Do We Humanists “Worship” Darwin?

Remember, “If you ask the wrong questions, you never have to worry about the answers.”  This is one of those unanswerable questions because there are so many definitions of “worship” that there is no definition for “worship”.  The Old Testament Jews had many prophets (Major and Minor Prophets) but they didn’t “worship” any of them.  The New Testament tells of John the Baptist as a prophet, but he was not worshipped.  Jesus was worshipped as being both a man and a god even though he never wrote anything.  However the Muslims treat Jesus as a prophet and not to be worshipped.  Muslims claim to worship only Allah, yet they worship the words of Mohammad and Mohammad is raised to a level where no “graven images” are allowed of him – just like the Old Testament has a commandment against “graven images” of their worshipped god.  The Buddhists tend to almost worship the words of Buddha and some Buddhists do worship the Dali Lama.  And Hindus worship many gods.

Rather than ask if we Humanists “worship” Darwin, perhaps we would do better to ask ourselves, “Do we place undue emphasis on Darwin?”  There is no question that Darwin was a ground-breaker and a leader in changing the paradigm from contemplating things of an intellectual or religious model to basing beliefs on observation and predictability.  And it is evident, more so in the United States than other countries, that many people still would rather base their beliefs on supernatural models rather than on the scientific model.

Although Darwin was very instrumental in promoting the scientific model, he wasn’t the only one.  There were other ground-breakers who came before him and after him.  Spinoza was a ground-breaker in basing things on observation.  With the new observatory at his time, the academic community started basing their beliefs of the structure of the universe on observations through telescopes rather than using intellectual models of the universe.  The same with Galileo and Copernicus.  And these men, some would say, were responsible for the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment which got Western society out of the grasp of the Catholic Church as the sole source of Truth.  A good example of such a ground-breaker in the 20th Century would be John Dewey.  He did a great deal of ground-breaking in the realms of philosophy, psychology, aesthetics, sociology, and education by observing the dialectical process in all these areas. 

And today, there are many scientists who are breaking ground in the workings of the mind through observations of functional MRIs (fMRIs) so that instead of dealing with intellectual models of the mind like Freud, Jung, James, etc. had to do, scientists are now basing their models on observations.  Scientists like Pink, Pinker, Gardner and many others are coming out with new deductions of the workings of the mind from observations at a dizzying rate today. 

So although Darwin should be exalted as a special person, I’m not sure that he should be exalted above these other ground-breakers.  I personally don’t feel that we should even define evolution only by what Darwin has said.  There have been so many new ways to observe through carbon dating, DNA, genomes, fMRIs that I’m sure that if Darwin had been able to study and use these tools, he would be using different terms and phrases for his observations.  We need to allow Darwin the opportunity to grow and “evolve” his own theory of evolution.  We should quote Darwin when he says something that is a neat way to say it, but we should not quote him as an authority.  Not today.  To allow his words to become cast in stone as if from a mountain does him great disservice. 

And we should never allow the Extreme Right to use the term “Darwinism”.  There is no such thing as Darwinism.  Whenever the extremists use the phrase “Darwinism vs Creationism” they are framing the discussion in an unfair way.  The issue is “Science vs Creationism”.  There is Protestantism, Catholicism, Judaism, Muslim, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. but there is no such thing as Darwinism.  Darwinism is not a religion, Darwin is not a person who is worshipped, and Darwin’s words are not to be quoted as an ultimate authority. 

I, personally, am a little uncomfortable with proclamations of “Darwin Day”.  I would feel more comfortable with “Science Day” and I would be for holding that on Feb 12 in honor of Darwin’s contribution, among many, to the science model of obtaining knowledge.  The Science Model is so much more than Darwin, and even more than Evolution.  The Science Model also includes observing the universe, observing the microscopic world including atoms and sub-atomic elements.  It includes observing the body, observing the development of life in the womb, observing the mind, and even observing the climate changes around the world.  All of these, and more, are allowing us to build our knowledge based on observations rather than theoretical or religious models.  And to me, all of these ground-breakers should be exalted and revered. 

David Kimball



About David

David's picture
Having been raised as a Fundamentalist Evangelical, I was driven rather than attracted to Humanism. Having been retired (unceremoniously by Raytheon) I am now finding time to be more active in my beliefs as well as my passions.

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