This my unexpected first post here takes its direction from another current thread. In it, the issue came up about how “heroic” Charles Darwin was, in comparison with the “heroic history” seen in the naming of Protestant Christian churches or communities (denominations) according to their founders, i.e. Calvin, Luther, Menno Siemens, Sun Myung Moon.
One might also find value in comparing Darwin to Patrick Matthew, who coined the phrase “natural process of selection” in 1831, to see who acted more “heroically” given the surrounding political circumstances both men faced in their respective locations when putting forward their same novel idea. Matthew was not widely credited with having come up with the idea of natural selection by evolution, but was instead superseded by the rhetoric of the “Darwinists” (both pro- and contra-) creating a “heroic history”, along with the undeniable “cult of personality” that has become associated with Darwin, at least in the past 30-60 years.
This raises a question of what is part of “Darwinism” (the ideology based around Darwin’s ideas) and what is not. The “regret” expressed near the end of his life by Darwin below should be seen as a legitimate “dark side” to or at least as a different look at Darwin’s legacy than is currently taught in schools, as he notes the damage in pursuing natural science the way that he did (read: his particular ideology/worldview) ended up causing to himself. On this topic, no one speaks authoritatively for Darwin except for Darwin himself. Thus, it would not be much of a surprise to find collective agreement here that we today should learn from this, so as to help turn away from and not follow Darwin’s example.
Curious to hear your thoughts about how it (if in any way) impacts your interpretation of Darwin’s legacy, including but not limited to his contribution to natural science, as well as philosophical anthropology. We typically don’t discuss “theological anthropology” by invoking Darwin’s name because he was neither a theologian nor personally a religious theist. This is where we have to “push off from Darwin” to really find our way out into deeper intellectual and spiritual waters, which Darwin himself dared not try to navigate.
“Up to the age of thirty, or beyond it, poetry of many kinds, such as the works of Milton, Gray, Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Shelley, gave me great pleasure, and even as a schoolboy I took intense delight in Shakespeare, especially in the historical plays. . . . But now for many years I cannot endure to read a line of poetry: I have tried lately to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me. …
This curious and lamentable loss of the higher esthetic tastes is all the odder, as books on history, biographies, and travels (independently of any scientific facts which they may contain), and essays on all sorts of subjects interest me as much as ever they did. My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts, but why this should have caused the atrophy of that part of the brain alone, on which the higher tastes depend, I cannot conceive. A man with a mind more highly organised or better constituted than mine, would not, I suppose, have thus suffered; and if I had to live my life again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week; for perhaps the parts of my brain now atrophied would thus have been kept alive through use. The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.” – Charles Darwin (Autobiography, 1881)
One writer in Psychology Today responded to this quote from Darwin, noting from her husband’s reaction to her work, that when the “head is full, [but] the heart is empty. That’s when I feel the sting of Darwin’s regret all too well.” https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/positivity/200905/darwins-regret
Thus, I wonder how those who seem to want to advertise a “great heart” in the person of Charles Darwin, respond to others, like this psychologist, who rather see what appears as a kind of “iron cage of rationality” (Weber) in what he wrote above? Doesn’t taking a realistic view of Darwin’s contribution to natural science and cultural history at least allow us to gain by avoiding his excesses and regrets?
While I do have solid appreciation for what Darwin contributed in several fields of natural sciences, it has been long obvious to me that when thinking about what it means to be a human person, we must learn to move beyond Darwin’s contribution in the 21st century. Lynn Margulis already put a name on this decades ago writing about post-Darwinian thinking. Otherwise we could get stuck in a “new social Darwinism” (https://thisviewoflife.com/toward-a-new-social-darwinism/) that treats “religion” as it is treated by atheists and agnostics in the sub-field called “evolutionary religious studies”, as entirely “natural” in origin and inspiration. This move beyond Darwin should be made so that we don’t come to regret, like Darwin did, a loss of “higher esthetic tastes”, happiness, and moral character.
This, along with his questionable conflict-oriented “struggle” philosophy based on Malthus’ population theory and bolstered by Spencer’s “survival of the fittest” language alongside of Darwin’s, and his refusal to discuss religion or theology in public, while embracing the newly coined irreligious label “agnostic”, is why it makes little sense for a site like BioLogos to engage in “heroic history” involved with Darwin’s considerable, but ultimately limited legacy moving forward.
This is why I responded to such a claim as made about Darwin, in light of Calvin, Luther, Menno Siemens and Sun Myung Moon. Of Darwin, suggested Klax, “He’s the only hero in that eponymous list. His followers are just rational in following his clear, giant, courageous, brilliant, heroic footsteps.”
Yet, in hindsight I realize that Klax was joking, and that I just didn’t catch his sense of humour at the time. Now that I do, it is indeed funny what he suggested, as if heroic science and heroic religion that congregates around peoples’ names and legacies, isn’t actually required. Thankfully it spurred this post, in response to @NickolaosPappas, who inquired about what was indeed Darwin’s regret for us to learn from.
Does what Darwin wrote above count as something (legitimate) to “regret” in the eyes of most reading this?