Table of Contents
BackgroundHodge's Life and CareerHodge's Case Against Darwinism
Hodge's Philosophical and Theological Background
Charles Darwin's TheorySystematic TheologyConclusion
What is Darwinism?
Appendix A - Engraving of Charles Hodge
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He transferred to the chair of systematic theology
in 1840 upon the partial retirement of Dr. Alexander (A.A. Hodge 1880:321).
Here he would have great influence. From chairs of exegetical, didactic,
and polemical theology in Princeton Theological Seminary, "Hodge propagated
the most powerful forces in behalf of conservative Christianity which then
prevailed among the American churches." He was founder and editor for over
forty years of The Biblical Repertory, later renamed The Princeton
Review. This journal was full of polemical articles arguing the case
of Presbyterian theology (Moore 1979:203). Hodge was loved and deeply respected
by both his students and contemporaries (A.A. Hodge 1880:453-459,547).
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Hodge acknowledges Darwin's status as a prominent naturalist and for his knowledge and skill in observation and description, as well as his "frankness and fairness." He states that his theory, however, suffers from the basic defect of attributing "all the infinite diversities and marvelous organisms of plants and animals … are due to the operation of unintelligent physical causes." Then the principles of the Darwinian theory are summarized: first, that like begets like; second, the law of variation; third, increase of plants and animals giving rise to a continuous and universal struggle for life; and fourth, in this struggle the fittest survive. This fourth principle is "natural selection," that nature "without intelligence or purpose" selects the individuals best adapted to continue and to improve the race. By the operation of these principles in the course of "countless ages" all the many forms of life have come (Ibid.:vol. 2,12-14).
Following his explanation of the Darwinian theory, Hodge makes four remarks regarding it. First, it shocks common sense to be told that "the whale and the humming-bird, man and the mosquito," are derived from the same source. Second, the theory cannot be true because it is founded on the assumption of an impossibility: that matter does the work of mind. Here Hodge is arguing design. His objection is that Darwin argues against the intervention of mind (a designer) anywhere in the process and that this is incredible. Thirdly, (and a corollary to the second remark) "the system is thoroughly atheistic and therefore cannot possibly stand." Darwin posits that God has had nothing to do with the universe since the creation of (a) living germ(s), and to Hodge, this is tantamount to atheism.2 Hodge continues to argue here extensively that Darwinism excludes design. He says that this is "explicitly and repeatedly" asserted and argued for and the opposite view ridiculed and rejected. "His book was hailed as the death-blow of teleology."3 Hodge's fourth remark is that the theory is a mere hypothesis, and incapable of proof by its very nature (Ibid.:vol. 2,14-22).
Hodge's consideration continues by summarizing seven theories of the universe. Herein only the third (Darwin's) and seventh (Scriptural) will be examined. The third view, which Hodge called "speculative," is that of Darwin and his associates who admit the creation of living matter "in the form of one or a few primordial germs." Darwin's theory, despite admitting a creator, is however anti-teleological and atheistic:
…from [one or a few primordial germs] without any purpose or design, by the slow operation of unintelligent natural causes, and accidental variations, during untold ages, all the orders, classes, genera, species, and varieties of plants and animals, from the lowest to the highest, man included, have been formed. Teleology, and therefore mind, or God, is expressly banished from the world.The seventh and final theory presented is the Scriptural doctrine. This doctrine teaches three things: 1) That the universe and all it contains owe their existence to the will and power of God; 2) God endowed matter with properties which He upholds and works in accordance with, "using them everywhere and constantly;" 3) That in the beginning God created every distinct species of plant and animal. Darwinism is merely an arraying of probabilities against these teachings of scripture (Ibid.:vol. 2,22-27).
Lastly Hodge discusses the many difficulties in his
theory which Darwin admits. He complements Darwin on his candor in acknowledging
these grave objections. Of these objections, there are several. Of concern
here is the objection that the theory assumes "that matter does the work
of mind, that design is accomplished without any designer," regarding which
Hodge says Mr. Darwin is equally candid. He quotes Darwin as saying that
this difficulty appears "' to our imagination insuperably great'" and that
natural selection could form an organ so perfect as the eye "'is more than
enough to stagger any one [sic].'" "Mr. Darwin refuses to be staggered
by that which he says is enough to stagger any one [sic]." (Ibid.:vol.
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My idea of Darwinism is that it teaches that all the forms of vegetable and animal life, including man and all the organs of the human body, are the result of unintelligent, undesignating [sic]4 forces; and that the human eye was formed by mere unconscious action. Now, according to my idea, that is a denial of what the Bible teaches, of what reason teaches, and of what the conscience of any human being teaches for it is impossible for any such organ as the eye to be formed by blind forces. It excludes God; it excludes intelligence from every thing (Schaff and Prime 1874: 317-320).What is Darwinism? The question not sufficiently answered, that is what Hodge set out to clarify in his work with that title. While many of his arguments are similar to those in Systematic Theology, What is Darwinism? reflects Hodge's more mature position regarding the issues. His basic argument that Darwinism denies design and thus God remains the same.
The book begins by explaining various other theories
of the universe, including the scriptural view, pantheism, the Epicurean
view, Herbert Spencer's philosophy, the Hylozoic theory, "theism in unscriptural
forms," and comes last to Darwin. He describes the nature of Darwin's work
as not purporting to be philosophical but simply as a naturalist to answer
one question: "How are the fauna and flora of our earth to be accounted
for?" In his solution, he assumes: 1) the existence of matter; 2) the efficiency
of physical causes; 3) the existence of life in the form of one or more
"primordial germs"; 4) a Creator, in order to account for the existence
of life; 5) from the primordial germ or germs all living organisms, vegetable
and animal, have descended; 6) because "growth, organization, and reproduction
are the functions of physical life, as soon as the primordial germ began
to live, it began to grow, to fashion organs however simple, for its nourishment
and increase, and for the reproduction, in some way, of living forms like
itself." (C. Hodge 1894:3-28)
How all living things on earth have descended from the primordial animalcule, according to Hodge's fuller summary of Darwin, may be accounted for by the following natural laws. First, the law of Heredity. Offspring are like the parent. Second, the law of Variation. While the offspring are essentially like their parent, they vary within narrow limits and these variations may be indifferent, deteriorations, or improvements. Third, the law of Over Production. All life tends to increase in a "geometric ratio," overrunning the means of support. Only a few of those born can possibly live. Fourth, the law of Natural Selection or Survival of the Fittest. If any individual of a given species happens to have a slight derivation which is favorable to it in the struggle for life, it will survive. This variation will be transmitted to its offspring, and to its offspring's offspring, and so on. These favored ones soon gain ascendancy, and the less fortunate do not survive. The modification thereby becomes established in the species. Over time more variations result in the species, and thus very gradually great changes of structure are introduced, producing the species, genera, families, and orders of life in the animal and vegetable kingdoms (Ibid.:26-30).
Hodge then goes into a deeper discussion of what Darwin means by Natural Selection. He finds the main idea of Darwin's system in the word "natural." Darwin uses the word in two senses: "first, as antithetical to the word artificial." Humans can produce very noticeable varieties in animals. This is artificial selection. Darwin argues that if man has produced very many varieties in a short time, what might nature accomplish over the "measureless ages of the geologic periods." "Secondly, he uses the word natural as antithetical to supernatural." Natural selection is made by natural laws, working without any intention or design. It can therefore not be artificial selection (by man), but also not supernatural selection, which is a selection either "intended by a power higher than nature; or which is carried out by such power." And so, when he says, "Natural Selection," it is Darwin's intention to exclude design or final causes. All changes in structure, instinct, and intelligence have been brought about by unintelligent physical causes (Ibid.:40-42).
Based on what he has hitherto said, Hodge then summarizes Darwinism as including three distinct elements. First, evolution. Second, that this evolution has taken place according to natural selection. Third, "and by far the most important and only distinctive element of his theory," that this natural selection is without design, taking place according to unintelligent physical causes. Hodge reiterates once again that Darwin "rejects all teleology" and "denies design in any of the organisms of the vegetable or animal world." Having argued that Darwin explicitly denies design, Hodge sets out to prove this. He begins by extensively quoting Darwin's own works for over ten pages (Ibid.:48-64).
Continuing his proof of Darwin's denial of theology, Hodge presents first expositions of advocates of Darwin's theory: Russell Wallace, Professor Thomas Huxley, Dr. Louis Büchner, Carl Vogt, and Professor Ernst Haeckel (Ibid.:64-95). Huxley's testimony that Darwin's doctrine excludes all teleology is explicit. Huxley is quoted: "'…when he first read Mr. Darwin's book, that which struck him most forcibly was the conviction that teleology, as commonly understood, had received its death-blow at Mr. Darwin's hands.'" (Ibid.:78) Hodge then turns to quote several who have opposed Darwin's theory: the Duke of Argyll, the eminent naturalist Agassiz, Professor Paul Janet, M. Flourens, Rev. Walter Mitchell, and Principal J. Dawson. He finds their view that Darwin does indeed deny design both implicit and explicit in their objections (Ibid.:96-125).
Having made his main argument, before definitively answering the question he has posed, Hodge considers a few other topics related to Darwinism. He begins by discussing the relationship between Darwin's theory and religion5. He concedes that evolution is compatible with theism, if it admits design in nature. He does not see "how the theory of evolution can be reconciled with the declarations of the Scriptures." (Ibid.:141)
He then states four additional objections to the theory. The first objection is that Darwinism is, at first look, simply unbelievable. He cannot (and thinks any reasonable man cannot) believe that all the plants and animals that have ever existed on the earth have been evolved from one "germ". It is also too incredible to believe the earth has existed for "millions, or milliards" of years necessary for all this to take place. The second objection is that "there is no pretence [sic] that the theory can be proved." All Darwin claims is that it is possible. His third objection relates to Darwin's rejection of design. He argues that the only thing really different in Darwin's theory from previous theories of evolution which where completely rejected is this rejection of teleology. Therefore, the only reason Darwin is supported by its most zealot advocates is because he rejects design. It now fits with the prevailing state of mind. Hodge's fourth and final objection to Darwinism is the great amount of evidence in favor of the fixedness or immutability of species (Ibid.:142-151).
He begins his elaboration of this objection by defining "species." The distinctions between many varieties of related animals which zoologists, for the convenience of classification, call distinct species are artificial. Species should be defined as "primordial organic forms" which have not evolved out of any other form, but have been in the same form (subject to varieties such as we see in dogs, horses, et cetera) throughout history. That there are such forms in nature is proved by many facts. First, species are known to have existed unchanged through almost immeasurable periods of time. A second fact is that every species as it originally appears is not in a transition state, but in its perfect form. Third, historical evidence points to the immutability of species - the earliest records prove that all extent animals "were what they are now thousands of years ago." Fourth, the fact that hybrids cannot be perpetuated. They are sterile. Fifth are three stumbling blocks in the way of science: the origin of life, the origin of consciousness, and the origin of reason. These are equivalent to the gaps in the theory of evolution. These gaps are: that between dead and living matter, that between vegetable and animal life, and that between one species and another. "'Another gap is between the nature of the animal and the self-conscious, reasoning, and moral nature of man.'" (Ibid.:151-165).
Summing up, Hodge restates what he takes to be the
most important features of Darwinian evolution: "All the innumerable varieties
of plants, all the countless forms of animals, with all their instincts
and faculties, all the varieties of men with their intellectual endowments,
and their moral and religious nature, have, according to Darwin, been evolved
by the agency of the blind, unconscious laws of nature." Hodge's "grand
and fatal objection to Darwinism" is this exclusion of design in the origin
of species. Hodge defines design to be "the intelligent and voluntary selection
of an end, and the intelligent and voluntary choice, application, and control
of means appropriate to the accomplishment of that end." That design implies
intelligence is part of its very nature. "The conclusion of the whole matter
is, that the denial of design in nature is virtually the denial of God…
We have thus arrived at the answer to our question, What is Darwinism?
It is Atheism." (Ibid.:168-177)
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1996 "American Church History," CH506, lecture: "The Attack Upon Orthodoxy". Pasadena, California: Fuller Theological Seminary, School of Theology.
Hewitt, Glenn A.
1991 Regeneration and Morality. Brooklyn, New York: Carlson Publishing Inc.
Hodge, Archibald A.
1880 The Life of Charles Hodge D.D. LL.D. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
1872-73 Systematic Theology. 3 vols. Reprint. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1891.
1874 What is Darwinism? New York: Scribner, Armstrong, and Company.
Moore, James R.
1979 The Post Darwinian Controversies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Schaff, Philip, and S. Iraneus Prime, eds.
1874 History, Essays, Orations, and other Documents of the Sixth General Conference of the Evangelical Alliance, Held in New York, October 2-12, 1873. New York: Harper & Brothers.
1988 Charles Hodge's Critique of Darwinism. Lewiston, New York: The Edwin/Mellen Press.
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