Reading: Darwinian Roots of the Culture of Death
This passage by Nancy Pearcey draws the connection between Darwinism and today’s culture of death.
In Nancy Pearcey’s latest book, Love Thy Body (Baker Books, 2018), she investigates both causes and solutions of modern culture’s most serious issues concerning sex, life and death: divorce, the redefinition of marriage, abortion, euthanasia, the hook-up culture, homosexuality, transgenderism, and more.
Pearcey develops her themes from a “two-story” picture of the secular worldview, with roots in Kant’s philosophy, that led to a complete separation from values (upper story) and physical reality (lower story). The following passage comes from chapter 3 on euthanasia, in a subsection titled “Darwinian path to death” (pp 87-88).
In chapter 2, we learned that a key turning point in the development of the two-story worldview was Darwin’s theory of evolution. So it is not surprising that many of the leading figures who first called for abortion and euthanasia were supporters of Darwinism. Many of them advocated eugenics, the attempt to improve humanity by eliminating people with disabilities and genetic defects, as well as people deemed to be of ‘lower’ races. In the public mind, eugenics is linked to the Nazis, but in reality it was practiced and promoted throughout much of the Western world even before the rise of Nazism.
In the nineteenth century, German biologist Ernst Haeckel gained fame as an outspoken promoter of Darwin’s theory. In his opinion, modern civilizations that care for the disabled are interfering with the evolutionary principle of survival of the fittest. He urged them to follow “the example of the Spartans and Redskins” who killed disabled infants immediately after birth. He also favored euthanasia for disabled adults.
On this side of the Atlantic as well, Darwinism led many prominent thinkers to accept abortion and euthanasia. One historian [Cynthia E. Russett] writes, “The most pivotal turning point in the early history of the euthanasia movement was the coming of Darwinism to America.”
From these beginnings, worse atrocities sprung. Pearcey details many examples. In some European countries, for instance, “euthanasia vans” travel around like ice-cream trucks playing music to advertise their “services.” Some modern philosophers think a child should be expendable up to age 12. At the other end of the age spectrum, the elderly are increasingly at risk of being treated as non-persons, Pearcey explains, because the culture, accepting the two-story view that “personhood” is in the upper story but the body is in the lower story, allows governments to decide which lives have the value of personhood and which do not. It started with bad ideas like those of Kant and Descartes, and culminated in the tipping point of Darwin’s theory, where even the upper story of values evolves, and everything is material.
Throughout the book, Pearcey contrasts the Darwinian two-story view of man with the Christian view of body and soul as a unified being, made in the image of God. The consequences could hardly be more stark for society and for individuals. Pearcey writes compassionately toward the confused, like homosexuals and transgenders, showing how the Bible offers hope and peace and a way out of the confusion. In Christianity, we can learn to enjoy and love our bodies as God’s creation.
We hope this excerpt above encourages our readers to get the book and read more. Love Thy Body is a well-documented treatment of a topic of vital concern to the church. It helps one understand how society got into such a mess that now threatens churches and Christian businesses with censure or closure for non-cooperation. The book is especially valuable for pastors, but worthwhile for all who want insight into what’s going on, what’s behind the confusion of radical laws about sex and death, and what we can say to those under the Darwinian spell of the sexual revolution with its tragic—and deadly—consequences.