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Chapter 24 – The Birth of Modern Thought

1) Darwin and His Critics

The Descent of Man, 1871

The main conclusion here arrived at, and now held by many naturalists who are well competent to form a sound judgment, is that
man is descended from some less highly organized form. The grounds upon which this conclusion rests will never be shaken, for the
close similarity between man and the lower animals in embryonic development, as well as in innumerable points of structure and
constitution, both of high and of the most trifling importance, - the rudiments which he retains, and the abnormal revisions to which
he is occasionally liable, - are facts which cannot be disputed. They have long been known, but until recently they told us nothing
with respect to the origin of man. Now when viewed by the light of our knowledge of the whole organic world their meaning is
unmistakable.

The great principle of evolution stands up clear and firm, when these groups of facts are considered in connection with others, such
as the mutual affinities of the members of the same group, their geographical distribution in past and present times, and their
geological succession. It is incredible that all these facts should speak falsely. He who is not content to look, like a savage, at the
phenomena of nature as disconnected, cannot any longer believe that man is the work of a separate act of creation. He will be
forced to admit that the close resemblance of the embryo of man to that, for instance, of a dog - the construction of his skull, limbs
and whole frame on the same plan with that of other mammals

Samuel Wilberforce, 1860

Mr. Darwin writes as a Christian, and we doubt not that he is one. We do not for a moment believe him to be one of those who
retain in some corner of their hearts a secret unbelief which they dare not vent; and we therefore pray him to consider well the
grounds on which we brand his speculations with the charge of such a tendency.

Man's derived supremacy over the earth; man's power of articulate speech; man's gift of reason; man's free will and responsibility;
man's fall and man's redemption; the incarnation of the Eternal Son; the indwelling of the Eternal Spirit---all are equally and utterly
irreconcilable with the degrading notion of the brute origin of him who was created in the image of God, and redeemed by the
Eternal Son assuming to himself His nature. Equally inconsistent, too, not with any passing expressions, but with the whole scheme
of God's dealings with man as recorded in His word, is Mr. Darwin's daring notion of man's further development into some unknown
extent of powers and shape, and size, through natural selection acting through that long vista of ages which He casts mistily over the
earth upon the most favored individuals of His species.

St. George Jackson Mivart, 1871

Scripture seems plainly to indicate this when it says that "God made man from the dust of the earth, and breathed into his nostrils
the breath of life." This is a plain and direct statement that man's body was not created in the primary and absolute sense of the
word, but was evolved from pre-existing material (symbolized by the term "dust of the earth"), and was therefore only
derivatively created, i.e., by the operation of secondary laws. His soul, on the other hand, was created in quite a different way, not
by any pre-existing means, external to God Himself, but by the direct action of the Almighty, symbolized by the term "breathing:"
the very form adopted by Christ, when conferring the supernatural powers and graces of the Christian dispensation, and a form still
daily used in the rites and ceremonies of the Church....

By such secondary creation, i.e., by natural laws, for the most part as yet unknown but controlled by "natural selection," all the
various kinds of animals and plants have been manifested on this planet. That divine action has concurred and concurs in these laws
we know by deductions from our primary intuitions; and physical science, if unable to demonstrate such action, is at least as
impotent to disprove it. Disjoined from these deductions, the phenomena of the universe present an aspect devoid of all that
appeals to the loftiest aspirations of man, that which stimulates his efforts after goodness, and presents consolations for
unavoidable shortcomings. Conjoined with these same deductions, all the harmony of physical nature and the constancy of its laws
are preserved unimpaired, while the reason, the conscience, and the aesthetic instincts, are alike gratified. We have thus a true
reconciliation of science and religion, in which each gains and neither loses, one being complementary to the other.

2) Social Darwinism

Walter Bagehot, The Use of Conflict, 1872

But how far are the strongest nations really the best nations? How far is excellence in war a criterion of other excellence? I cannot
answer this now fully, but three or four considerations are very plain. War, as I have said, nourishes the "preliminary" virtues [of
valor, veracity, the spirit of obedience, and the habit of discipline], and this is almost as much as to say that there are virtues which it
does not nourish. All which may be called "grace" as well as virtue it does not nourish; humanity, charity, a nice sense of the rights of
others, it certainly does not foster.

The insensibility to human suffering, which is so striking a fact in the world as it stood when history first reveals it, is doubtless due
to the warlike origin of the old civilization. Bred in war, and nursed in war, it could not revolt from the things of war, and one of the
principal of these is human pain. Since war has ceased to be the moving force in the world, men have become more tender one to
another, and shrink from what they used to inflict without caring; and this not so much because men are improved (which may or
may not be in various cases), but because they have no longer the daily habit of war---have no longer formed their notions upon
war, and therefore are guided by thoughts and feelings which soldiers as such--soldiers educated simply by their trade---are too hard
to understand.

William Graham Sumner, The Challenge of Facts

The condition for the complete and regular action of the force of competition is liberty. Liberty means the security given to each
man that, if he employs his energies to sustain the struggle on behalf of himself and those he cares for, he shall dispose of the
produce exclusively as he chooses. It is impossible to know whence any definition or criterion of justice can be derived, if it is not
deduced from this view of things; or if it is not the definition of justice that each shall enjoy the fruit of his own labor and self-denial,
and of injustice that the idle and the industrious, the self-indulgent and the self-denying, shall share equally in the product. Aside
from the a priori speculations of philosophers who have tried to make equality an essential element in justice, the human race has
recognized, from the earliest times, the above conception of justice as the true one, and has founded upon it the right of property.

Archibald Philip Primrose, Lord Rosebery, British politician and foreign secretary, letter to the London Times, 1900.

An Empire such as ours requires as its first condition an imperial race—a race vigorous and industrious and intrepid. Health of mind
and body exalt a nation in the competition of the universe. The survival of the fittest is an absolute truth in the conditions of the
modern world.

Martial Henri Merlin, governor general of French Equatorial Africa, speech, 1910.

We went to new territories. We went there by virtue of the right of a civilized, fully developed race to occupy territories which have
been left fallow by backward peoples who are plunged into barbarism and unable to develop the wealth of their land. What we
exercised is a right, and if anyone denies this, you should firmly maintain that it is a right. We are entitled to go out to these peoples
and occupy their territories; but, when we exercise this right, we, at the same moment are charged with a duty towards these
peoples, and this duty we must never for one instant forget.
T.H. Huxley, 1893

As I have already urged, the practice of that which is ethically best – what we call goodness or virtue – involves a course of conduct
which, in all respects, is opposed to that which leads to success in the cosmic struggle for existence.

3) Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche, excerpts from The Will to Power, 1901.

728 (March – June, 1888)


A society that definitely and instinctively gives up war and conquest is in decline; it is ripe for democracy and the rule of
shopkeepers—In most cases, to be sure, assurances of peace are merely narcotics.

751 (March – June, 1888)


”The will to power” is so hated in democratic ages that their entire psychology seems directed toward belittling and defaming it….

752 (1884)
Democracy represents the disbelief in great human beings and an elite society: “Everyone is equal to everyone else.” “At bottom
we are one and all self-seeking cattle and mob.”

753 (1885)
I am opposed to 1. socialism, because it dreams quite naively of “the good, true, and beautiful” and of “equal rights”; 2.
parliamentary government and the press, because these are the means by which the herd animal becomes master.

762 (1885)
European democracy represents a release of forces only to a very small degree. It is above all a release of laziness, of weariness, of
weakness.

765 (January – Fall, 1888)


Another Christian concept, no less crazy, has passed even more deeply into the tissue of modernity: the concept of the “equality of
souls before God.” This concept furnishes the prototype of all theories of equal rights: mankind was first taught to stammer the
proposition of equality in a religious context, and only later was it made into morality: no wonder that man ended by taking it
seriously, taking it practically, socialistically, in the spirit of the pessimism of indignation.

854 (1884)
In the age of suffrage universal, i. e., when everyone may sit in judgment on everyone and everything, I feel impelled to reestablish
order of rank.

870 (1884)
The root of all evil: that the slavish morality of meekness, chastity, selflessness, absolute obedience, has triumphed—ruling natures
were thus condemned (1) to hypocrisy, (2) to torments of conscience—creative natures felt like rebels against God, uncertain and
inhibited by eternal values….

874 (1884)
The degeneration of the rulers and the ruling classes has been the cause of the greatest mischief in history! Without the Roman
Caesars and Roman society, the insanity of Christianity would never have come to power.

When lesser men begin to doubt whether higher men exist, then the danger is great! And one ends by discovering that there is
virtue also among the lowly and subjugated, the poor in spirit, and that before God men are equal—which has so far been the height
of nonsense on earth! For ultimately, the higher men measured themselves according to the standard of virtue of slaves—found
they were “proud,” etc., found all their higher qualities reprehensible.
997 (1884)
I teach: that there are higher and lower men, and that a single individual can under certain circumstances justify the existence of
whole millennia—that is, a full, rich, great, whole human being in relation to countless incomplete fragmentary men.

998 (1884)
The highest men live beyond the rulers, freed from all bonds; and in the rulers they have their instruments.

4) Zionism

Theodor Herzl, The Jewish State, 1896

To the first class of objections belongs the remark that the Jews are not the only people in the world who are in a condition of
distress. Here I would reply that we may as well begin by removing a little of this misery, even if it should at first be no more than
our own.

It might further be said that we ought not to create new distinctions between people; we ought not to raise fresh barriers, we
should rather make the old disappear. But men who think in this way are amiable visionaries; and the idea of a native land will still
flourish when the dust of their bones will have vanished tracelessly in the winds. Universal brotherhood is not even a beautiful
dream.

…Modern anti-Semitism is not to be confused with the religious persecution of the Jews of former times. It does occasionally take a
religious bias in some countries, but the main current of the aggressive movement has now changed. In the principal countries
where anti-Semitism prevails, it does so as a result of the emancipation of the Jews.

…Therefore I believe that a wondrous generation of Jews will spring into existence.

Let me repeat once more my opening words: The Jews who wish for a State will have it. We shall live at last as free men on our own
soil, and die peacefully in our own homes.

The world will be freed by our liberty, enriched by our wealth, magnified by our greatness.

And whatever we attempt there to accomplish for our own welfare, will react powerfully and beneficially for the good of humanity.