Evolution and Religion: The Conflict between Science and Theology in Modern America

By Gail Kennedy | Go to book overview

versal company and his own unspeakable joy or confusion. Whereupon the blessed would enter eternal bliss with God their master and the wicked everlasting torments with the devil whom they served.

The drama of history was thus to close upon a second tableau: long-robed and beatified cohorts passing above, amid various psalmodies, into an infinite luminous space, while below the damned, howling, writhing, and half transformed into loathsome beasts, should be engulfed in a fiery furnace. The two cities, always opposite in essence, should thus be finally divided in existence, each bearing its natural fruits and manifesting its true nature.

Let the reader fill out this outline for himself with its thousand details; let him remember the endless mysteries, arguments, martyrdoms, consecrations that carried out the sense and made vital the beauty of the whole. Let him pause before the phenomenon; he can ill afford, if he wishes to understand history or the human mind, to let the apparition float by unchallenged without delivering up its secret.

Richard Hofstadter:


THE COMING OF DARWINISM

To have lived when this prodigious truth was advanced, debated, established, was a rare privilege in the centuries. The inspiration of seeing the old isolated mists dissolve and reveal the convergence of all branches of knowledge is something that can hardly be known to the men of a later generation, inheritors of what this age has won.

JOHN FISKE

WHEN Charles Darwin The Origin of Species dawned upon the world it aroused no such immediate furor in the United States as it did in England. A public sensation comparable to that stirred up in England by Huxley's famous clash with Wilberforce in June 1860 was impossible in America, where a critical election was beginning whose results would disrupt the Union and bring about a terrible Civil War. Although the first American edition of The Origin of Species was widely reviewed in 1860, the coming of the war obscured new developments in scientific thought for all but professional scientists and a few hardy intellectuals.

Here and there, however, in quiet studies remote from the glare of politics, the ideas that were in time to transform the intellectual life of the country began to be cultivated. Darwin's friend Asa Gray, the Harvard botanist, after painstaking study of an advance copy of The Origin of Species sent to him by the author, wrote a careful review for the American Journal of Sciences and Arts, and with admirable foresight prepared a series of articles to defend evolution from the forthcoming charges of atheism. A few men who were already acquainted with the pre-Darwinian evolutionary speculation of Herbert Spencer were laying the foundations for a popular campaign in behalf of evolutionary

Richard Hofstadter, Social Darwinism in American Thought 1860-1915, Revised Edition ( The Beacon Press, Boston, 1955), pp. 13-30. Reprinted by permission of The American Historical Association.

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Evolution and Religion: The Conflict between Science and Theology in Modern America
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Introduction v
  • Contents xiii
  • The Clash of Issues xiv
  • The Christian Epic 1
  • The Coming of Darwinism 3
  • The Two Revelations 14
  • A Diary of Evolution 21
  • A Reply to Mr. Bryan in The Name of Religion 30
  • The Scopes Trial 35
  • Four Dialogues 52
  • The New Orthodoxy 70
  • The Truth in Myths 82
  • The New Failure of Nerve 88
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading 97
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