Andrew White
The Warfare of Science and Theology in Christendom

Excerpts from the Original Electronic Text at the web site of the University of Wisconsin .

The Final Effort of Theology

[1] DARWIN'S Origin of Species had come into the theological world like a plough into an ant-hill. Everywhere those thus rudely awakened from their old comfort and repose had swarmed forth angry and confused. Reviews, sermons, books light and heavy, came flying at the new thinker from all sides.

[2] The keynote was struck at once in the Quarterly Review by Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford. He declared that Darwin was guilty of ``a tendency to limit God's glory in creation''; that ``the principle of natural selection is absolutely incompatible with the word of God''; that it ``contradicts the revealed relations of creation to its Creator''; that it is ``inconsistent with the fulness of his glory''; that it is ``a dishonouring view of Nature''; and that there is ``a simpler explanation of the presence of these strange forms among the works of God'': that explanation being - ``the fall of Adam.'' Nor did the bishop's efforts end here; at the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science he again disported himself in the tide of popular applause. Referring to the ideas of Darwin, who was absent on account of illness, he congratulated himself in a public speech that he was not descended from a monkey. The reply came from Huxley, who said in substance: ``If I had to choose, I would prefer to be a descendant of a humble monkey rather than of a man who employs his knowledge and eloquence in misrepresenting those who are wearing out their lives in the search for truth.''

[3] This shot reverberated through England, and indeed through other countries.

[4] The utterances of this the most brilliant prelate of the Anglican Church received a sort of antiphonal response from the leaders of the English Catholics. In an address before the ``Academia,'' which had been organized to combat ``science falsely so called,'' Cardinal Manning declared his abhorrence of the new view of Nature, and described it as ``a brutal philosophy - to wit, there is no God, and the ape is our Adam.''

[5] These attacks from such eminent sources set the clerical fashion for several years. One distinguished clerical reviewer, in spite of Darwin's thirty years of quiet labour, and in spite of the powerful summing up of his book, prefaced a diatribe by saying that Darwin ``might have been more modest had he given some slight reason for dissenting from the views generally entertained.'' Another distinguished clergyman, vice-president of a Protestant institute to combat ``dangerous'' science, declared Darwinism ``an attempt to dethrone God.'' Another critic spoke of persons accepting the Darwinian views as ``under the frenzied inspiration of the inhaler of mephitic gas,'' and of Darwin's argument as ``a jungle of fanciful assumption.'' Another spoke of Darwin's views as suggesting that ``God is dead,'' and declared that Darwin's work ``does open violence to everything which the Creator himself has told us in the Scriptures of the methods and results of his work.'' Still another theological authority asserted: ``If the Darwinian theory is true, Genesis is a lie, the whole framework of the book of life falls to pieces, and the revelation of God to man, as we Christians know it, is a delusion and a snare.'' Another, who had shown excellent qualities as an observing naturalist, declared the Darwinian view ``a huge imposture from the beginning.''

[6] Echoes came from America. One review, the organ of the most widespread of American religious sects, declared that Darwin was ``attempting to befog and to pettifog the whole question''; another denounced Darwin's views as ``infidelity''; another, representing the American branch of the Anglican Church, poured contempt over Darwin as ``sophistical and illogical,'' and then plunged into an exceedingly dangerous line of argument in the following words: ``If this hypothesis be true, then is the Bible an unbearable fiction;... then have Christians for nearly two thousand years been duped by a monstrous lie.... Darwin requires us to disbelieve the authoritative word of the Creator'' A leading journal representing the same church took pains to show the evolution theory to be as contrary to the explicit declarations of the New Testament as to those of the Old, and said: ``If we have all, men and monkeys, oysters and eagles, developed from an original germ, then is St. Paul's grand deliverance - `All flesh is not the same flesh; there is one kind of flesh of men, another of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds' - untrue.''

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