How much sense does this make?
An organization that bills itself as a promoter of “freedom from religion” posted billboards bearing the words “Praise Darwin: Evolve Beyond Belief” in several U.S. cities to coincide with the British naturalist’s 200th birthday. Cities where the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) placed the advertisements include Dayton, Tennessee, and Dover, Pennsylvania—homes of the 1925 Scopes “Monkey Trial” and the highly politicized 2005 Dover Trial, respectively.
The Wisconsin-based foundation, which put up a Grinch-like sign next to a nativity scene in the Washington State Capitol during the 2008 Christmas season,1 has apparently mistaken the meaning of the word “praise” in the same way as it misunderstood the historical significance and application of the phrase “separation of church and state.”
The Greek verb for “praise” is aineō, which in the New Testament always refers to the praise of God. This definition predates the word’s Latin derivative from which English gets “price” and “prize.” In essence, to praise something is to ascribe a great deal of value to it. It’s a term often used synonymously with “worship,” the reverent honor and homage paid to God.
So why is a group of “freethinkers” inviting everyone to pay reverent homage to a man who was by no means a god, especially when it acknowledges no god or religion in the first place? The billboards’ stated purpose is to mitigate evolution’s “bad rap” in the United States.2 Forget about what the scientific evidence says regarding evolution’s lack of proof.
Darwin, as careful an observer and prolific a writer as he was in his day, created not one law or physical attribute in nature. He never endured the scourge of the 39 lashes or spilt his blood on a Roman cross for the sake of his people. As far as we know, he’s still buried in Westminster Abbey, not seated bodily at the right hand of God interceding on our behalf. And he hasn’t promised to return to right all wrongs once and for all.
So, for what should we praise Darwin?
- Dao, C. Atheists Get ‘Shared Time’ with Nativity Scene. ICR News. Posted on icr.org on December 8, 2008, accessed February 18, 2009.
- Freethought Group Posts Wherever Darwin Vs. Dogma Battle Rages: “Praise Darwin” Billboards Go Up in Dayton, Tenn., & Dover, Penn. Freedom from Religion Foundation press release, February 10, 2009.
* Ms. Dao is Assistant Editor.
Article posted on February 19, 2009.