darwin's heritage may not be the cause of celebration that some would wish.

My recent studies indeed suggest to me that a proper reading and understanding of Mr Darwin's findings should serve to reinforce the teaching of the Church, not to undermine it. Indeed Mr Bagehot's The Economist published an article last month which extolled Mr Darwin's contribution to the understanding of human behaviour. I do not disagree with the thesis in its entirety. For it took but a few decades for the optimism of my last years to be overshadowed, indeed shattered into a thousand pieces, as it became clear that picking fruit from the Tree of Knowledge would not be the salvation of mankind, would not make humanity any better. And in due course, the world plumbed new depths when a monstrous regime in Germany combined the concept of speciation and evolution with the myopia of medieval Europe and set out to create a race of super-beings.

I would therefore urge the 21st century not to forget that the first popular impact of Mr Darwin was to create a sense in the popular mind that humanity might evolve, evolve beyond God, beyond the strictures of the Ten Commandments. Some believed humanity might evolve into angelic and beneficial beings, others believed that humanity must struggle between itself and that only the fittest would survive. A sorry legacy indeed for the Darwin family.

It appears that popular conceptions have evolved, if not humanity itself. For the thesis of Mr Bagehot, and I understand many others, is that if men and women are merely animals then their behaviour will always be that appropriate to a species of ape. It does indeed follow therefore that the British Humanist Association must declare the chief aim of Man to be enjoyment; albeit that the true aim of each individual is, it seems, to reproduce and nothing else. And everywhere that one's gaze might fall, there is evidence of the pursuit of pleasure. Let it not be forgotten that the prosperity the modern age enjoys arises not from Mr Darwin but from Mr James Watt and those engineers who created modern industry prior to Mr Darwin.

Let us not call the pursuit of pleasure a morality. It is an amorality. In spite of the contortions of the followers of Mr Darwin, it is not possible to derive unselfish behaviour from this amorality. The population may weep when the television broadcasts pictures of children in Gaza destroyed by the weapons we have manufactured; but the population may also use their electronic devices to choose another form of entertainment; they may prefer to weep when their favoured entertainer fails to win at the X-factor. Indeed I hear that the new generations of young people are unlikely to view these news broadcasts; for they are more likely to be engaged in games of fake warfare and fantasy destruction.

How different from the population of the 19th century which liberated the slaves, and flocked to the polling stations to protest at the oppression of peoples in far away lands of which they knew little.

It is now apparent to me that Mr Darwin's science was correct for the most part; that he described and led others to describe in detail how the world was shaped by the Divine Will and how Adam and Eve were created in the form of apes that Divine Providence had enabled to become the highest and most intelligent form of species on the planet.

It is also apparent that this ape would not have developed systems of laws and justice; civilisations that function by popular will, not by the brutality of tyrants; and compassion for those who may be out of sight but cannot be out of mind without the exercise of the divine hand. Indeed it is still possible to state when mankind began the journey from servitude and oppression and that this was some time in the first century Anno Domini. For the Church teaches that man is born to a struggle which the Apostle Paul described as with the World, the Flesh and the Devil; some call this "original sin". An atheist, a Darwinian may not believe in the Devil but he will describe in detail how the flesh, composed as it is of tiny pieces of Deoxyribonucleic acid, binds us, how the world, the culture of this race of apes, oppresses us.

It is the Divine Hand, the Spirit of God, that can make humanity different and better; for this species will not evolve any other way.


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