A Church Apology to Darwin?

If news reports are to be believed, the Church of England will apologise to Charles Darwin for rejecting his theory of evolution. This is how the story is being reported:

“Coming 126 years after his death, the church’s apology will focus on how wrong it was for senior bishops in the past to misunderstand and attack Darwin’s theory about man being descended from apes. Senior church officials will post the apology in the form of an article written by the Reverend Dr Malcolm Brown on the church’s website tomorrow. ‘Charles Darwin, 200 years from your birth (in 1809), the Church of England owes you an apology for misunderstanding you and, by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand you still,’ the article says, according to extracts printed by The Mail on Sunday newspaper.”

So what are Christians to make of all this? It is true that some believers have wanted to embrace Darwinism in its entirety, and make it fully compatible with Christian teaching. Known as theistic evolutionists, they have been in a minority position, and have pleased neither fellow Christians nor fellow Darwinists.

This is not the place to enter into a critique of theistic evolution. One can simply say that science itself is not fully convinced about Darwin’s theories. Indeed, they have undergone major revisions over the years. Neo-Darwinism today is also not something enjoying unanimous scientific support.

So if the science is still out – contrary to the huff and bluff of the hard core atheists and Darwinists – why in the world should the church be offering an apology? The truth is, Darwin’s ideas were in many ways quite dangerous.

As Benjamin Wiker points out in his new book, 10 Books That Screwed Up the World, Darwin’s other book was certainly one such volume that would have been better off never seeing the light of day. I refer to his second most important book, The Descent of Man, written in 1871.

Most people are aware of his 1859 book, Origin of the Species. It is one of those most talked about books which most people have never read. And most people are not aware of the full title: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life.

As Wiker points out, “Reading Charles Darwin’s The Descent of Man forces one to face an unpleasant truth: that if everything he said in his more famous Origin of the Species is true, then it quite logically follows that human beings ought to ensure that the fit breed with abandon and that the unfit are weeded out. . . It is impossible to distance Darwin from eugenics: it’s a straight logical shot from his evolutionary ethics.”

The concept of the survival of the fittest of course permeates his 1859 book. True, he did not include human beings in his arguments there. But the anthropological ramifications of his arguments certainly come to the fore in his 1871 volume. Wiker provides ample quotes from The Descent of Man, showing how Darwin’s ideas about the animal world were certainly to include the human world.

Indeed, according to Darwin, humans are simply animals anyway. Thus, as Wiker puts it, “Human races are like different breeds of dogs. They are the result of divergent evolutionary developments. The distinct human races, Darwin informs us, are best considered ‘sub-species,’ that is, somewhere between the transition from distinct breed to distinct species.”

He continues, “But for Darwin, evolution cannot stop there. As time passes, the difference between human races will lead to the evolution of entirely different species. This does not occur from the Chinaman turning into one species, while an Englishman and an African turn into others, but through the elimination of some races by other races according to survival of the fittest. It is a law of evolution…”

Thus, evolution is “driven by competition, and competition brings extinction. Darwin notes, matter-of-factly, that ‘extinction follows chiefly from the competition of tribe with tribe, race with race. . . . When civilised nations come into contact with barbarians the struggle is short, except where a deadly climate gives its aid to the native race.’ That is not a moral complaint; it is a detached scientific description uttered without angst.”

Wiker concludes, “Having read the Descent of Man, we can no longer claim that Darwin didn’t intend the biological theory of evolution outlined in the Origin of the Species to be applied to human beings. Nor can we brush his pernicious words away with a dismissive, ‘He’s just a man of his time.’ Darwin made his time…”

Other scholars have of course pointed out the eugenics connection to Darwin’s biological theories. Bertrand Russell, in his A History of Western Philosophy, put it this way:  “Darwin’s ‘Survival of the Fittest’ led, when thoroughly assimilated, to something more like Nietzsche’s philosophy than like Bentham’s.”

Evolutionist Sir Arthur Keith said this: “We see Hitler devoutly convinced that evolution produces the only real basis for a national policy. The means he adopted to secure the destiny of his race and people was organised slaughter, which has drenched Europe in blood … it is consistent with evolutionary morality. Germany reverted to the tribal past, and demonstrated to the world, in their naked ferocity, the methods of evolution.”

Hitler certainly agreed with the Darwinian worldview. As he said in Mein Kampf: “If nature does not wish that weaker individuals should mate with the stronger, she wishes even less that a superior race should intermingle with an inferior one; because in such cases all her efforts, throughout hundreds of thousands of years, to establish an evolutionary higher stage of being, may thus be rendered futile.”

Indeed, whole books have been penned on the eugenics outcome of Darwinian thinking. Consider just three important volumes: Edwin Black, War against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race (Four Walls Eight Windows, 2003); Stefan Kuhl, The Nazi Connection: Eugenics, American Racism, and German National Socialism (Oxford University Press, 1994); and Richard Weikart, From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).

Weikart’s book is well worth getting and carefully reading. Just two quotes: “Hitler’s morality was not based on traditional Judeo-Christian ethics nor Kant’s categorical imperative, but was rather a complete repudiation of them. Instead, Hitler embraced an evolutionary ethic that made Darwinian fitness and health the only criteria for moral standards.”

“Darwinian terminology and rhetoric pervaded Hitler’s writings and speeches, and no one to my knowledge has ever even questioned the common assertion by scholars that Hitler was a social Darwinist. It is too obvious to deny.”

In the light of all of Darwin’s bad ideas, why in the world do some in the Christian church feel compelled to apologise to him? Evidently the church has gotten onto the political correctness bandwagon big time. It seems to feel guilty about everything, and is offering apologies left, right and centre. Mind you, when the church really has done something wrong, then an apology is in order. But it does not need to apologise for everything, just because it has capitulated to the surrounding culture.

Indeed. What else should the church apologise for? Maybe we should ask the Nazis forgiveness for saying Hitler was wrong. Maybe we should apologise to atheists for saying unbelief is wrong. Maybe we should apologise to the jihadists for saying terrorism is wrong.

Should the church apologise for the way it treated poor Darwin? I don’t think so. But the church maybe should apologise for the silly remarks of people like Dr Brown.


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14 Replies to “A Church Apology to Darwin?”

  1. Truly hilarious! Goes to show the level of intelligence of the leaders mentioned here. Who knows, they probably did descend from apes.
    Teresa Binder

  2. Typical. This has long been a social club more than a church. For light relief, see Sir Humphrey Appleby on what the CoE really stands for in the episode Bishop’s Gambit (four parts) of Yes Prime Minister


    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  3. This is another fall off the back of your seat in absolute shock (or perhaps laughter) moment. I’ll add it to the growing list of politically correct “Christian” apologies. The other one that stands out for me this year was the 100 revs rubbish . . . and I quote from a blog entry by one of their members: “I can testify to the high quality of the fruits of God’s Spirit lived by many lesbian and gay Christians (as well as non-Christians) of my acquaintance”. Shall we also attest to the high quality of the fruits of God’s Spirit lived by Darwin and his many evolutionary atheist apologists?!
    Ben Williams

  4. Thanks Ben

    That quote from the “100 revs” (a small group of ‘Christians’ – nowhere near 100 – who marched in the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, apologising to homosexuals for the church’s stance on homosexuality) is an absolute screamer. Let me see if I got this straight: now non-Christians can manifest the gifts of the Spirit, yet somehow without the Spirit. Or are these guys in fact arguing that any non-Christian can now have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them? This revisionist theology gets more bizarre with each passing day.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  5. When I read the news article last night, I nearly fell off my chair in amazed disbelief!

    It is certainly a matter of either uproarious laughter at something so ridiculous, or deep shame that a supposedly intelligent person could propose such an apology.

    Does no-one read Stephen Jay Gould (any more)? Try “Return of the Hopeful Monster” where he cites Richard Goldschmidt on an important distinction which is totally ignored by the majority school of evolutionary theory today – that between micro- and macro-evolution.

    And of course the late Gould is on the outer with his concept of punctuated equilibria, despite the obvious fact that within the confines of the evolutionary camp, it does better with the evidence than incremental gradualism.

    But he was honest enough to admit that if his theory can’t explain the evidence, then someone else whose theory is closer, (maybe even the creationists, although he could never bring himself to admit that much) deserve a hearing.

    The religion of evolutionism has most certainly taken over. But it is still infuriating that false Christians, who have abandoned the religion which pays their wages, claim to speak for all others in this “apology”.

    John Angelico

  6. I’m not sure how to respond to the latest dribble proceeding from the mouth of the Reverend Dr Malcolm Brown, so I think I will just ignore it as yet another sign of the complete and utter, utter, utter inconsequence of just about anything that the leadership of the C of E might have to say these days. They are blind guides leading the blind. Perhaps they could do us all a favour and get on with the falling-into-a-ditch part?!

    “I can testify to the high quality of the fruits of God’s Spirit lived by many lesbian and gay Christians (as well as non-Christians) of my acquaintance”

    I’m not quite sure what to make of that statement either. It may be possible that some spirit-filled Christians might indeed be living in a homosexual lifestyle. What that has to do with the price of fish though, I cannot work out. Was the writer asserting that because these people were exhibiting evidence of the infilling of the Holy Spirit, that any acts that they do are therefore acceptable to God as a result? This completely ignores the whole question of sin (sin is a dirty word nowadays, I readily concede).

    Anyway, what kind of muddle-headed thinking is that? Just as a non-Christian can perform non-sinful acts/behaviours at times, similarly, a Christian can perform sinful acts at times. One’s beliefs do not excuse one’s behaviours. I know the Apostle Paul had a similar problem, but he didn’t seek to resolve the issue by excusing the behaviour, but rather by conceding that it was his wretched sinful nature that just wouldn’t die, despite his best efforts. Perhaps these homosexual Christians could consider taking a lead out of his book?

    Stephen Frost

  7. I contend that the issues and confusions amoung Christians stem from our culture’s sloppy worldview. Most Christians (and most people) have very very sloppy and un-thought out worldviews. If they had a well formed worldview they would see that Darwinism and Biblical Christianity are opposites.
    A Christian with a sloppy worldview is prone to deception. As we all know there is only one problem with deception, that is…. its decieving. You believe 100% you are right when in actual fact you are wrong, or it leads to this amalgamation of worlviews that can’t logically co-exist in a person’s mind.
    Joshua Ferrara

  8. It makes you wonder if the Church of England should change its name. It seems every Easter and Christmas, some high ranking church official denies the resurrection of Christ or the virgin birth or some other fundamental tenet of our faith. With all these denials, there is nothing left to preach; no saviour, no salvation, no incarnation, no new life, no indwelling presence of God, no holy spirit and now no supernatural creator.

    The world does not need an insipid, watered down “faith” which fits in with a secular world view in order to be relevant. People need to hear about a supernatural God and a revolutionary saviour!

    Gary Morgan

  9. One of Ken Ham’s talks pointed out that the Church of England has already shown its full acceptance of Darwin by having him buried in the floor of Westminster Abbey (i.e. in the foundation of the church).

    Yet, Scottish Reformation leader John Knox now rests under a carpark. His official apology will be long time coming.

    Michael Watts

  10. I recently caught the tail end of a documentary on ABC which explored in part the role of children during the Holocaust. I remember one section that impacted me dramatically. A woman who had been the child of a Nazi SS officer was interviewed about her recollection of anti-semetic events. She said that she had believed what she had been taught and what her parents had been taught. Indoctrinated? Brainwashed perhaps? Whatever the case, a young teenage girl hated and persecuted Jews and other ‘vermin’ because they were defective and sub standard human beings. This young woman endorsed and advocated mass genocide and sadly lives with the shame and guilt in hindsight.

    In reference to your article on the apology to Darwin. Hilter’s use of eugenics to justify genocide had terrible consequences for the entire world. Darwin could never have imagined that his works would be used as a foundation for ethnic cleansing. Ingorance and naivety do not exuse us from our legacy.

    The church apologising to Darwin, is like canonising Nero for making the early church stronger in faith.

    Justin Lippiatt

  11. Thanks Justin

    Yes, you may be right about Darwin not imagining how his theories would be used, but his works certainly did provide the seedbed for many logical implications and applications. As Richard Weikart carefully argues in his very important 2004 book, From Darwin to Hitler, the concepts found in Darwin’s writings led naturally to the eugenics movement and to the Nazis. Says Weikart:

    “In philosophical terms, Darwinism was a necessary, but not a sufficient, cause for Nazi ideology. But however logical or illogical the connections are between Darwinism and Nazism, historically the connections are there and they cannot be wished away.”

    “Darwinism by itself did not produce the Holocaust, but without Darwinism, especially in its social Darwinist and eugenics permutations, neither Hitler nor his Nazi followers would have had the necessary scientific underpinnings to convince themselves and their collaborators that one of the world’s greatest atrocities was really morally praiseworthy.”

    Indeed, many Darwinists made the connection: “Not only did many leading Darwinists embrace eugenics, but also most eugenicists – certainly all the early leaders – considered eugenics a straightforward application of Darwinian principles to ethics and society. Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton, the founder of modern eugenics, developed his ideas upon reading Darwin’s Origin of the Species.”

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

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