Darwin’s Disposition: Political Patronage

nla_map-t1606-vI’ve just finished reading ‘The Origin of the Species’. It was surprising to find almost ZERO evidence of any cultural Christian influences, which seems to be a key theme found amongst some Darwinians who have suggested that this hindered his original work.

There are, however, strong patterns throughout the book which indicate a “disposition”, which suggests among other things, that Darwin was a political product of Imperialist expansionism; a son from the age in which and whence forth, he therefore thus “descended”…

On another, slightly satirical note, but still related to that of Darwin, we find something that might suggest how the “principle of selection” explains the friendly-sometimes-comedic rivalry between Australia and New Zealand.

In which case, Charles Darwin might have been way ahead of his time:

‘New Zealand and New Caledonia (France)[i] should be considered an accessory of Australia’

‘Although New Zealand is here spoken of as an Oceanic island, it is in some degree doubtful whether it should be so ranked; it is of large size, and is not separated from Australia by a profoundly deep-sea; from its geological character and the direction of its mountain-ranges, the Rev. W.B. Clarke has lately maintained that this island , as well as New Caledonia, should be considered as appurtenances of Australia’[ii]

All that said, I did enjoy reading it. I’ll post something deeper about it once I’ve have made time to process and properly order some of my notes.

Even though I am conscious of my bias and limitations with this, I don’t think it is reading history backwards to say that the language Darwin uses is highly political.

It does show that extremely careful Darwin was with his choice of words, but it doesn’t show he did it in order to be sensitive to an overly intolerant and ignorant Christian majority. Instead, the text seems to fall in line with the political narrative of his day.

Like an abstract artist, I could be coloring outside the lines here, but from my initial reading ‘The Origin of the Species’, as well as being an empirical list of theory and suggested evidence to match, reads like a scientific justification for the political policies of the historical context, for and from which it was written.

It is too early for me to settle on this insight conclusively. Although I can see how writers such as Lutheran Gene Veith and Tom Wright (among others) have concluded that Darwinist thought was one of the key progenitors[iii], or ‘great prophets of Modernism’[iv] and therefore a justification for some of the most violent and barbaric events carried out throughout the 20th Century.

In the course of deciding how best to follow-up the topic from a theological perspective, I’ve added the Paternoster 2009 publication: ‘Theology after Darwin, edited by Michael S. Northcott and R.J Berry to my reading list.

The book is a compilation of essays that no doubt will present itself as a challenge to read.


[i] Australia’s Eastern neighbours include France (New Caledonia), New Zealand, Solomon Islands, and Fiji.

[ii] Darwin, C. 1859 The Origin of the Species, New American Library, 1958, p.380

[iii] Veith, G.E. 1993 Modern Fascism ‘Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection had implications far beyond biology…he saw violent conflict as the essence of nature; e.g.: as competition between races: ‘’survival of the fittest”’ Kindle Ed. (Loc.464)

[iv]  Wright, T. 1997 What Saint Paul Really Said, p.155

Image: National Library of Australia


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