Chris' Original Blogbeque

A fresh, vinegar-based examination of life

The inferior scrutiny of man

Posted by Chris on March 28, 2010

Before reading, you may want to read my introduction which includes why I’m reading The Origin of Species, my scientific beliefs about evolution, and my theological beliefs about creation.  Also, click the category listed below the post for related posts.

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It may be said that natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinising, throughout the world, every variation, even the slightest; rejecting that which is bad, preserving and adding up all that is good; silently and insensibly working, whenever and wherever opportunity offers, at the improvement of each organic being…

In my Kindle version of the Origin of Species I highlighted several pages consecutively comparing the scrutiny and effectiveness of Natural Selection vs Man’s Selection.  Darwin clearly believes that Man’s selection is inferior not only in its results, and not only in its abilities (as stated above), but that the methodology of Man’s selection suffers several fatal flaws.  In theory, we could do a better job, that is, the result of human selective breeding of animals could end up with animal stock far better equipped for survival than what was actually produced.  What are these weaknesses?  And what parallels do I see with some aspect of Christian theology?

1. Man focuses too much on external appearances.

Man can act only on external and visible characters: nature cares nothing for appearances, except in so far as they may be useful to any being.  She can act on every internal organ… on the whole machinery of life. ~Darwin

For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.  1 Sam 16:7

Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment. Jn 7:24

The Bible, the source of Christian theology, and Darwin agree that Man generally focuses only on the external.  This method of judgment is in error, as a different kind of judgment is called “right” in John 7.  What is the right judgment?  1 Sam 16 says it is the judgment of the heart– an internal organ, the superior characteristic of Darwin.  There is a whole machinery of life that exists beyond the external.

2.  Man is only worried about himself.

Man selects only for his own good; Nature only for that of the being which she tends… the being is placed under well-suited conditions of life.  ~Darwin

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good. Rom 8:28

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Jer 29:11

Our selfishness only promotes our own good.  Generally, one’s self-promotion comes at the expense of something or someone else.  Yet the promotion of the good of another tends to result in universal benefit.  There are numerous secular examples of this principle in human society.  Darwin saw nature as an invisible hand, guiding its subjects to their greatest good.  Christian theology teaches that God works all things together for the good of his subjects and that he has a plan set in advance of how he will do this.  This is called the “Sovereignty” of God.

This point of Darwin creates a tangent to this post about how Darwin’s writing shows a rejection and rebellion against some common ideas that were grounded in a Christian, theistic view of the world.  Darwin calls the invisible force nature– I call it God.

3. Man lacks discernment & wisdom

Man keeps the natives of many climates in the same country; he feeds a long and short beaked pigeon on the same food; he exposes sheep with long and short wool to the same climate… nature is scrutinising every variation. ~Darwin

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Cor 2:14

It’s not that man knows nothing about breeding animals, or true religion.  We are more educated than ever.  Darwin affirms that man, in his power of selection, has “produced a great result by his methodical and unconscious means.”  But there’s so much he’s missing!  Man’s selection is quite inferior when compared to natural selection.  There are two problems.  First there’s an error of discernment, which I’ll define as the application of wisdom.  Darwin, as an unbiased observer, can see how some of the breeder’s methods led to inferior results.  There was wisdom available not being used– an error of discernment.  But, there was also wisdom lacking– my reading of Darwin is that neither he nor the breeder’s would know exactly what food to give different kinds of pigeons.  Man fails because of lack of wisdom.

Similarly, humans lack discernment and wisdom spiritually.  In Romans 1, Paul writes that God’s nature has been clearly seen and revealed but people, though they knew God, thought they claimed to be wise, embraced foolishness by ignoring this knowledge.  This is an error of spiritual discernment.  Furthermore, in Corinthians we see that there are some things that are not seen because one can only see them with spiritual eyes.  This ties in with the reference from the previous point about judging the heart.

4. Man does not value purity

He does not rigidly destroy all inferior animals, but protects during each varying season, as far as lies in his power, all his productions… Can we wonder that nature’s productions should be… infinitely better adapted to the most complex conditions of life, and should plainly bear the stamp of far higher workmanship? ~Darwin

But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.  Lk 5:8

Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘TheLord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” Ex 33:18-20

Inferior animals still hold value to man, as his objective is selfish (to feed his family, sell for money, etc…) rather than the permanent improvement of a species.  For this reason, nature’s results are infinitely better.  My point here is not that Man should kill weak animals, just as it is not true that God kills weak men (if that were true, this blog would not exist).  Rather, to again focus on principles– in this case, the holiness of God.  Holiness is attributed to God as a description of the separation between God because of his high moral character and sinful people.  Thus Peter, recognizing God in flesh, asks him to leave!  His concern is justified.  And the Lord compromises with Moses in order to grant his request but also protect Moses from the brilliance of his holiness.

We no more value purity in animals than we do in our own lives.  Some value purity in their food, eating only organic.  Some value purity of lifelong chastity or not owning a television.  But no one neither desires purity nor attains it in very many aspects of life.  Nature, however, is not distracted by its desires and promotes purity of life in the eyes of Darwin.  God in his holiness does not expose himself to impure things, thus our need for Jesus in order to enter the presence of God.

Summary

Because of these four characteristics of man as a natural breeder and spiritual being, we fall short of the standards of Nature in its selective ability according to Darwin, and according to God’s standards according to the Bible.  The Bible and Darwin harmonize in their accounts of the flaws of man and the superiority of an invisible force accomplishing what man cannot.  In fact, Darwin gives a beautiful summary in the excerpt I italicized above, that nature’s work is of higher workmanship.  That sentence would find good company in many volumes of theology.

No one should mistake this book for good theology, however, again I see Darwin touching on similar themes to scripture and correctly identifying philosophical attributes of man.  Regardless of the scientific facts about evolution, I believe this points to greater theological questions ultimately answered by Christian theology.

In the next post, I will comment on one more shortcoming of Man presented by Darwin in this section that deserved its own space.

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3 Responses to “The inferior scrutiny of man”

  1. […] Comments (RSS) « The inferior scrutiny of man […]

  2. […] with Darwin.  First, his discussion of natural selection highlights man’s ignorance (see this post).  Yet he’s confident in asserting a theory that he has only “proved” in small […]

  3. […] wrote that natural selection far exceeded the capabilities of Man’s selection for the reasons I outlined here. Even though man, in selecting animals, acts with purpose and applies intelligence that has been […]

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