What is darwinism? Perhaps, the best place to start is with the man. Charles Robert Darwin, was born 12 February 1809 in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England; and died 19 April 1882, his mortal remains interred at Westminster Abbey. Darwin has been categorized as an English naturalist. However, people rarely conform to categorization. People, being endowed with free will, tend to defy our proclivity to neat summarizations. Darwin was no exception to this rule. Contrary to popular opinion, naturalism does not imply atheism, in fact it presupposes Divinity: “The only distinct meaning of the word ‘natural’ is stated, fixed, or settled; since what is natural as much requires and presupposes an intelligent agent to render it so, i.e., to effect it continually or at stated times, as what is supernatural or miraculous does to effect if for once.” (Gulter: Analogy of Revealed Religion., from The Origin of Species, pg. ii, sixth edition).
Darwin is best known for his treatise On the Origin of Species, published in 1859. It is from this treatise that darwinism is extrapolated. The Origin was published in six different editions, the final edition widely considered as the definitive. Each successive edition attempted to answer challenges to his theory regarding the adaptation of species. In essence Darwin’s theory is this:
“As many more individuals of each species are born than can possibly survive; and as, consequently, there is a frequently recurring struggle for existence, it follows that any being, if it vary however slightly in any manner profitable to itself, under the complex and sometimes varying conditions of life, will have a better chance of surviving, and thus be naturally selected. From the strong principle of inheritance, any selected variety will tend to propagate its new and modified form.” (Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 1859, pg. 5)
It is from this idea that darwinism springs. Darwin’s ideas were formulated within a particular context-that of biological processes. But, darwinism has grown to encompass fields of thought an inquiry having no logical relationship to Darwin’s ideas of natural selection. Most prominently, Darwin’s biological theory has been applied to politics and sociology. Politically, darwinism is expressed in Marxist ideology as a struggling proletariat. Sociologically, darwinism finds its perversion expressed in eugenics, resulting in amoral conclusions such as euthanasia. Indeed, this gives living expression to Sarte’s observation that without God, everything is permitted.
Interestingly, Darwin would have never countenanced such an illogical application of his biological theories. In fact, Darwin maintained a conviction throughout his life that God exists and that He is the ultimate law giver. Darwin recognized “the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist." (Barlow, Nora, ed., The Autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809-1882, pp. 92-93)
Darwinism, therefore, is a grotesque misapplication of Darwin’s ideas on natural selection. It applies Darwin’s theorizing on biological development, adaptation, mutation, and evolution to political, sociological, and philosophical spheres of speculation. Perhaps, this is a necessary result of Darwin’s ideas, consciously or not, undermining the conviction of a present God, active in His creation. It seems that Darwin was fundamentally conflicted. And, that even his most ardent speculations could not abolish the innate knowledge of the Divine. Perhaps modern proponents of darwinism should consider these words found in Darwin’s The Origin of Species:
“To conclude, therefore, let no man out of a weak conceit of sobriety, or an ill-applied moderation, think or maintain, that a man can search too far o be too well studied in the book of God’s word, or in the book of God’s works; divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavor an endless progress or proficience in both.” (Bacon: Advancement of Learning, from Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species, sixth ed., pg. ii)
“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD...” (Isaiah 1:18)