Darwin and Modern Science: Essays in Commemoration of the Centenary of the Birth of Charles Darwin and of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Publication of the Origin of Species

By A. C. Seward | Go to book overview

XXIV
THE INFLUENCE OF DARWIN UPON RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

BY P. N. WAGGETT M.A., S.S.J.E.


I.

THE object of this paper is first to point out certain elements of the Darwinian influence upon Religious thought, and then to show reason for the conclusion that it has been, from a Christian point of view, satisfactory. I shall not proceed further to urge that the Christian apologetic in relation to biology has been successful. A variety of opinions may be held on this question, without disturbing the conclusion that the movements of readjustment have been beneficial to those who remain Christians, and this by making them more Christian and not only more liberal. The theologians may sometimes have retreated, but there has been an advance of theology. I know that this account incurs the charge of optimism. It is not the worst that could be made. The influence has been limited in personal range, unequal, even divergent, in operation, and accompanied by the appearance of waste and mischievous products. The estimate which follows requires for due balance a full development of many qualifying considerations. For this I lack space, but I must at least distinguish my view from the popular one that our difficulties about religion and natural science have come to an end.

Concerning the older questions about origins -- the origin of the world, of species, of man, of reason, conscience, religion -- a large measure of understanding has been reached by some thoughtful men. But meanwhile new questions have arisen, questions about conduct, regarding both the reality of morals and the rule of right action for individuals and societies. And these problems, still far from solution, may also be traced to the influence of Darwin. For they arise from the renewed attention to heredity, brought about by the search for the causes of variation, without which the study of the selection of variations has no sufficient basis.

Even the existing understanding about origins is very far from universal. On these points there were always thoughtful men who denied the necessity of conflict, and there are still thoughtful men who deny the possibility of a truce.

-477-

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