Friday, January 21, 2005

Darwinic Irony

I thought another quote from Bill Bryson was in order.

A life in a rural vicarage seemed to await him [Darwin] when from out of the blue there came a more tempting offer. Darwin was invited to sail on the naval survey ship HMS Beagle, essentially as dinner company for the campatin, Robert FitzRoy, who was very odd, chose Darwin in part because he like the shape of Darwin's nose. (It betokened depth of character, he believed). Darwin was not FitzRoy's first choice, but got the nod when FitzRoy's preferred companion dropped out. From a twenty-first century perspective the two men's most striking joint features was their extreme youthfulness. At the time of sialing, FitzRoy was only twenty-three, Darwin just twenty-two.

FitzRoy's formal assignment was to chart coastal water, but his hobby-passion realy-was to seek out evidence for a literal, biblical interpretation of creation. That Darwin was trained for the ministry was central to FitzRoy's decesion to have him aboard. That Darwin subsequently proved to be not only liberal of view but less than wholeheartedly devoted to Christian fundamentals became a source of lasting friction between them.

Now one shouldn’t go overboard thinking that Darwin’s thoughts on evolution are as clean, concise and obvious as they appear today, especially since the topic really wasn’t at the forefront of his mind during the Beagle trip. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the irony of the situation. I also wonder how much of that same irony occurs today?

In this situation, a relatively religious person proposed an eventually sound idea that many people took as a direct attack on God. Now I don’t think God changed during the eventual, and seemingly never ending, turmoil on the issue. And yet clearly the results of the idea were incompatible with many conceptions of God. Like the characterization of FitzRoy portrays, some people take any weakening from their pre-conceived conceptions of God as a personal attack on divinity. This even if their ideas, though well intentioned, be tenuously creditable.

The irony of a religious person fighting to diminish God against a fundamentalist’s fantastical beliefs of superlative though impossible God is interesting. Is this what Joseph Smith faced? Does this belie the friction between the mormon and evangelical communities? Is this what Jesus faced? Was he in the ironic position where he was perceived as blaspheming and denying a God that he was attempting to accurately portray?

Personally I get nervous when things I present may be perceived as limiting God. With so many conceptions tied together, what one person views as a simple limitation, another may view as a tangled attack on the essence of religion. When the rallying focus of one side is excitement, is anything less acceptable?


chris g said...

Just a quick comment from Clark's page. He links to a site on irony, which hopefully isn't ironic at all in terms of this post, but I doubt it (well at least I will pretend to doubt it, while actually thinking something else).

So Darwin graduating from Divinity school isn't ironic, but a prophet trying to dissuade people from an overly zealous view on god may be, well at least if people think the prophet is denying god in the process.

Whew! I am glad I am not a philospher or some of that may actually make sense to me. :)

Clark Goble said...

It's ironic in the non-ironic sense. (grin)

Actually I wasn't even thinking of your site. The link I posted came up by accident while viewing other sites. I don't remember where I saw it.

BTW- have you looked at your site on a PC? Some of the fonts aren't installed by default and your alternative fonts don't show up too well.

chris g said...

I will take a look at the PC end of things. I figured my ie 5.2 would be good enough, but perhaps not.