Beliefnet
A Pagan's Blog

Pagans stand in an interesting relationship to Christians and Secularists.  Because we focus on the Sacred as it manifests in the world, we do not have the problems with science and knowledge of the world that the Christian Church has had since its inception.  On the other hand, we agree with our Christian brethren and Sisteren that the Sacred is real, that the world cannot be explained either reductively or without including a context bigger than what can be described by experiment and rational argument alone. 


Given this, we can celebrate Charles Darwin.  He has been vilified by Fundamentalists for all sorts of horrors that have happened after he died, horrors committed by those who misunderstood his view of evolution, and evolution itself.  A recent book powerfully argues that Darwin’s interest in evolution was powerfully influenced by his horror of slavery, providing one string answer to his contemporary critics.  Darwin and his family were deeply abolitionist, and were closely associated with other abolitionists as well.  Ironically given the moral self-righteousness of his Fundamentalist critics of today, slavery was strongly supported by many conservative Christians of his time and later.  In Darwin’s Sacred Cause Adrian Desmond and James Moore show that his desire to see slavery ended was a powerful motivation underlying his work.
 
In 1837, long before he finally published, Darwin had aready sketched a genealogical pedigree that sought to show we were all descended from a common ancestor.  He saw this as offering the final rebuttal to the specious arguments by slavery advocates that Blacks were a different species from while people.  More than his critics then or now, Darwin was a deeply devoted humanitarian.

His humanity went well beyond our own species, to encompass life on a vastly broader basis.   Darwin also strongly opposed vivisection and other ways of using animals cruelly in research.  He advocated outlawing such practices. Again, Darwin held a position which his critics who claim evolution undermined morality have in most cases not come close to.  Darwin thought evolution would strengthen our moral ties to one another, human and non human.   For a book showing how this is so, see Larry Arnhart’s Darwinian Natural Right. 

Darwin showed, as has been showed by others, that we do not need some deity above us to find solid principles of moral behavior.  His critics today often show by their own actions that THEY need such a being for moral behavior, and even then fall rather far from any ideal.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus