Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection, first published in 1859, was the key that secularists wished for to advance a rival comprehensive worldview based on non-Christian presuppositions. Darwinian evolution, considered the epitome of science, was seen as a way out of a world governed by a Creator who demanded ethical absolutes. But it’s become a Monkey’s Paw. Be careful what you wish for.
German scholar Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919) pushed the implications of Darwin’s theories to comprehensive limits. He was “a promoter of scientific racism and embraced the idea of Social Darwinism.” (Source) He believed that moral law was subject to biology. “Thousands, indeed millions of cells are sacrificed in order for a species to survive.” If this is true of biology, then it is equally true for society. “Haeckel’s use of Darwin’s theories was decisive in the intellectual history of his time. It united trends already developing in Germany of racism, imperialism, romanticism, nationalism, and anti-semitism.”
In 1906, at the age of seventy-two, he founded the Monist League. To the Monist, man was one with nature and the animals. Man was no special creation as the “image of God.” He had no soul, only a superior degree of development. The Monist League “united eugenicists, biologists, theologians, literary figures, politicians and sociologists.”
The Darwinian worldview as expressed by Haeckel’s Monist League was comprehensive in interpreting all of life in terms of the social implications of evolution. The effect on Germany was disastrous. “Otto Ammon [1842–1916], a leading racial anthropologist, wrote that the laws of nature were the laws of society. ‘Bravery, cunning and competition are virtues … Darwin must become the new religion of Germany … the racial struggle is necessary for mankind.’” Karl Marx also found in Darwin “the natural history foundation” for his views. Hegel’s philosophy of “dialectical materialism” where conflicting views were synthesized into a third, more advanced stage of development, was now supported by Darwin’s biology and inherent historical implications that “society, like nature, improved over time.”
Worldview 101: A Biblical View of the World
Utilizing audio, video, and printed material, Worldview 101 will equip the student with the tools necessary to ‘think God's thoughts’ about the world and the created order. It will reveal and re-direct the humanistic thought patterns that exist in each of us. The Enlightenment promised freedom, but brought slavery to man's ideas instead. Worldview 101 points the way forward to true freedom of thought in Christ.Buy Now
Darwin had a similar impact on America, although it did not take the form of Nazism or Marxist Communism. The American industrialist Andrew Carnegie embraced the social implications of Darwin’s theories and applied them to the world of business. “That light came in as a flood and all was clear. Not only had I got rid of theology and the supernatural, but I found the truth of evolution.” John D. Rockefeller, using Darwinian logic, believed that “The growth of a large business is merely the survival of the fittest.”
A review of Garry Wills’ book Under God: Religion and American Politics carries the argument further. The reviewer is Mark A. Noll. There is much in Noll’s review that’s helpful, but his assessment of Wills' evaluation of the 1925 Scope’s Trial was especially intriguing.
Wills thinks that … later anti-evolutionists, because they shifted the focus of their concern from the social impact of evolution to technical defenses of biblical details, have both forfeited a vibrant Christian tradition and condemned themselves to intellectual irrelevance.
Noll forced me to look at Under God and Wills’ perspective on the infamous Scopes Trial. Most of what America knows of the Scopes “Monkey” Trial held in Dayton, Tennessee, in 1925, comes from the fictionalized stage play and screen version titled Inherit the Wind. William Jennings Bryan saw the sinister social implications of evolution. This is why he took the case. It would be his last. He raised this warning:
“We must be careful how we apply this doctrine of the strongest.” Bryan feared what came to be known in the next decade as “social Darwinism”—the idea that human society is an arena of struggle in which the strongest prevail, the fittest survive, and poor “misfits” must be neglected in the name of progress through “betterment of the race.”
Bryan was not alone in his understanding of the potential effect of consistent Darwinism. Bryan’s legal antagonist in the Scopes Trial, Clarence Darrow, agreed with Bryan’s assessment of the social implications of biological Darwinism! In 1924, Darrow defended the teenage “thrill killers” Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb. These two self-professed “superiors” who believed they could commit the perfect crime killed 14-year-old Bobby Franks for sport, to demonstrate their peerless intellects.
Leopold was particularly fascinated by Friedrich Nietzsche’s concept of supermen (Übermenschen), interpreting them as transcendent individuals possessing extraordinary and unusual capabilities, whose superior intellects allowed them to rise above the laws and rules that bound the unimportant, average populace. Leopold believed that he and Loeb were such individuals, and as such, by his interpretation of Nietzsche’s doctrines, they were not bound by any of society’s normal ethics or rules. In a letter to Loeb, Leopold wrote, “A superman … is, on account of certain superior qualities inherent in him, exempted from the ordinary laws which govern men. He is not liable for anything he may do.” (Source)
Darrow argued for leniency for Leopold and Loeb. Instead of the death penalty, Darrow “got the idiots off with life imprisonment.” How does Darrow explain what these two college students did to Bobby Franks?
Why did they kill little Bobby Franks? Not for money, not for spite, not for hate. They killed him as they might kill a spider or a fly, for the experience. They killed him because they were made that way. Because somewhere in the infinite processes that go to the making up of the boy or the man something slipped, and those unfortunate lads sit here hated, despised, outcasts, with the community shouting for blood.
They were made that way! In fact, given Darwinian assumptions about how we got here, we are all “made that way.”
Thinking Straight in a Crooked World
The nursery rhyme ‘There Was a Crooked Man’ is an appropriate description of how sin affects us and our world. We live in a crooked world of ideas evaluated by crooked people. Left to our crooked nature, we can never fully understand what God has planned for us and His world. God has not left us without a corrective solution. He has given us a reliable reference point in the Bible so we can identify the crookedness and straighten it.Buy Now
Quoted in James Burke, The Day the Universe Changed (Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1985), 265.
Burke, The Day the Universe Changed, 265.
Burke, The Day the Universe Changed, 266. Haeckel falsified the illustrations that accompanied a technical article he published in 1868. See Ian T. Taylor, In the Minds of Men: Darwin and the New World Order (Toronto, Canada: TFE Publishing, 1987), 274–181.
Burke, The Day the Universe Changed, 265.
Burke, The Day the Universe Changed, 273.
Quoted in John W. Whitehead, The End of Man (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1986), 53.
Quoted Burke, The Day the Universe Changed, 271.
Mark A. Noll, review of Under God: Religion and American Politics by Garry Wills, First Things 14 (June/July 1991), 43.
For a helpful analysis of the Scopes trial and its misrepresentations by the Inherit the Wind play and film, see John Eidsmoe, The Christian Legal Advisor (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1984), 201–212.
Garry Wills, Under God: Religion and American Politics (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990), 101.
See the film Compulsion (1959), a fictionalized version of the Leopold-Loeb case, starring Dean Stockwell, Bradford Dillman, and Orson Welles as the Clarence Darrow character.
Lance Morrow, “A Boy Dies in the ‘90s,” Time (October 20, 1997), 120.
Quoted in Herbert W. Titus, God, Man, and Law: The Biblical Principles (Oak Brook, IL: Institute in Basic Life Principles, 1995), 14.