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Monday, August 5, 2019

Evolutionism: An Outcome of the French Revolution

Those who believe in Darwinian theory—I mean, really believe in it—should read David Stove’s Darwinian Fairytales: Selfish Genes, Errors of Heredity and Other Fables of Evolution, which is an attack on certain aspects of Darwinian and neo-Darwinian theory. Stove is an atheist—which means he does not have a religious agenda in attacking Darwin.

The book’s Preface begins with these lines: “This is an anti-Darwinism book. It is written both against the Darwinism of Darwin and his 19th century disciples, and against the Darwinism of such influential 20th century Darwinians as G.C. Williams and W.D. Hamilton and their disciples. My object is to show that Darwinism is not true: not true, at any rate, of our species. If it is true, or near enough true, of sponges, snakes, flies, or whatever, I do not mind that. What I do mind is, its being supposed to be true of man.”

In the book’s second essay, “Where Darwin First Went Wrong About Man,” Stove looks at the political forces that were propagating the idea of evolutionism decades before Charles Darwin wrote his The Origin of Species. Here’s an excerpt:
The idea of evolution was a brain child, and a representative one, of the French Enlightenment of the last quarter of the 18th century. In the minds of most naturalists in 1835, therefore, evolutionism was inextricably associated, and rightly associated too, with revolutionary republicanism, regicide, anti-religious terrorism, and the deliberate destruction, for the sake of equality, both of thousands of innocent people and of high culture in any form. A revolutionary judge, as he sent Lavoisier to the guillotine in 1794, said 'The Republic has no need of chemists'. Nor did the evolutionism of his late father suffice to save the son of Buff on from the same fate in the same year. But then, the Buffons were aristocrats, and by 1794 Robespierre had decided, and announced, that atheism is a distinctively aristocratic vice.  
These being the circumstances, the reluctance of most naturalists in the first half of the 19th century to admit the fact of evolution was not only understandable: it was morally to their credit. It was not creditable to their heads; but to their hearts, it was. Consider, by way of contrast, that dedicated evolutionist and complete child of the Enlightenment, Erasmus Darwin. Though he lived until 1802, he had never wavered for one moment in his admiration for the French Revolution, or doubted that it was a guiding light for other nations to follow. He never suffered a single qualm, however much strange fruit the guillotine tree might bear. By comparison with this man, the great majority of British naturalists, who were Christians and anti-evolutionists, have left a far cleaner smell behind them.  
When Charles Darwin was born in 1809, therefore, evolutionism still stank of the Terror of 1793. Ever since 1789, of course, there had been in Britain an active minority of Enlightened persons, such as his grandfather, who were anxious to import to their own country all the blessings, including evolutionism, of revolutionary France. These people suffered a severe depression of their hopes, naturally, in the twenty years of intermittent war with France, between 1795 and 1815. But then, at Waterloo, all hopes of France's exporting Enlightenment by force of arms were extinguished. And with this, the old package deal, of evolutionism with anti-religious, republican, and democratic fervour, at once sprang to life again. 
Charles Darwin had become a dedicated follower of the Evolutionist doctrine of his grandfather Erasmus Darwin by the late 1830s and early 1840s. But he approached the task of making a case for evolution with some delicacy, Stove writes, “In order to tell the public what he knew, and yet not incur extreme and deserved odium, [Darwin] needed to separate evolutionism from the swarm of murderous associates which up to that time had always accompanied it. He succeeded in doing so too, though only by the exceedingly drastic method of saying, in The Origin of Species, nothing whatever about the origin of the most interesting species of all: man.”

Related Article:

What if Darwin was Wrong?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Definitely getting this book
Hermione

Anoop Verma said...

I think you will enjoy reading this book. It is very well written .