Charles the Liberator

Charles the Liberator

Charles Darwin. 1880
Charles Darwin. 1880

Much has been made recently of the fact that Lincoln and Darwin share a birthday. Two hundred years ago, this past Thursday. A new book talks about another thing they share. Their hatred of slavery. It sounds like a great read. Here’s a short excerpt from the introduction:



Darwin’s Sacred Cause
How a Hatred of Slavery Shaped Darwin’s Views on Human Evolution
By Adrian Desmond & James Moore
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. 448 pp. $30
Feb. 15, 2008

How did a modest member of Victorian England’s minor gentry become a twenty-first-century icon? Celebrities today are famous for being famous, but Darwin’s defenders have a different explanation.

To them Darwin changed the world because he was a tough-minded scientist doing good empirical science. As a young man, he exploited a great research opportunity aboard HMS Beagle. He was shrewd beyond his years, driven by a love of truth. Sailing around the world, he collected exotic facts and specimens – most notably on the Galapagos islands – and followed the evidence to its conclusion, to evolution. With infinite patience, through grave illness heroically borne, he came up with ‘the single best idea anyone has ever had’ and published it in 1859 in the Origin of Species. This was a ‘dangerous idea’ – evolution by ‘natural selection’ – an idea fatal to God and creationism equally, even if Darwin had candy-coated this evolutionary pill with creation-talk to make it more palatable. Evolution annihilated Adam; it put apes in our family tree, as Darwin explained in 1871 when he at last applied evolution to humans in The Descent of Man. Secluded on his country estate, publishing book after ground-breaking book, Darwin cut the figure of a detached, objective researcher, the model of the successful scientist. And so he won his crown.

The most that can be said for this caricature is the number of people who credit it. Not only evolutionists and secularists, but many creationists and fundamentalists see Darwin’s claim to fame – or infamy – in his single-minded pursuit of science. Doggedly, some say obstinately, he devoted his life to evolution. A zeal for scientific knowledge consumed him, keeping him on target to overthrow God and bestialize humanity. Brilliantly, or wickedly, Darwin globalized himself. By following science and renouncing religion, he launched the modern secular world.


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