Charles Darwin, the son of a wealthy doctor/financier, originally studied medicine before developing a fascination with natural history. While traveling aboard the HMS Beagle as a “self-financed naturalist”, he collected flora and fauna from many different parts of the world, one of which, the Galapagos Islands specifically influenced his work On the Origin of Species. The island had species that, although geographically isolated, shared similar traits with species from nearby South America. His idea was that although they shared similar ancestors, each of these species had developed traits beneficial to their survival in their own respective environments.The slow and methodical transformations resulted in drastic changes over millenniums (which humans cannot see) and the creation of two distinct species. This work was published as a result of his research and other scholarly works on the subject of evolution; however, it took him 25 years to publish his work as a result of the trip. His tone in the piece reflects a philosophical upbringing designed to persuade readers to support his idea of ‘natural selection’ as a natural phenomena.
Future thinkers would corrupt Darwin’s idea that pre-determined traits create advantageous or disadvantageous realities for creatures; while influential in biology and the sciences, thinkers like Francis Galton would corrupt it and propose human manipulation of these concepts in order to create a “perfect” individual. While one cannot state that Darwin’s ideas caused many eugenics programs around the world, they did add scientific reason behind individuals’ desires to attempt to shape their realities through science. Social Darwinism was built upon this idea of “survival of the fittest” (a phrase which does not appear in On the Origin of Species) to apply nature to explain human enterprises, specifically the success or failures of groups and organizations.
John Hall Gladstone’s interest in science and religion began during his childhood. He and his three brothers were tutored throughout their youth. They became quite interested in natural science through this education. Gladstone furthered his interest in science while attending chemistry lectures during his time at University College London. Additionally, during his adolescence, he held a great passion for religion and claimed he wanted to work for the ministry. In 1850, he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society, a prestigious group of European scientists who contributed a fair amount of research and work to the natural sciences. Gladstone’s interests ultimately focused on both science and religion.
Gladstone wrote “Points of Supposed Collision Between the Scriptures and Natural Science” in 1872. This work showcased his support for both religious and scientific hypotheses associated with creation. When considering his interest in both of these fields, it is evident why he supported these conflicting views on creation. Gladstone wrote this piece about a decade after Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species. Darwin made controversial arguments regarding how species were created in this work. He claimed that God was not the sole creator of all beings. Instead, he believed that evolution and natural selection were the root cause of this phenomenon. A great deal of Europe’s population, a society dominated by Christian ideology, felt frustrated by these assertions. Gladstone, however, was not horrified by Darwin’s views. He stated that while reading On the Origin of Species, “I felt no shock to my religious faith: indeed the progressive development of animated nature seemed to harmonize with that gradual unveiling of the divine plan which I had loved to trace in the Bible.” Rather than seeing Darwin’s claims as an attack against Christianity, Gladstone believed they helped solidify many of his religious ideas regarding creation. He believed that scientific and spiritual beliefs regarding creation could coexist. By writing in this way, it is possible that both scientists and theologians agreed with his work.
Rather than solely supporting religious or scientific hypotheses on creation, Gladstone interestingly supports both in “Points of Supposed Collision Between the Scriptures and Natural Science.” How do you think Europe’s population reacted to such claims? Although he exerted an interest in both ideologies throughout his life, do you believe he should have supported only one side on this controversial topic?
 Points of Supposed Collision Between the Scriptures and Natural Science, 1872.
I’ve gotten a little behind on blogging (sorry Qualls!) but not for lack of interest. If anything, this course is getting increasingly interesting for me, I’m going to be pretty upset when its over and done with… typical nerd problems.
For my first “catch up” blog posting, I wanted to talk about the article that was sent out last week about Russian Orthodox activists and their protest at a museum. The article, written by Gabriela Baczynska, talks about how religious activists associated with the Russian Orthodox Church put up banners and leaflets that were against the evolution theory at a museum named for Charles Darwin. The author noted that the movement, while peaceful, was surprising in how bold it was.
However, I wonder how much of an actual movement this protest represents. Yes, this was a grand gesture of the church’s negative opinion regarding secular traditions, but is this the sentiment of a majority of Russian Orthodox Christians within Russia? Or is this merely a small faction of the faith creating a publicity stunt? Through further research, I found a quote from an interview of Russian Orthodox Church spokesman Vsevolod Chaplin about the protest. Chaplin refused to condem the activists, saying that “…it was a little more agressive than it needed to be.” Granted, the original article also states that “About two-thirds of Russians consider themselves Russian Orthodox and the church has gained influece since the 1991 collapes of the Soviet Union…”
What can one draw from the vague phrase “gained influence”? What does that actually entail? And with the statistic of two-thirds calling themselves Russian Orthodox, does that mean every person included in the study is as devout as those who staged this protest? How does one measure devoutness in religion? It isn’t a black and white study, there are too many gray areas to consider when discussing religion.
That’s why I don’t put too much faith in statistics such as these, because there are so many aspects of studies not factored in; it is too general of a topic. All these are questions that I hope to answer with my research paper on Russian Orthodoxy in the Soviet Union. Reading articles such as this make me want to pursue the topic further, and try and gain some answers. One fact can definitely be drawn from this event however; that conditions between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian government are far from ideal, and tension between the two groups is fairly noticeable.