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A.N. Wilson and the Religious Nature of Darwinism

David Klinghoffer

A.N. Wilson

Besides commenting here on A.N. Wilson’s new biography, Charles Darwin: Victorian Mythmaker, biologist Jonathan Wells has also written about it for the Washington Times. He elaborates on the religious nature of Darwin’s “one long argument.”

On February 12, followers of Charles Darwin around the world will reverently celebrate his birthday, which they have christened “Darwin Day.” Known to most Americans as Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, February 12 has become for some people the secular equivalent of Christmas.

Why would that be?

Darwin called “The Origin of Species” “one long argument,” and it was a theology-laden argument against creation by design. Many people have the mistaken impression that Darwin’s theory was accepted because he provided so much scientific evidence for it (he didn’t). Instead, his theory was accepted because it fit the increasingly secular spirit of the times.

It fits the spirit of our times no less well. Wells continues:

As Mr. Wilson puts it, “The whole of nature, arising from the primeval slime and evolving through its various animal forms from amoebas to the higher primates, was on a journey of improvement, moving onwards and upwards, from barnacles to shrimps, from fish to fowl, from orang-outangs to silk-hatted Members of Parliament and leaders of British industry. It was all happening without the interference or tiresome conscience-pricking of the Almighty. He, in fact, had been conveniently removed from the picture.”

More than a century later, Richard Dawkins famously wrote that “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.”

Mr. Wilson points out that “no other major scientific discovery or breakthrough has ‘made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist’ — only Darwin’s. This will prompt some people to wonder whether Darwin’s distinctive twin doctrines — that evolution occurs gradually by means of natural selection, and that this process necessitates an everlasting struggle for existence — are not in fact scientific statements at all, but expressions of opinion. Metaphysical opinion at that.”

So Darwinian evolution is not so much a scientific theory as it is a secular creation myth. According to Mr. Wilson, “Darwinism, as is shown by the current state of debate, is resistant to argument because it is resistant to fact. The worship of Darwin as a man, the attribution to him of insights and discoveries which were either part of the common scientific store of knowledge or were the discoveries of others, this is all necessary to bolster the religion of Darwinism.”

Wilson, of course, writes not as an academic historian but as a literary journalist, and a very keen and enjoyable one, as I’ve personally found in the past. Dr. Wells adds, “Mr. Wilson is a skilled writer, and his book is a good read.”

It sounds like appropriate reading for the holy day of Darwin, which is hardly more than a week away. Celebrate it with us as we announce the name of our 2018 Censor of the Year, a latter-day Darwin follower who excels in suppressing counterarguments and counterevidence. Who will it be? You’ve still got a few days left to submit nominations here.

Photo: Darwin statue, Shrewsbury, by Bs0u10e01 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.