Sunday, February 6, 2011

Most Pernicious Hypothesis

Thoughts on the lecture on Wednesday, 2 February with Daniel Langton discussing the topic "Evolution and Jewish-Christian Relations":

There was something strange about the lecture; it simply didn’t bring forward the sorts of religious anti-Darwin protestation I was expecting.  There was some protesting, but where I was expecting expressed concerns about the origins and nature of humankind, I received instead concerns about a disorderly natural world.  One Jewish anti-Darwinist said this:
“In a moral point of view the Darwinian hypothesis on the descent of man is the most pernicious that could be possibly advanced […] chiefly because it presents all nature as a battleground, a perpetual warfare of each against all in the combat for existence, and represents the victors as those praiseworthy of existence, and the vanquished ripe for destruction…Peace in any shape is illegitimate and unnatural”   (Isaac Mayer Wise, The Cosmic God). 
This was also given as the chief concern of the European Christians of Darwin’s time.  The lecturer mentioned the concerns of American Protestants in terms of the literalist reading of Genesis, but the particular concerns he mentioned were the issues of time (each creative period equaling twenty-four hours) and the distinct creation of species.  Again, no mention about the divine creation of man.  I pondered the problem and found an answer again in my LDS background: Mormons are most concerned with the phrase “created in the image of God” because we believe that God is a man (perfect, yes, but a man with a physical body) and that we were literally created like Him, and that we were the only species created in His image.  For this reason, the concept of an inter-species evolution is problematic.  This particular belief about the nature of God is unique to Mormons, though, and so is not a problem for other sects or faiths.  On the other hand, Jews and Christians had always observed a beautiful, complete, ordered world – a perfect world created by a perfect God.  Darwin’s observations of a world filled with chaos, disorder, competition, death, struggle, suffering, and “an awful lot of waste” (as the lecturer said) threaten the afore held natural theology of the monotheistic religions.  Mormons believe the natural world fell with Adam and Eve and so the same struggles that humans must endure in this life are also experienced by our natural surroundings.    Just as life can be beautiful despite the struggles (and sometimes because of them!), nature is also beautiful, despite its struggles.  

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