Wednesday, January 6, 2010

St. Charles

In his book Darwin Loves You, George Levine spends page after page insisting that he is not trying to write a hagiography of Charles Darwin. In this blog entry, I am taking the opposite approach. It is not my intention to literally make Charles Darwin appear to be a saint, but he had some strikingly saintly characteristics. I want to call a few of them to your attention.

First, he had the perseverance of a saint. He had experiments set up all over his house, he read everything he could get and corresponded with dozens of people around the world, despite his debilitating illness. Even when ill, he would force himself to walk on his thinking path (the Sandwalk). He wanted to know the truth and find the evidence for it.

Second, he had the passion of a saint. One of his main passions was his opposition to slavery. Desmond and Moore, in their 2009 book, demonstrate that Darwin got his concept for the Tree of Life from his conviction that all humans shared a common ancestor and that all were equal; he then extended the concept to the entire world of species.

Third, he had the mild manner of a saint. He was kind and fair. He did not act egotistical and mean the way some of his opponents did and do, such as Darwin’s contemporary Richard Owen, and our contemporary Tom Delay who dismisses all who accept evolution as slime-worshippers.

Darwin was a magistrate of his local district. One incident is recorded in which a poor man was accused of poaching on government land. The evidence was clear, and Darwin found him guilty and levied the required fine. But then, Darwin paid the fine himself. The parallel with Jesus Christ is unmistakable: Christians think that God levied a fine on sinful humans, and Jesus paid the fine for us. What creationist has ever done anything like what Darwin did for the poor man?

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