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How I Came to Take Leave of Darwin: A Coda

Neil Thomas
Image source: Discovery Institute Press.

Editor’s note: We have been delighted to host a series by Neil Thomas, Reader Emeritus at the University of Durham, “How I Came to Take Leave of Darwin,” of which this article is the seventh and final installment. Find the full series here. Professor Thomas’s recent book, Taking Leave of Darwin: A Longtime Agnostic Discovers the Case for Design, is available now from Discovery Institute Press.

After seeing my recent book through to publication, I began to experience the gnawing feeling that, although I had undoubtedly given it my best shot, I had not completely “nailed” the puzzling phenomenon of just why the Western world had come to accept ideas of evolution and natural selection which I personally had come to see as little but Victorian fables or, more politely phrased, cosmogenic myths for a materialist age. I therefore decided to embark on a companion volume, provisionally titled False Messiah: Darwin’s Origin of Species as Cosmogenic Myth.  Here I will make the attempt to drill down even further to the root causes of what appeared to be the Western world’s unprecedented rejection of tried-and-tested philosophers and scientists such as Aristotle, Cicero, Plato, and the physician Galen in a strange capitulation to “out there” philosophic fantasists like Epicurus and his Roman disciple, Lucretius. 

It was the would-be rehabilitation of those ancient materialist thinkers by the Scottish philosopher David Hume, in the late 18th century, coupled with the later Victorian crisis of faith and the sudden irruption into this already volatile mix of Charles Darwin which was to result in the particularly strange irrationalism which has stubbornly persisted right up to the present day.

This abdication of normal canons of reason consisted in people forsaking traditional norms of philosophical common sense and (effectively) throwing in their lot with the ancient goddess of chance, Lady Fortuna (or Lady Luck as she was later to be called), that accursed personification of unreliability whom the ancient philosopher Boethius, Geoffrey Chaucer, and many others have arraigned since time out of mind for being incapable of any productive and dependable action on behalf of struggling humanity.

Neil Thomas

Neil Thomas is a Reader Emeritus in the University of Durham, England and a longtime member of the British Rationalist Association. He studied Classical Studies and European Languages at the universities of Oxford, Munich and Cardiff before taking up his post in the German section of the School of European Languages and Literatures at Durham University in 1976. There his teaching involved a broad spectrum of specialisms including Germanic philology, medieval literature, the literature and philosophy of the Enlightenment and modern German history and literature. He also taught modules on the propagandist use of the German language used both by the Nazis and by the functionaries of the old German Democratic Republic. He published over 40 articles in a number of refereed journals and a half dozen single-authored books, the last of which were Reading the Nibelungenlied (1995), Diu Crone and the Medieval Arthurian Cycle (2002) and Wirnt von Gravenberg's 'Wigalois'. Intertextuality and Interpretation (2005). He also edited a number of volumes including Myth and its Legacy in European Literature (1996) and German Studies at the Millennium (1999). He was the British Brach President of the International Arthurian Society (2002-5) and remains a member of a number of learned societies.

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AristotleBoethiusCharles DarwinCicerocommon sensecosmogenic mythDavid HumeEpicurusevolutionFalse MessiahGalenGeoffrey ChaucerHow I Came to Take Leave of Darwin (series)Lady FortunaLady LuckLucretiusmaterialismnatural selectionPlatoVictorian England