It was the ’must-have’ book of the Century. Everyone who was anyone felt duty-bound to buy, read and comment on this game-changing tome.
To say Charles Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’ rocked the earth is putting it mildly. Since its publication in November 1859, Darwin’s theory has been more fiercely debated than almost any other subject. Although creationists viewed the concept as blasphemous, evolution has rapidly become one of the world’s fastest growing belief systems.
But has its worldwide acceptance benefited mankind? Or could it actually have caused, or at the very least exacerbated, many of our problems?
Twenty-five years after the book hit the shelves, an illustrious group of European statesmen sat down together at the Conference of Berlin and systematically carved up Africa, with catastrophic effect. To what extent did Darwin’s theory influence this conference?
Surely, the appalling arrogance of these men - who referred undiplomatically to their theme as the ‘Burden of Africa’ - was at best Imperialistic and at worst downright racist. The delegates held that, as Africans were ‘uncivilised’ by European standards, they were therefore inferior - an implicit assumption which Darwin’s book - “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life” to give it its full title – did nothing to dispel.
The same assumption helped fuel the Holocaust, with Nazis viewing non-Arian minorities, such as Jews and Romanians, as sub-human - to such a degree that mass extermination of these groups could be carried out with no qualms whatsoever….all to further the Master Race!
At the other extreme, Stalin and his cronies found the godlessness of Darwin’s theory extremely useful. One of his first policies was to dismantle religion, that ‘opiate of the masses’, forcing Eastern Bloc residents to regard communism as the only acceptable way to think.
And, generally speaking, belief in evolution has done little to make us nicer, kinder or less selfish. The ’Me’ generation flourished all the more in the belief that this life’s all there is - “Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die!” as the Stoics would say. Meanwhile, the absence of accountability to anyone but oneself and one’s own desires has led to casual relationships, unwanted children, broken families, gratuitous violence, greed, selfishness and pride.
Lack of belief in a Creator has also caused psychological problems. No matter how many refuse to accept it, every human has a spiritual need which we neglect at our peril. When this need is unaddressed, people will do one of two things: Live for the moment, focusing purely on physical pleasures and goals, or search for some purpose and meaning to their lives, a search which can sometimes lead to occult practices, exploitation, religious fraud and unscrupulous cults.
With its poor track record, world religion as a whole has turned many sincere people away. But, like the Emperor’s New Clothes, evolution also bears a heavy responsibility for the evils we face.