Thursday, 5 March 2009

Darwin and Godlessness

Having slated TV in general yesterday for its parlous state it has to be said that there are some gems still to be found. The coverage of the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth has been excellent so far and two programmes tonight, both on BBC Two, promise to keep up that standard. Jimmy Doherty, in "Darwin's Garden", follows in the footsteps of the great man by recreating his experiments with plants at 8 PM while Andrew Marr (does he ever go home?) looks at "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" at 9 PM.

What caught my attention, though, were the respective reviews for these programmes in the Radio Times. Jane Rackham reviewed Darwin's Garden and seemed to take great pleasure in declaring that:

"The results of Darwin's many years of painstaking experimentation demolished the biblical view of creation and created uproar."

There was a certain irony, then, in the review of Darwin's Dangerous idea by Alison Graham who bemoaned the fact that Darwin's theory proved "so potent and divisive that it was immediately hijacked by godless intellectuals such as Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche, the latter memorably declaring 'God is dead'."

In a few sentences these reviewers illustrated how important is how we think about things. Of course, Darwin's theory did not "demolish the biblical view of creation", although it did create an uproar. It did challenge the way Christians had traditionally thought about and understood the biblical view of creation and that is no bad thing. We may change the way we think about and understand these things but why, when we do that in science, is it called progress but when we do it in religion it is evidence of a devastating blow?

The history of Darwin's Dangerous Idea shows us that the hard science is not all we have to consider. As Alison Graham wrote, godless men did hijack it for their own political and ideological purposes, declaring God dead and man expendable because of the fallacious notion that this was "natural". The consequences demonstrate what ensues when people take comfort from a wrong understanding of Darwin and a simplistic view of the Bible; society becomes godless, this familiar misunderstanding of natural selection becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and "every man does what seems right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6)

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