Thinking about human nature is interesting, especially when looking through the lens of Theology. I was just browsing Facebook when I noticed a friend who had posted a Christian comic strip about human nature. It depicted it as a green beast-like character that follows up around everywhere we go. Its personality traits are all that one would expect to be said about the bad side of human nature. These included our selfishness, pride, and desire to beat the survival-of-the-fittest game. This got me to think of where these sort of ideas could have possible come from.
Now, I have no problem with Darwin and the theory of evolution. But I think that, as odd as it may sound, Darwin actually was a huge influence on the Fundamentalist Christian view of human nature. Let me explain.
While Darwin’s theory, and his work The Descent of Man, spoke of natural selection and the works, which pictured life as a brutal game of survival, there was a gentler side spoken as well; one of cooperation and the positive things that set man apart from other animals. Unfortunately for Darwin, these are hardly spoken of. Instead, “Darwin’s Bulldog,” Thomas Huxley made himself busy coining phrases like survival of the fittest. Huxley had taken a much harsher stance on human nature.
This harsh, survival mentality trickled down through decades until it finally reached industrial America at the turn of the century.
This was an age of a new school of thought called Social Darwinism. Social Darwinism takes this idea of the survival of the fittest and projects it onto the socio-economic behavior of the early 1900’s. This makes sense when you think of the Roaring 20’s, Big Trusts, and Monopolies. These things were justified by Social Darwinism in that the rich and wealthy must have superior genes, and therefore are worthy of such success. Well, enter trust-busting Roosevelt and the Social Gospel Movement. Suddenly, Politics, Economics, and the Church, along with several other characters, are all in the same boxing rink at the same time. Each one scuffs up and rubs off onto the other, and each are forever changed by the brawl. Think about today, and how there are laws against monopolies, specific laws that make exceptions for churches, and the existence of a non-profit, charity-type company. These are all consequences whose origin can be traced back to these times. So, Social Darwinism put up a fight in the ring, and took beating from Anti-Trust Laws, but the ideas began to settle into American culture as time went on. It is all around us today, yet we hardly notice because it has become such the status-quo. Who is the stereotypical kid in an Ivy-League school? The one in on legacy. The one with top-of-the-pyramid genes. How are the titans of industry depicted nowadays? As individuals who must have stepped over others in order to obtain their success. Survival of the fittest, in black and white. It has penetrated so deep into our culture that the Church does not even realize it is infiltrated.
Take all of the harsh, savage, animalistic things out of Darwin’s theories, as promoted by Huxley and personify them. What emerges is a wretched individual bent on his own survival and his survival alone. Taking it a step farther, in order to guarantee their survival, the individual is one who reaches the top at all cost. Each move calculated in order to satisfy its own greed, while the world and others are made for them to use at a whim. This is what is preached against in a church. (Which is nuts when you think about how an affirmating sermon would draw many many many more people into church and produce better, loving Christians over a condemning one. But that is another story to be talked about later.) This is the disgusting human nature that everyone is warned against. And this theological movement is all thanks to Darwin (Actually, it is probably thanks to Huxley for screwing up the interpretation of Darwin’s work ...jerk)
Typed as a pure train of thought :P