young darwin: denial of the fittest

…Darwin himself was a lover of nature, a collector and sportsman, before he was a man of science. He grew up with the tastes of an English provincial gentleman at a time whn hunting, shooting, and the breeding of horses and dogs formed a staple amusement of upper-class Englishmen. In his father’s unsympathetic words, ” You care for nothing but shooting, dogs, and rat catching, and you will be a disgrace to yourself and all your family.”

—Between about 1615 and 1621, Rubens produced a series of monumental hunting scenes. A painting entitled Wolf and Fox Hunt was sold by him to English diplomat Sir Dudley Carleton in 1617, and another seems to have been purchased by the duke of Aershot. —can understand why a man as modest and charming as Darwin can still lead to fighting words 200 years after his birth. Yes, it is true that he offered up a brilliant theory—the theory of evolution by natural selection; but he also swept away the foundational certitudes upon which Western civilization had rested for thousands of years. If Darwin was right, then the Bible was wrong. God had not created Adam; evolution had.
To accept Darwin’s new truth required a rejection of an enormous number of other hitherto established “truths” in a wide range of different fields. It was to gain one piece of knowledge at the cost of jettisoning virtually everything else we thought we knew.
To be sure, skepticism about the literal truth of the Bible did not begin with Charles Darwin. Spinoza in the middle of the 17th century had written a treatise,—Read More: image:

Darwin, in fact, belongs to the gallery of famous men whose school days were undistinguished and profitless. After he had shown no more aptitude for medicine, the family profession, than for the classical curriculum of Shrewsbury School, his father prepared wearily to follow the established English custom of bestowing the fool of the family on the Church, and so Darwin was sent up to Cambridge in 1827. He seemed destined to become yet another botanizing Victorian clergyman.

—is how Dawkins dealt with the question of morality. At the outset, Dawkins admits that “the Darwinian idea that evolution is driven by natural selection seems ill-suited to explain such goodness as we possess, or our feelings of morality, decency, empathy and pity.”
This got me nodding in agreement. When our world is merely a matter of random acts of “natural selection” without any Designer or apparent purpose or direction, and creations are simply individual organisms fighting for their survival, what should cause us to selflessly pursue acts of goodness or morality, at the expense of our own personal needs or pleasures?
Dawkins answers this by explaining that there are four motivators for “altruistic behavior” (his term) in a Darwinian, evolutionary society—Image:

From this he was rescued by an accident which seems almost to have been sent by Providence in a fit of self-destructiveness, for from it was to flow the work which so rudely shook men’s belief in divine superintendence of human affairs. In 1831 H.M.S. Beagle, commissioned by the Admiralty to make a surveying voyage in the southern hemisphere was in need of a naturalist. Darwin was recommended by his friend and mentor J.S. Henslow, Professor of Botany at Cambridge, and after some hesitation, he accepted. He was away for five years….( to be continued)…

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