By Julian S. Huxley, Theodosius Dobzhansky, Reinhold Niebuhr, Oliver L. Reiser, Swami Nikhilananda
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Additional info for A Book that Shook the World: Essays on Charles Darwin's Origin of Species
The Biblical recognition of the importance of man could not be easily transmitted or transcribed to f~t into the optimistic scheme, but they could be subordinated to the idea that God had called man to be "co-worker" with him. The secular world generally considers the rearguard action of Christian orthodoxy, in vainly trying to refute the undoubted scientific achievements of Darwin, as an undignified and pathetic spectacle. But modern culture is not generally aware that the uncritical appropriation by Christian liberalism of the illusions, propogated by those who drew false conclusions in the realm of history from truths, which were valid in the realm of nature, was just as futile and pathetic.
37 THE CONCEPT OF EVOLUTION IN PIIII~OSOPlIY Oliver L. Reiser o DOUBT it is mere coincidence that the year which saw the publication of Darwin's Origin of SPecies was also the year in which John Dewey was born. But it is no accident that the longrange consequence of both events was to change the character of philosophy by giving the death-blow to the "spectator theory of knowledge" which had been so much a part of philosophy since the time of Plato. Considered in the light of this development, Dewey is certainly correct in his analysis, in his early essay (1910) on "The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy," where he announces that the greatest dissolvent in contemporary thought of old questions and the greatest precipitant of new methods and problems is the scientific revolution that found its climax in Darwin's book, the Origin of Species.
Darwin's discoveries did not create this optimistic determinism, but they seemed to support it. In the other case it was "science" and the "scientific method" which were relied upon to put man in gradual control of historical as well as natural forces, thus guaranteeing the progressive elimination of all manner of evil. The purely deterministic theories failed to measure human freedom, which distinguished man from the brutes and history from nature. The voluntaristic theories, whether Comtean and liberal or Marxist and communist, looked forward to a change in the human situation, either by revolution or evolution, which would alter the ambiguity of man's relation to the historical process in which he was both creator and creature; and make him unambiguously the creator of historical destiny.