Biology and Theology: Charles Darwin

I’m not particularly interested in the question of whether Darwin’s evolution is right or wrong, […]

Todd Brewer / 4.23.10

I’m not particularly interested in the question of whether Darwin’s evolution is right or wrong, but a recent lecture I heard has brought to the forefront the consequences of his thought. Evolutionary biology, according to Darwin and his dependency upon capitalism and imperialism, contends that nature is marked by a universal, internal war via natural selection which results in an inevitable progress of life. Humanity is not exempt from this struggle, but it is the zenith of this process as the victor. Consequently, progress is to be found through this universal struggle for existence. We must struggle to attain what is to be revealed (en-veiled) in the future as the just reward for our exertion. As Darwin wrote:

“Man, like every other animal, has no doubt advanced to his present high condition through a struggle for existence consequent on his rapid multiplication; and if he is to advance still higher, it is to be feared that he must remain subject to a severe struggle. Otherwise he would sink into indolence, and the more gifted men would not be more successful in the battle of life than the less gifted. … There should be open competition for all men; and the most able should not be prevented by laws or customs from succeeding best and rearing the largest number of offspring.”

One the one hand, theology has in Darwin biological ‘proof” of a low anthropology. As David Brooks has said: “Humanity did not come before status contests. Status contests came before humanity, and are embedded deep in human relations… Rousseau was wrong—Thomas Hobbes right.” At its core, evolution in a round about way concludes that our tendency toward oppression and the exploitation of power is rooted in our very DNA. We are all savages hard-wired to only look out for ourselves.

But on the other hand, evolution [according to Darwin] asserts that it is this very savage DNA that has enabled humanity to advance as the top of the food chain. And as Darwin indirectly contends, if we am to get anywhere through this world we must fight to earn it. Our ambition and our insatiable desire for self-assertion are the very means by which we will separate ourselves from the pack. The denial of these impulses means our extinction and the misfortune of a mediocre life.

It is here that theology must part ways with Darwin. It is the assertion of the self that theology calls “sin” and contrary to Darwin believes that it does not lead to progress and life, but death and regression (Romans 6:23). Because of its low anthropology, theology is able to see through the illusion of human progress to see its unspoken cost. As Bob Dylan sang, “My sense of humanity has gone down the drain. Behind every beautiful thing there’s been some kind of pain.”