Darwin's Dangerous Idea

No doubt about it, Andrew Marr has tackled the mother of big ideas. Charles Darwin's evolution by natural selection is at once compelling and polarising. In fact, it's so big an idea that Marr says evolution truly has a life of its own.

And hes right. Evolution by natural selection is an idea that cuts to the very core of what it means to be human. It demands our attention because Darwin answers the big questions; What does it mean to have a soul and live on a planet teeming with other non-human life? And where do we come from?

Marr also says in his documentary, 'Darwin's Dangerous Idea', that evolution is dangerous because it causes us to question the role of religion, morals and ethics in society. At the same time, it offers answers to life's big problems like the existence of evil and why people continue to kill each other.

It points to a dark side of the debate that is often overlooked, but addressed by Marr in part two of his documentary.

Evolution was picked up and manipulated by proponents of eugenics, the deeply abhorrent notion that surfaced in the early 1900s arguing humanity should secure its future by breeding improved people and filtering out the weak. The world's reaction to the Nazi Holocaust speaks for itself.

Yet despite the abuse of Darwin's ideas, evolution by natural selection has continued to gain considerable credibility and momentum since the naturalist completed his famous fact-finding voyage more than 170 years ago.

When Darwin plucked up the courage to publish his field notes in 'Origin of Species', Marr says the tables turned. Until that point, the Bible's creation story had no serious competition.

Evolution so captured the imagination of philosophers and thinkers that society would never again accept the Biblical account of creation without question.

Humans are truth-seeking primates, Marr argues, and it was through Darwin we discovered this great evolutionary truth. He acknowledged it wasn't an easy or comfortable truth, but now there was no going back.

To visually underscore the point, he symbolically turned from the camera and walked out of a large stone church as the first episode closed.

So we are faced with an idea so big it demands our attention. Darwinism is presented as a classic conflict between opposing forces. It's an epic struggle between science and God, evolution and creation, logic and myth.

Darwin is also a wedge between atheist thinkers and Bible-believing Christians. A negative, emotional debate that arguably brings out the worst in both camps.

Darwin seems dangerous because it wants us to choose a side, pick a winner. And at first glance the choice seems obvious. Rational thought and scientific inquiry proves the non-existence of God. It's beyond question, right?

Well, even Marr offers caution. Some passionate Darwinians, ironically, are at risk of turning Charles himself into a god or religion, as Marr warns in this BBC story. Its a great insight from a man who described himself in the story as a lapsed Presbyterian Christian, who at the age of 15 had a blinding revelation of disbelief.

Marr of course is unable to separate himself from the Darwin story, just as we likewise are drawn to our own conclusions. I am no different. Like Marr, I experienced a blinding revelation at roughly the same age but I arrived at entirely the opposite conclusion.

But as a Christian, does that automatically mean I must reject Darwin outright?

Marr notes the Catholic and Anglican churches have respectively made their peace with Darwin's idea at different levels. I too would look for reconciliation. Surely God is big enough to account for a world that is continually in a state of being created.

Are we hypocritical if we grant Darwinism immunity from the same scientific inquiry it uses to attack skeptics? Id like to know if every aspect of evolution can be definitively proved in the modern lab.

So what about you? Have you picked a side, or are you looking for the middle ground?


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