What is Darwinism?: And Other Writings on Science and Religion Paperback – 31 Dec 1994
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This book is chiefly known for its conclusion, *What is Darwinism? It is atheism.* This is unfortunate. He only condemns Darwinism after he has spent more than 100 pages closely defining it. It is not all change that he condemns, or even evolution, but a particular species of evolution -- naturalistic Darwinism.
Hodge rarely made hasty judgments. He wa sone of the first theologians to comment on Darwin's The Origin of Species (1859) in print -- 1861. Hodge spent many years studying all aspects of the theory. He identifies its strengths as well as its philosophical inconsistencies.
This book is of great value not only to those interested in theology and 19th century history and culture, but also to those interested in the contemporary debates over the merits of Neo-Darwinism (Hodge would have surely been fascinated by the exciting new Intelligent Design [ID] theorists -- like William Dembski, Jonathan Wells, Hugh Ross, Michael Behe, etc.).
This sentiment was also common among Darwin's contemporaries who didn't recognize that the philosophical grounds for science had shifted from one of theism to one of positivism and naturalism. In the words of Nancy Pearcey "a great many of them simply took the facts that Darwin presented and inserted them into the older philosophy of nature as an open system - not realizing, apparently, that the older philosophy was precisely what was under attack." As a contemporary of Darwin and one of the few who could discern the spirit of the age, Princeton theologian Charles Hodge makes some compelling observations in his short book "What is Darwinism?" Historian of science Neal Gillespie has remarked that "Hodge was, and remains, one of the most astute writers on the theological implications of Darwin's work." Writing in 1874 at the height of Darwin's prestige, Hodge argued that a correct understanding of the significance of Darwin's theory made meaningless any distinction between Darwin's theory and Darwinism, and thus between evolution and evolutionism.
Hodge saw that Darwinian evolution consisted of three elements. The first, evolution, is the idea that all living things share common ancestry and have evolved from a single ancestral cell. The second is natural selection, the mechanism by which evolution is said to occur. Neither of these two elements is that which gripped the imagination of the scientific community. Others had preceded Darwin in arguing that all species, including man, are descended from other species. For example Jean-Baptiste Lamarck had argued this back in 1811, as had Robert Chambers in his 1844 book "Vestiges of Creation," but the idea did not find acceptance in the scientific community. Though others had argued for natural selection in a more limited fashion prior to Darwin, he was the first to apply it in a sweeping way as the primary mechanism of change in biology. Nevertheless, the widespread rejection of natural selection until the 1930's means that this too was not the reason for Darwin's immense popularity, his being hailed "the sage of Down" within his own lifetime.
Darwin's success, according to Hodge, lay with the "third, and by far the most important, and only distinctive element of his theory, that this natural selection is without design, being conducted by unintelligent physical causes. Neither the first nor the second of these elements constitute Darwinism; nor do the two combined." "A man, therefore, may be an evolutionist without being a Darwinian." This third element is Darwin's philosophy of science, positivism. Thus it is clear that the "ism" of Darwinism, his rejection of teleology and final causes, is the core of Darwin's argument and cannot legitimately be separated from his science.
Hodge stressed that Darwin denied any form of guided evolution: "...it is the distinctive doctrine of Mr. Darwin, that species owe their origin, not to the original intention of the divine mind; not to special acts of creation calling new forms into existence at certain epochs; not to the constant and everywhere operative efficiency of God, guiding physical causes in the production of intended effects; but to the gradual accumulation of unintended variations of structure and instinct, securing some advantage to their subjects."
His answer to the question "What is Darwinism?" is "It is atheism. This does not mean...that Mr. Darwin himself and all who adopt his views are atheists; but it means that his theory is atheistic; that the exclusion of design from nature is...tantamount to atheism."
The theistic evolutionist who wants to take both science and Christianity seriously might find this to be catastrophically bad news, if he believes the only alternative to Darwinian evolution is a creationism that requires a miracle-working God. Science would seem to grind to a halt if at every difficulty we would say that "God did it." But this belief that creationism requires the external intervention of miracles into an otherwise rational natural order, is mistaken. The core of pre-Darwinian natural theology was design, that we are able to detect unmistakable marks of intelligent agency without having to tell a story about how that object came into being (eg. by invoking a miracle).
Hodge described two kinds of causality which operate in the external world: the one is physical, the other is mental (or intelligent). "The physical belongs to matter, and is due to the properties with which it has been endowed; the other is the everywhere present and everywhere acting mind of God. To the latter are to be referred all the manifestations of design in nature, and the ordering of events in Providence. This doctrine does not ignore the efficiency of second causes; it simply asserts that God overrules and controls them." Since physical causes work in tandem with intelligent causes without conflict, the problem of miracles simply does not arise for Hodge.
Theistic evolutionists need to realize that evolution cannot be separated from evolutionism. The alternative, a theory that can account for both physical and intelligent causes in biology, is not a science stopper if intelligent causes can be reliably detected. This theory, now called Intelligent Design, in its core actually predates Darwin by over a century. Darwin, rather than liberating biology, actually led it astray by tying it to the faulty epistemology of positivism, which distorted reality by trying to make physical causes do the work of intelligent causes.
This book was first published in 1874; this edition contains a lengthy and very helpful historical introduction by Mark Noll and David Livingstone. They also cite "Three Brief Notices" from some of his other works, such as Hodge's statement from his Systematic Theology, "It is admitted that theologians are not infallible in the interpretation of Scripture. It may, therefore, happen in the future, as it has in the past, that interpretations of the Bible, long confidently received, must be modified or abandoned to bring revelation into harmony with what God teaches in his works. This change of view as to the true meaning of the Bible may be a painful trial to the Church, but it does not in the least impair the authority of the Scriptures. They remain infallible; we are merely convicted of having mistaken their meaning..." (Pg. 58)
Hodge points out that Darwin "often uses teleological language, speaking of purpose, intention, contrivance, adaptation, etc.... It is affirmed that natural selection is the operation of natural laws... It is denied that it is a process originally designed or guided by intelligence, such as the activity which foresees and end and consciously selects and controls the means of its accomplishment. Artificial selection, then, is an intelligent process; natural selection is not." (Pg. 86)
He observes, "It is however neither evolution nor natural selection which gives Darwinism its peculiar character and importance. It is that Darwin rejects all teleology or the doctrine of final causes. He denies design in any of the organisms in the vegetable or animal world. He teaches that the eye was formed without any purpose or producing an organ of vision... it is this feature of his system which brings it into conflict not only with Christianity, but with the fundamental principles of natural religion..." (Pg. 92)
He states, "It will be observed that every step in his account of the formation of the eye is an arbitrary assumption. We must first assume a thick layer of tissue, then that this tissue is transparent, then that it has cavities filled with fluid, that beneath the tissue is a nerve sensitive to light, then that the fluid is constantly varying in density and thickness, that its surfaces are constantly changing their contour, that its different portions are ever shifting their relative distances, that every favorable change is seized upon and rendered permanent---thus after millions of years we may get an eye as perfect as that of an eagle." (Pg. 96)
He argues, "According to Darwin's theory, organs are formed by the slow accumulation of unintended variations which happen to be favorable... in the struggle for life. But in many cases these organs, instead of being favorable, are injurious or cumbersome until fully developed. Take the wing of a bird, for example. In its rudimentary state, it is useful neither for swimming, walking, nor flying... how long did it take to render a rudimentary wing useful?... There are but three kinds of locomotion that we know of: in the water, on the ground, and through the air; for all these purposes a half-formed wing would be an impediment." (Pg. 117)
He asserts, "A... cause of the alienation between science and religion is the failure to make due distinction between facts and the explanation of those facts, or the theories derived from them. No sound-minded man disputes any scientific fact. Religious men believe with Agassiz that facts are sacred. They are revelations from God... Religious men admit all the facts connected with our solar system, all the facts of geology, and of comparative anatomy, and of biology. Ought this not to satisfy scientific men? Must we also admit their explanations and inferences?... It is to be remembered that the facts are from God, the explanation from men; and the two are often as far apart as Heaven and the antipode." (Pg. 133)
He says, "No man asserts the immutability of all those varieties of plants and animals which naturalists, for the convenience of classification, may call distinct species. [Ernst} Haeckel, for example, gives a list of twelve species of man. So any one man make fifty species of dogs or of horses. This is a mere artificial distinction which amounts to nothing. There is a far greater difference between a pouter and a carrier pigeon than between a Caucasian and a Mongolian. To call the former varieties of the same species, and the latter different species, is altogether arbitrary." (Pg. 143)
He argues, "That this ordered cosmos is not from necessity or chance is almost a self-evident fact. Not one man in a million of those who ever heard of God either does doubt or can doubt it. Besides, how are the cosmical relations of light, heat, electricity, to the constituent parts of the universe and... to vegetable and animal life, to be accounted for? Is this all chance work? Is it by chance that light and heat cause plants to carry on their wonderful operations...? Is it without a purpose that water instead of contracting expands at the freezing point---a fact to which is due that the earth north of the tropic is habitable for man or beast? It is not answer to this question to say that a few other substances have the same peculiarity when no good end, that we can see, is thereby accomplished. No man is so foolish, because he cannot tell what the spleen was made for, as to deny that his eye was intended to enable him to see... If a man denies that there is design in nature, he can with quite as good reason deny that there is any design in any or in all the works ever executed by man." (Pg. 154-155)
He concludes, "We have thus arrive at the answer to our question, What is Darwinism? It is Atheism. This does not mean... that Mr. Darwin himself and all who adopt his views are atheists; but it means that his theory is atheistic, that the exclusion of design from nature is... tantamount to atheism." (Pg. 156-157)
This is a thoughtful critique of traditional "Darwinism" from a very important theologian. [It should be noted that Hodge was not a "young-earth" dogmatist; in his Systematic Theology, he said that the age of the earth and of man was "at present an open question."] It will be of great interest to anyone looking for serious theological reflections on basic evolutionary theory.