What Hath Darwin Wrought?

Posted: Feb 17, 2007 8:29 PM

Last week we briefly visited two cities. The first city was the City on a Hill, the city envisioned by America's founders, which is built on the firm conviction that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights. The second city is built on the teachings of Charles Darwin; not just his scientific theories, but, more importantly, their philosophical implications. In recognition of his birthday, which was this week, let us more carefully explore Darwin's City.

Foundations are important. In Darwin's City, the underlying story unfolds like this: In the beginning...there was a Big Bang. A billion years after the Big Bang, stars and galaxies began to appear. Billions of years later, planet Earth just happened to form. Then, 3.7 billion years ago, in a warm little pond, quite by chance, life emerged.

"Quite by chance" is a reoccurring theme in this story. Nobody intended for the Big Bang to happen, it just did. All of the succeeding events occurred entirely by chance in Darwin's atheistic, impersonal world. Everything in Darwin's City—every mountain and valley, every bird, fish, and mouse, every man, woman and child—has emerged from the same equation: matter + time + chance.

The evolutionary-chance view of life is the foundation of both science and philosophy in Darwin's City. Since ideas have consequences, Darwin's perspective creates a distinct view of the nature of man, the character of truth, and the meaning of life.

The Nature of Man

Under the Darwinist view, human beings are not created in the image of God. God is simply a creature of our imagination. Human beings emerged gratuitously from the primordial ooze. Since we are the product of mere chance, we have no inherent dignity, value or worth.

Creatures that came into being through mere happenstance don't have a claim to innate dignity. If people and plants formed through the same random process, what objective standard determines that one is more valuable, or has more dignity, than the other? Plants and people are simply different ways of organizing matter. Neither have intrinsic value. There is no basis for inalienable rights conferred by the Creator when the existence of the Creator is denied from the start.


Darwin's City has an emasculated notion of absolute truth. Darwin maintains that we are creatures of mere chance, which means our brains are the result of chance, and the ideas formed in our brains are a matter of chance as well. After all, for Darwinists, ideas are nothing more than complex chemical reactions in a complex but ultimately meaningless organ, the brain. What do these chemical reactions have to do with "truth"? As J. B. S. Haldane said, "If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true...and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms."

The inevitable result of these beliefs is that there is no basis for rational discourse. Who can really say that the movement of atoms in their brain is more correct than the movement of atoms in another's brain? If both brains are happy, who cares? Likewise, who could declare that some things are right, others are wrong? In a universe that came about by pure chance there is absolutely no basis for right or wrong. In a world where ideas are nothing more than chemical reactions and atomic movements in a dense organ at the top of the head, no one can say that some ideas are better than others. All are equally arbitrary, all are equally meaningless. This utterly eliminates all hope for rational discourse. There is no basis for testing truth claims when truth does not exist.

Who, then, wins in a disagreement? From the Darwinist perspective, it's whoever is strongest—whoever survives and reproduces. As Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes declared, truth is merely "the majority vote of that nation that can lick all others."

The Meaning of Life

Darwin's views add up to a life without ultimate meaning. In Darwin's City there is no ultimate goal to life, only existence, whatever existence is. William Shakespeare captured the horror of this perspective in his play, Macbeth: "Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player / That struts and frets his hour upon the stage / And then is heard no more; it is a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury / Signifying nothing."

The secularist-chance view of life breeds hopelessness and despair. Human beings are mere creatures of chance, beyond the reach of truth, left to try to find meaning in existence when there is none. The secularists maintain that we come from nothing and we are destined for annihilation, yet somehow in-between we are something special. To paraphrase Francis Schaeffer, these secularists have both feet firmly planted in thin-air.

In Darwin's City there is an unholy trinity when it comes to man—he lives in a world without dignity, without truth, and without meaning. How will human beings respond in such an environment? Might they be corrupt in politics, dishonest in business, and boorish in entertainment? If not accountable to a higher power, might they deem themselves accountable only to themselves? Would men like Jack Abramoff and businesses like Enron feel at home in such a place?

Juxtaposed against Darwin's city, there is the "Shining City on the Hill," the one envisioned by Rev. John Winthrop in his famous 1630 sermon. Residents of this place are convinced that, even though human beings are fallen in their nature, they enjoy a fundamental dignity because they are created in God's image. They also have infinite worth because they have been redeemed "with the precious blood of Christ..." (1 Peter 1:19) The Creator has endowed them with the inalienable rights of life and liberty. This is the city of the American Founders. It is the city envisioned by Abraham Lincoln when he said that "this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom..." It is the city of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream, where he could say, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!" It was the place Ronald Reagan said was "a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace."

Two different cities based on two different worldviews. Which city will we choose to build?