While hunting for the Greek proverb I used in my last post, I came across this article I had written over at LiveJournal on the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s Origin of Species. I thought it worthwhile enough to share here, slightly modified.
Around 153 years ago, Charles Darwin published his “Origin of Species“. And then the fight started.
The man was a genius of observation, analysis and synthesis. He looked at a jigsaw puzzle spread out all over the world, with virtually millions of pieces, and managed to pull together a single, coherent picture, even though it still has many gaps in it where pieces are missing.
I know of no scientist more praised and more maligned at the same time.
I remember when the Macintosh computer was a relatively new phenomenon, there was this great game called “Darwin’s Dilemma”, which required you to solve puzzles by pushing life forms around on a board and causing them to evolve. The version I had was won when the last two pieces combined to create a tiny image of a nude couple. Sweetly ironic. And, it was a ruddy difficult game to beat, and terribly entertaining to play.
Screen capture from a PC version of Darwin’s Dilemma. The Mac version had better graphics. As usual.
Today, the atheist community is holding up Darwin as a standard to which they hope humanity will flock. And militant atheists, just like militant Muslims, or militant Christians, or militant segregationists, or militant anything, are anathema to a society that works for everyone; any ideology which seeks to impose itself on others by dint of coercion must be fought with all the vigor we can muster as a global community, or we are doomed to perpetual servitude.
The Greeks have an interesting saying: “Η γλώσσα κόκκαλα δεν έχει και κόκκαλα τσακίζει” (the tongue has no bones, but it breaks bones). An ideology can also be imposed without physical weapons; money, lawsuits, media, spin doctors, mockery, academic intimidation and peer pressure can often succeed where violence and terror would not. And today’s evangelical atheists seek to mainstream two main ideas:
1) Religion can be proven false, and
2) Religion is usually or always harmful
The irony in using the Darwin flag as a vexillum for the armies of the unchurched is that Charles Darwin himself professed only to be an agnostic. In Francis Darwin’s biography, (among others), he is quoted as saying, “In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of God.”1
Whether religion can be proven false is irrelevant – since the dawn of consciousness, there have been those who have looked outside themselves for a source of strength, and those who have not. Whether religion is a force for good or evil is irrelevant, because religion is like a weapon: only the person who wields it can decide how it will be used.
On this pale blue dot, there’s room for everyone’s personal beliefs about our place in the universe. If you believe in a power greater than yourself, and it moves you to improve yourself and raise the human condition, that’s a good thing. If you believe in the notion of the greater good because it’s logical and reasonable, and this moves you to improve yourself and raise the human condition, that’s good. And, our great freedoms of thought and speech guarantee you the right to share with others what makes you happy. But to impose your beliefs by the sword is ungood. And to impose your unbelief by social activism is equally ungood. Either way, if you’re a jerk, your personal philosophy isn’t working.
So whatever you happen to believe, let’s lift a glass to Darwin today. His life’s work has gone a long way towards explaining the miraculous diversity of earth’s biosphere. And if I were God, I’d pin a medal on his chest. 
The Old Wolf has spoken.
1 Darwin, Francis, The Life of Charles Darwin. London: Tiger Books,1995, 55.
2 So it’s incongruous. So sue me.