Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Civil War in a Larger International Context: Darwinian Edition

This is the latest in a series of posts of earth shattering events which surrounded the US Civil War. They are tied either directly or indirectly to the war between the states.  The first two posts were on military conflicts which were concurrent with and were influenced by the battle between the Blue and the Grey.  These posts are listed in recent posts below.  

This post is about a scientific conflict which still has ramifications to this day.  Charles Darwin had exactly the same birthday as Abraham Lincoln, February 12, 1809.  Both men were considered ordinary until their ideas became well known in the late 1850's.  Both were very cautious about pursuing their proposals because they knew that they would encounter a lot of resistance.  An astrologer may attribute these similarities to their sign, Aquarius, while another explanation could also be coincidence.  

Naturally they did meet resistance when they pushed their ideas of abolishing slavery (Lincoln of course) and the evolution (Darwin's Origin of Species).  Of course these two men do not deserve all of the credit for these revolutions happening.  There were many abolitionists and scientists who worked tirelessly for years to lay the groundwork for a revolution in thought and action.  The abolitionists were aided by the industrial revolution which made slavery obsolete.  There is a whole field of philosophy on scientific revolutions on why and how they happen.

In the case of evolution there were discoveries in geology which showed that the earth must be far older than the Bible says (calculated to be about 6,000 years old) and that there were lots of mass extinctions of animals for which the Bible could not account.  Darwin's evidence he obtained on the voyage of the HMS Beagle and described in his book The origin of Species.  Journalist/Scientist James Burke does an interesting review of how Darwin's ideas were used to change society after The Origin of Species was published in 1859 in ways that he never intended.

While the scientific community and the powers that be accepted the outcomes of these revolutions.  A 2010 Virginia Commonwealth University survey of American's attitudes towards the life sciences still shows there is still considerable division on beliefs about Darwin's theories seen below in Italics.  I am not aware of any polls on regional differences on attitudes towards evolution but I would expect that where regions differ on attitudes towards the Civil War, attitudes are also most pronounced on evolution such as where the Scopes monkey trial occurred in Tennessee in 1925 or the Texas Board of Education Today.

Religious Conflict with Evolution?
In general, would you say the theory of evolution conflicts
with your own religious beliefs, or is mostly compatible
with your own religious beliefs*? %
Conflicts with my beliefs 42
Is mostly compatible 43
Don’t know/Refused 16
*order of response options was rotated

Views on Evolution
Which of these statements comes closest to your views on
the origin of biological life: biological life developed over
time from simple substances, but God guided this process,
biological life developed over time from simple substances
but God did not guide this process, God directly created
biological life in its present form at one point in time*?
God directly created life 43
Developed over time, God guided process 24
Developed over time, God did not guide 18
None of these/Don’t know/Refused 16
*order of response options was randomized
Source: VCU Life Sciences Survey 2010
Figures may add to 99 or 101 due to rounding


The series Drunk History gives a good summary of the Scopes Monkey Trial.

**Related Posts**

The Civil War in a Larger International Historical Context

The Civil War in a Larger International Historical Context - Cinco de Mayo edition

'The Secret' Gets the CSI w/o Dead Bodies Treatment

Deep South Primaries