The Impact of Evolution on the Humanities and Science


The novels of Jack London, the plays of George Bernard Shaw, and even the poetry of Alfred Tennyson contain a seemingly convincing basis for belief in the "evolution" of humankind.1 Tennyson had expressed an evolutionary viewpoint actually some time before Darwin's book appeared in 1859. But the writings of these "greats" of literature, and authors of other belles lettres as well, were strongly instrumental in adding to the impact of Darwin's second book, The Descent of Man, in converting nineteenth century intellectuals to acceptance of the concept of the so-called evolution of human beings.

Actually both London and Shaw were English socialists and followers of the thinking of the Fabian Society, which came into existence due to the work and effort of Beatrice and Sidney Webb, who in turn were followers in England of Karl Marx. Thus the "web" of selected indoctrination and inter-relationship of propagandists for an evolutionary viewpoint or world outlook can be extended. And both London and Shaw used their literary works to present Marxian socialistic views as most plausible and to illustrate the struggle for existence concept. London especially popularized the "red tooth and claw" phrase through the struggles he wrote about in White Fang and The Call of the Wild. The latter book has been repopularized by way of television dramatization in the late 1970's. Continued use of evolutionary thinking by novelists can be shown in the works of Veblen, Norris, Dreiser and Michener, whose Centennial is a par excellence example of misapplication of "historical" geology in early chapters.


In philosophy the impact of evolutionary thought can be traced through the increasingly broad application of criticism of nineteenth century classification systems involving archetypes as possible created kinds of plants or animals. According to the evolutionist's position there has been a slow, gradual change between organisms as one kind supposedly had joint ancestry with another kind and all present kinds that are known today gradually came into existence over a great expanse of time.

As if that position were grounded in proper, orderly science, philosophers have mistakenly accepted that viewpoint and used it as a basis for their attitude that categories cannot be clearly defined and that absolutes are not identifiable, that is, all things are relative. Hence confusion has been introduced into logic as basic Aristotelian principles of thinking have been challenged by systems of multivalued logic. Further confusion has been fostered in ethics and aesthetics also by acceptance of evolutionary thinking in philosophy. Mention must be made especially of the importance of the writings of John Dewey, who fully accepted evolutionary thinking, because his views2 were very influential in development of the "new" philosophy of the twentieth century that has strongly contributed to the despair of existentialism, the New Consciousness, and "openness" to mysticisms of Eastern religions.3


By tracing acceptance of the concept of inheritance of acquired characteristics by Sigmund Freud, a good beginning is made toward showing the impact of evolutionary thinking in psychology and psychiatry. In the late edition of his book, The Origin of Species, Darwin utilized the concept of inheritance of acquired characteristics fostered by Lamarck, who believed that characteristics acquired during the lifetime of an individual were transmitted somehow to offspring. Though this idea is now fully discredited and completely rejected by leading biologists and geneticists, when Freud accepted the idea, he gave significant impetus to the environmentalist inclination so prominent in psychology. According to environmentalists, an individual's behavior is the consequence of the environment in which growth and development have occurred. Today, B. F. Skinner, and also Robert Ardrey, Konrad Lorenz, and Desmond Morris, reflect broad acceptance of the environmentalist approach which is based upon the unscientific idea of an evolutionary origin of humankind.4


In the multiple sub-fields of the scientific discipline the impact of evolutionary thought has been almost complete. The influential writings of such leaders as the late Julian Huxley, Theodosius Dobzhansky, and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in support of the infusion of evolutionary thinking into all facets of biology and associated sciences still have great impact in the training programs of young scientists and in the mass communications media as well. In addition to their influence, G.G. Simpson still serves as a strong guide to almost ubiquitous application of evolutionary thought.

However, weaknesses and deficiencies in Darwinism, Neo-Darwinism, and even the modern synthetic "theory" of evolution have been published by scientists5 in every decade since The Origin of Species was published in 1859. Yet such criticisms have not been included to any significant extent in science textbooks. Actually specific impetus inaugurated in the 1960's to expand and augment the teaching of evolutionary origins in the secondary schools in the United States has really been an important cause in the 1970's for the development of creationism teaching, that is, explanation of the scientific basis or support of the creation account of origins.6


The "prime mover" of modern education, John Dewey, showed a broad acceptance of Darwinism in his extensive writings. He viewed the human being as an "evolved" creature that was slowly improving physically and mentally. According to Dewey, the environment in which schooling occurred was most important. Because Dewey stressed an evolutionary outlook in many if not all of his books, and since several generations of educators have followed Dewey's thinking in one form or another, environmentalism has become a strong viewpoint in the development of educational principles and policies in the public schools in the United States. The human being has been treated as an intelligent animal developing as a consequence of interaction with the environment, as a "survivor" by use of its wits.7


Finally, even the modern-day study of theology has been largely controlled by evolutionary ideas. Wherever acceptance of the Graff-Wellhausen "hypothesis" regarding criticism of Biblical texts can be shown, then evidence is gained for broad impact of evolutionary thinking. According to that view the Bible content has "evolved." A most influential spokesman for the view of "evolution" of the Bible was Harry Emerson Fosdick.8 He wrote extensively on the theme that man's worship of God "evolved" from the worship of a sun god and moon god, to a mountain god and river god, to a crop god, to a tribal god, to an Omnipotent God. Actually polytheistic worship has been a degenerate derivation of ancient, initial monotheism in all groups of peoples on the earth as can be shown by reference to outstanding present-day scholarships.9 The whole position of higher criticism and form criticism of the twentieth century is rooted in an evolutionary viewpoint.

— Modified from Scientism, Man and Religion
by D.R.G. Owen. 1952
Philadelphia: The Westminister Press.


1 Conner, Frederick W., 1949, Cosmic Optimism (A Study of the Interpretation of Evolution by American Poets from Emerson to Robinson), Gainesville, Florida: University of Florida Press; Leo J. Henkin 1940. Darwinism in the English Novel. N.Y.: Corporate Press, Inc.; Bert J. Loewenberg 1964. Darwinism: Reaction or Reform? N.Y.: Holt, Rinehart and Winston; Stow Parsons (Editor) 1956. Evolutionary Thought in America, N.Y.: George Braziller, Inc.; Georg Roppen 1956. Evolution and Poetic Belief. Oslo, Norway: Oslo University Press; Lionel Stevenson 1963. Darwin Among the Poets. N.Y.: Russell and Russell. See also Zirkle, Conway 1959. Evolution, Marxian Biology and the Social Scene. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, especially Chapter 10, "Marxian Biology in the Communist World."
2 See various Dewey books such as Reconstruction in Philosophy (1920) and The Quest for Certainty (1929).
3 Schaeffer, Francis A. 1968. Escape from Reason. Chicago: Inter-Varsity Press; and James W. Sire 1976. The Universe Next Door (A Basic World View Catalog). Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press.
4 Skinner, B.F. 1971. Beyond Freedom and Dignity. Toronto, N.Y. Bantam Books, N.Y.: Vintage Books; Robert Ardrey 1970. The Social Contract. N.Y.: Atheneum and African Genesis.1962. N.Y.: Atheneum; Konrad Lorenz 1966. On Aggression. N.Y.: Harcourt, Brace and World; Desmond Morris 1967. The Naked Ape. London: Cape. See Francis A. Schaeffer 1972. Back to Freedom and Dignity. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press in which he responds to the Skinner Book as well as to Jacques Monod's 1971 Chance and Necessity. N.Y.: Knopt and to Francis Crick's 1966 Of Molecules and Men. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
5 An accumulative computerized bibliographic compilation is available for one dollar upon request to Dr. Moore. These materials were gathered while using six research grants from Michigan State University over twelve years under the title, "Library Search for Representative Statements by Scientists on Organic Evolution, Natural Selection, and Related Topics since 1859."
6 Books published by Creation-Life Publishers, such as Origins: Two Models by Richard Bliss; Streams of Civilization, Vol. One. Ancient History to 1572 A.D. by Albert Hymn and Mary Stanton; Scientific Creationism by Henry M. Morris, Editor; or Biology: A Search for Order in Complexity Edited by John N. Moore and Harold S. Slusher. 1974. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.
7 White Morton. 1943. The Origins of Dewey's Instrumentalism. N.Y.: Columbia University Press. Among many books by John Dewey see his Essays in Experimental Logic (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1916) and Logic: The Theory of Inquiry (N.Y.: Henry Holt & Co., 1938). See also Zirkle, Op. Cit., Reference 1.
8 McDowell, Josh. 1972. Evidence That Demands A Verdict (Historical Evidence for the Christian Faith). San Bernardino: Campus Crusade for Christ, International. Also excellent on the Graff-Wellhausen thesis is Oswald T. Allis, 1943. The Five Books of Moses. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company; and Clifford Wilson, 1977. Ebla Tablets: Secrets of a Forbidden City. San Diego: Master Books.

Cite this article: John N. Moore, M.S., Ed.D. 1977. The Impact of Evolution on the Humanities and Science. Acts & Facts. 6 (11).

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