On the 12th day of February 1809, two children were born who would each have a profound impact on the world--one that affected not just the people of his time, but continues to have an almost immeasurable effect today. The achievements of both individuals are being recognized this month, but their legacies could not be more different.
On February 18, America will celebrate President's Day. Originally implemented to honor the birthday of George Washington, this holiday is now commonly understood as honoring the February 12th birth of Abraham Lincoln as well. Largely self-educated, Lincoln was elected President of the United States in 1860. His leadership during the tumultuous years of the Civil War has led him to be recognized as one of the greatest of the American Presidents.
One of his foremost achievements was the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed American slaves as of January 1, 1863 (although most slaves in the seceded southern states would not learn of it until after the war). Lincoln firmly espoused the democratic ideals on which America was founded, as reflected in his Gettysburg Address:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
The other child born on February 12, 1809, would grow up to have a far different view on the equality of men.
I could show fight on natural selection having done and doing more for the progress of civilization than you seem inclined to admit.... The more civilized so-called Caucasian races have beaten the Turkish hollow in the struggle for existence. Looking to the world at no very distant date, what an endless number of the lower races will have been eliminated by the higher civilized races throughout the world.1
He ranked certain races as being between "the Caucasian" and the baboon.
At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time, the anthropomorphous apes...will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilized state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro |sic| or Australian and the gorilla.2
Even the subtitle for Charles Darwin's groundbreaking 1859 book Origin of Species reflects this particular aspect of "natural selection": The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life. Darwin's views on the origins of life have gradually led to science's enslavement to a godless ideal. Nevertheless, his work and influence will be commemorated this month on Darwin Day, a celebration described as "an international recognition of science and humanity."3
Sadly, the occasion will also be marked in many churches as "Evolution Weekend," thanks to the Clergy Letter Project. Begun in 2004 by Michael Zimmerman (now Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Butler University), this project's purpose is to allow clergy a means of indicating their support for the teaching of evolution. Participating pastors are invited to endorse "An Open Letter Concerning Religion and Science," which states in part:
We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests.4
The letter speciously posits that "religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts."4 Thus it neatly excises the possibility that the Bible is, or even should be, factually accurate, paving the way to indoctrinate yet more people with the idea that "evolution is sound science and poses no problems for their faith."4
This month we celebrate two men of renown. One freed slaves, and the other enslaved minds. Which one is truly worthy of remembrance? Let us use these celebrations as a reminder to honor the Source of true freedom--"If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John 8:36).
- Charles Darwin: Life and Letters, I, letter to W. Graham, July 3, 1881, 316; cited in Himmelfarb, G. 1959. Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution. London: Chatto and Windus, 343.
- Darwin C. 1901. The Descent of Man. London: John Murray, 241-242.
* Ms. Mull is Managing Editor.
Cite this article: Mull, B. 2008. One Birthday, Two Legacies. Acts & Facts. 37 (2): 8.