Our last article dealt with the great nineteenth century debate in this country concerning the bearing of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species on religion. As typical disputants in this controversy we singled out two conservatives, James McCosh, President of Princeton University, and Charles Hodge, Professor of Systematic Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. McCosh had favored “development,” while Hodge had argued that “Darwinism is atheism.” We intimated our surmise that Hodge was right about “Darwinism” and that McCosh championed a rather expurgated form of evolution, not really Darwinism.
Darwin himself was probably the cause of the divergence between Hodge and McCosh, as well as between a host of others ranged on opposing sides in this continuing debate. Hodge was careful not to say that Darwin was an atheist, and McCosh almost as cannily avoided saying that Darwinism was teleological. Actually, Darwin’s system was atheistic, but Darwin himself was not. L. Sweet has observed that “in all the range of Darwin’s writing there are few religious references of any sort.… Theological or metaphysical thought always made a demand upon him to which he felt little able or inclined to respond. He says, for example: ‘I cannot pretend to throw the least light on such abstruse problems. The mystery of the beginnings of all things is insoluble by us, and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic’ ” (Verification of Christianity, pp. 282 f.). When he assured a famous Harvard scientist “Certainly I agree with you that my views are not at all necessarily atheistical,” he no doubt spoke sincerely. But it was owing to “my not ...1
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