“You can’t get away with blaming the Holocaust on a person who was dead for decades before this event occurred. This is a blatant attempt to obscure the role of your religion and its inbred anti-Semitism in the Holocaust. Trash like you cannot be aloud [sic] to get away with these kinds of inflammatory untruths on the public airways. You need to get on the air and apologize for this lie and do it next week. I’ll be listening.”
The person referred to in the above email to me as being dead for decades before the Holocaust is Charles Darwin. Of course Darwin was not personally responsible for the Holocaust any more than Jesus is responsible for the Inquisition or the Crusades. Darwin’s ideas were appropriated and used to justify the eugenics movement which included killing millions of Jews, misfits, and general enemies of the State. The eugenics movement in the United States drew validity for its views from Darwin as well. It was the science of evolution that was used to justify such actions at a time when the operating moral worldview for centuries had been founded on transcendental religious values that were shaped by Christianity. In order to break from the moral worldview of Christianity, Christianity had to be discredited, either by substituting another competing religion or by dismissing religion altogether. Prior to Darwin, opposition to religion in general and Christianity in particular were formulated in terms of philosophy not science. Modern-day atheist and ardent evolutionist Richard Dawkins describes the impact the science of evolution has had on him when he states that “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” There was always uncertainty about God’s existence prior to Darwin since science had not established God’s non-existence.
Few people saw the full implications of Darwin’s views since Christianity was still the dominate worldview in 1859 when On the Origin of Species was published. Darwin did not tie evolution to an anti-theistic worldview. It was only later that Darwin’s agnosticism and his rejection of “natural religion” became known in his three-volume Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1888). Christianity served as a moral brake on the full logical implications of evolution since there were many Christians who did not see a contradiction between evolution and creation as the theory was first proposed. The atheistic variety of evolution came later. Robert L. Dabney (1820–1898), a Southern Presbyterian theologian, understood what would happen as consistency took the reins of evolutionary ideology firmly in hand:
To borrow [Thomas] Carlyle’s rough phrasing: “If mine is a pig’s destiny, why may I not hold this ‘pig philosophy’?’ Again, if I am but an animal refined by evolution, I am entitled to live an animal life. Why not? The leaders in this and the sensualistic philosophy may themselves be restrained by their habits of mental culture, social discretion and personal refinement (for which they are indebted to reflex Christian influences); but the herd of common mortals are not cultured and refined, and in them the doctrine will bear its deadly fruit.
Because Christianity had so impacted nineteenth-century society, the ethical and cultural effects of Darwinism were at first minimal since most people were well aware of programmed changes in species based on what was already known and practiced in the area of animal husbandry and was generally observed in nature. Here’s one example from William Warfield’s The Theory and Practice of Cattle-Breeding:
Nature’s method seems to be a wide and general system of selection, in which the strong and vigorous are the winners and the weaker are crushed out. Among wild cattle the more lusty bulls have their choice of the cows in a way that under natural selection insures the best results to the race.
Warfield was the father of Princeton theologian Benjamin B. Warfield who was an ardent defender of biblical inerrancy but entertained the viability of what today would be described as theistic evolution.
In time, however, the younger Warfield began to entertain “serious reservations about the orthodox Darwinian scheme he once had maintained.” He rejected evolution as “a total philosophy of life” but still considered it to be a valid hypothesis to explain “the different natural phenomena.” I suspect that what Warfield accepted in evolution was what he had always accepted, changes within species. Take note of the following in Warfield’s “Evolution and Development” lecture delivered December 12, 1888:
We may say, if we choose, that the varieties of pigeons are so divergent that a naturalist would class them as species if found in nature. But so also would he class them as pigeons. No one oversteps the line which the type “pigeon” sets. All cows—however divergent—remain cows; all men, men; all types in a kind remain their type characteristics. So it is in the highest degree improbable that the line that separates them is passable.
Warfield argues that evolutionists “necessarily represent . . . an ascent into morality” while the Bible represents a “descent from morality.” This remains a problem for evolutionists. How can matter ascend into morality unless morality first exists? Evolution in its present form can only be measured against meandering molecules, and those who were marched into the gas chambers were nothing more than a large conglomeration of molecules. A Pig’s philosophy makes us all pigs. The apology demanded by the above emailer needs to come from those who have made “Darwin’s dangerous idea” into a “universal acid” that eats through everything we believe and act upon.
Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881) described Utilitarianism as “Pig-Philosophy” (see his “Latter-Day Pamphlets,” 1850).
Robert L. Dabney, “The Influences of False Philosophies upon Character and Conduct,” in Discourses (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Pub., 1979), 4:574.
William Warfield, The Theory and Practice of Cattle-Breeding (Chicago: J. H. Sanders, 1889), 85. Quoted in Mark A. Noll and David N. Livingstone, eds., Evolution, Science, and Scripture(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 28.
Benjamin B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, ed. Samuel G. Craig (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1970).
Noll and Livingstone, Evolution, Science, and Scripture, 29.
Noll and Livingstone, Evolution, Science, and Scripture, 114.
Warfield, “Evolution Development” (1889). Quoted in Noll and Livingstone, Evolution, Science, and Scripture, 124.
Warfield, “Evolution Development.” Quoted in Noll and Livingstone, Evolution, Science, and Scripture, 128. Emphasis added.
Daniel C. Dennett, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meaning of Life (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995), 63.