Saturday, December 03, 2005

Darwin: In His Own Words (and confusing words they are)

I've concluded that Darwin needed to meet C.S. Lewis.

In reading the Faith and Values section of the Dispatch this week, where there was a front-page story on Darwin, there was a pulled quote that read: "I cannot persuade myself that a beneficient and omnipotent God would have designedly created parasitics wasps with the express intention o ftheir feeding within the living bodies of catepillars." The article continues with the idea that Darwin, who at one time was in training to be an Episcopal minister, wanted to believe in God, but "couldn't," because of the problem of pain. That's why I think he needed to meet Lewis; Lewis wrote a masterful volume with that same name that discusses why God, if He is Love and is all-good, would send pain to his people. It's been awhile since I read it, but Lewis' points seem to be that God sets in play certain laws of nature, and those laws can tend to cause people pain. God doesn't send a person cancer, for example, but he created the human body, and in that human body certain cells can mutate to cause cancer. Does God avert it? Certainly. He is all-powerful, after all. But most of the time He chooses not to, and since He knows what's best for us, in His eternal plan for us, He probably knows better than we do. Does that make suffering any easier? Take it from me, it doesn't at first. But it can bring us consolation to know that God is with us in everything we do. Mother Teresa used to call suffering the embrace of Jesus, that you are so close to Jesus when you suffer that He can literally hug you. That's helped me, as well as the Catholic idea of redemptive suffering, which St. Therese knew, which Dostoevsky (although not Catholic) also knew--that humanity is connected by a vast web of suffering and love, and by offering up our suffering to that web we join all humanity, and can help others. It's kind of a vague and probably weird idea to those not acquainted with it, but Catholics, especially cradle Catholics (mothers: "offer it up!") will know what I mean. And yet Darwin, the great scientist, was unable to see that nature has its own God-given rules and methods. Sometimes those methods are malignant. But that's nature.

The big problem I have with Darwin isn't the basic idea of evolution. I'm with the Church on that; humans haven't always looked the way we do now. But Darwin didn't see human beings as anything special; he believed in the ape theory (heck, he coined the ape theory). That's distinctly un-Christian--Christians of all stripes believe that we were created "in His image" and the Jesus is the "Word made Flesh"--He is the Son of God, and since Jesus wasn't an ape, I don't think God is either. :) Hence, we were not apes. Does that mean that we're not connected to them? No. But we didn't come from them. We are different among all animals. We are distinct. We can reason. We have a soul--animals don't. We were all created by God, but only humans were created in God's image. And that's enough for me. Darwin didn't see that.

Poor guy. The article said he didn't want to cause all this ruckus...that's why he waited so long to publish Origins of the Species . But he was certainly confused, much like Camus, who said he was an atheist because he couldn't believe in a God who would let one innocent child die. But too many people see these things as God "letting" them happen. God has a plan for everyone. Sometimes it's tragic and seems pointless to us. But that's where faith comes in. You have to believe that nothing is pointless, there is no maleficient action on God's part. He doesn't "willingly afflict the children of men," as the Episcopalians say in the Book of Common Prayer . But He does allow suffering. Often it's the only way we grow closer to Him. Too bad Darwin didn't use it that way.

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