On this ID the Future, Taking Leave of Darwin author Neil Thomas and host Jonathan Witt continue their conversation about Thomas’s journey from Darwinian materialism to theistic humanism and a thorough skepticism of Darwinian theory. Here Thomas links the heroic posturing of modern atheists Richard Dawkins and Bertrand Russell, on the one hand, and on the other, the heroic fatalism of poetry stretching back to the early Middle Ages and, further still, to the ancient Greeks. Thomas also draws a link between the animistic thinking of much ancient pagan thought and the magical powers attributed to the Darwinian mechanism. Thomas explains why he now views the latter as essentially “crypto-animism.” In their wide-ranging conversation, Thomas and Witt also touch on contradictions in Darwin’s treatment of natural selection, the tug-of-war between the paleontologists and the geneticists in the evolutionist community (and how their battle points to a conclusion neither side appears willing to consider), and insights proffered by figures as diverse as British philosopher Antony Flew and celebrated American novelist John Updike. Thomas’s new book is available for purchase here.
As a nod to Darwin Day and Black History Month, today’s ID the Future spotlights the racist thinking of Charles Darwin and the scientific racism fueled by Darwinism and Darwinists. As guest and historian Michael Flannery notes, Darwin’s followers, including Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton, took ideas found in Darwin’s work and used them to vigorously press the case for eugenics, a movement that came to have a horrifying impact for American blacks in the twentieth century, including for thousands who were subjected to forced sterilizations. Was Darwin’s racism purely a function of his time and place, Victorian England? Flannery says no, and on two counts. First, he says that the co-discoverer of the theory of evolution by natural selection, Alfred Russel Wallace, was far more progressive about non-Anglo indigenous races than was Darwin, arguing that they were very much the equals of Europeans, morally and intellectually. Such an outlook is dramatically different from Darwin’s, who saw them as far inferior and destined to be weeded out by the process of natural selection one day. Also, while Wallace came to embrace a form of intelligent design and to reject philosophical materialism, Darwin and many of his followers saw his theory as both rooted in, and supporting, a materialistic outlook on nature. Humans, in other words, were without an immaterial soul. This materialistic view of the human person, Flannery and host Jay Richards argue, vitiates the traditional theological understanding of humans as made in the image of God with inherent dignity and worth. As Richards further notes, Martin Luther King Jr. made precisely this point himself. Tune in as Flannery and Richards explore this oft-neglected corner of history.