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November 15, 1959 - Image 14

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The Michigan Daily, 1959-11-15
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A

Religion Adapts Darwin's Theory
Of Evolution into Its Doctrine

TheAtheist and Agnostic Adopt
The Religion of Unbelie
...Seeking Ethics
By JOHN MCNEES

Continued from Preceding Page
For life to appear in this gen-
eral way may seem improbable.
But one must remember that the
reactions had perhaps millions of
years in which to happen--so long
that, given the right conditions,
they were almost inevitable. And
one need not suppose life is still'
appearing spontaneously, since
conditions have changed.
Nowadays too, most of the or-
ganic compounds would either de-
cay or oxidize. But when life
started there were neither bacteria
to cause decay nor, as most geolo-
gists believe, oxygen to cause oxi-
dation. It is not sure, however, why
the compounds did not simply
break down.
Many reactions have been sug-
gested in detail. Yet much needs
to be done on this subject. Prob-
ably all we will be able to say is
"could have" or "probably," since
we may get no evidence to show
exactly which of the possible re-
actions happened.
ANTHROPOLOGISTS have tried
to reconstruct the evolution
of man, using fossils of several
man-apes -- animals that are in
some ways anatomically inter-

(This article, reprinted by per-
mission of The Harvard Crimson,
was written as part of an analysis
of The Crimson's survey of religion
on the Harvard and Radcliffe uni-
versity campuses.)
ONCE A WEEK or so, an elderly
Negro woman stalks down the
crowded sidewalks of Harvard
Square and Massachusetts Avenue,
crying out in a dire, haunting
voice, "Prepare to meet your God!"
her hat and dress are bedraggled,
and she carries a worn paper
shopping bag in one hand while
the other is raised in ominous!
prophetic warning. The'passers-by
either smirk or ignore her or shake
their heads: the last thing any
Harvard or Radcliffe undergradu-
ate expects to do on the public
streets orelsewhere is to meet his
God - at least in any literal
sense, as he might meet his tutor,
say, or President Pusey.
In spite of the fact that the
Crimson poll or any other inform-
al survey would indicate that
Cambridge's undergraduates con-

such a rarified and remote onto-
logical abstraction or inarticulate
mood of awe would seem an un-
comprehending parody of the in-
exhaustibly rich and concretej
Personality whose love and rage
and will they each had known
with such shattering intimacy.
If it is, however, one of the
former concepts that is being gen-
erally worshipped, one ought at
least to have the lucidity.of speech
and honesty of mind to admit that
for most Harvard students, the
God of their fathers is dead, re-
gardless of What Else may nowj

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Sermons now deal with evolution.

mediate between man and the to what Genesis means beyond
great apes. Darwin had none. that.
They have found, for instance,! In his church, he pointed out,
australopithecines from perhaps one may interpret the Bible as
500,000 years ago, who probably one's conscience dictates, within
used very crudely chipped river certain limits. One may interpret
stones as weapons. Their cranial Genesis to mean instantaneous
capacity varied from 400 cubic creation, or not.
centimeters, which is 200 less than But if one uses evolution to
that of a modern gorilla, and prove disbelief, he is going beyond
which is 500 to 900 less than ours, the boundaries. Rev. Morgan sees
And they have found remains no argument with science, but
rather with scientists who use
ofetnrthoralenedwhoherscientific knowledge as a tool of
extinct or blended with other unbelief.
stocks only about 25,000 years ago, "God has implied," he said,
and whose cranial capacity was a "many things for man to find out
little bigger than most of ours. for himself, setting limits wide
They have found Java man, Cro-
Magan anandothrsenough forx scientific investiga-
Magnon man and others.
ition, but limited enough to keep.
Exactly how modern man de- us from going astray. The Bible
veloped is not certain, Anthropolo- tells us things we cannot discover
gists do not assert that he came for ourselves.
from the great apes, only that he The crucial point of the Bible,
has ancestors in common with he believes, is the story of man's
them. But none doubt his evolu- redemption and the knowledge
tion dthat history has a goal. The im-
Other people have doubted it, portant thing is what man does
however. In 1925, John Thomas with his scientific knowledge.
Scopes was tried for teaching evo- Evolution has unfortunately tend-
lution in a Tennessee high school. ed to draw attention away from
Under examination William Jen- this question.
nings Bryan, the great orator, said
he accepted the Bible literally as ! ANY PEOPLE within his con-
God's revealed word, and that LVgregation, he said, do follow
what he didn't understand he ac- a literal interpretation. How ob
cepted on faith. jective a congregant is about evo
Thirty-four years have passed lution or any other subject, he
since then. said, depends on how emotionally
evolution? now view involved that person is. A man's
HOW OESre~ion ow iewfeelings toward any subject 'are
evolution? Igreatly dependent on his readiness
Protestants are not united on to say he "has the truth."
this question. According to Grey
Austin, Assistant Coordinator of ATHER BRADLEY, rector of
Religious Affairs, most Protestant St. Mary's Student Chapel,
churches believe Genesis presents)pointed out that evolution con-
the beginning of the world sym- cerns itself with how things got
bolically. They call Genesis part here, not why. It detaches itself
of the early writings of primitive from the idea of- an originator.
peoples, and it should not be taken Yet it does not disprove His exist-
as historical fact. Austin added ence.
that he could not speak for all Creation has never stopped,
Protestant churches Father Bradley said. The exist-
sAustin personally thinks Gene- ence and development of the world
sis is importaitmfor the relation- depend on a continual process of
ship between God and man it pre- creation, just as a light bulb re-
sents-that God did create the quires electricity not only to light
world and that man has an im- up but also to remain burning.
portant place in it. "We believe A pamphlet issued by the Na-
God is behind it, has a purpose in tional Newman Club Federation
it, and did create it," he said.hmakes a relevant statement.-"The
hiscnti dentconfeltioheproblem presented by the question
scientific evidence of evolution, heof Evolution," it says, "is one of
believes. The earliest Biblical writ- apparent conflict between-Science
ers were concerned with the and Religion. There is not, of
"why;" scientists are concerned course, and there cannot be in
with the "how." All use symbols to the very nature of the case any
represent reality. Conflict arises actual conflict between the two.
when religious people take literally For God is the source of all truth,
something not written as literal natural as well as revealgd."
explanation, and when scientists "Holy Scripture would seem "to
take descriptive evidence to show favor special creation '(of man),
why things happened, yet we must always allow for the
i1EV SAFORI Moganassst-fact that Holy Scripture is 'a book
EV. SANFORD Morgan, assist-- ofreligion, not one of precise sci-
-- ant pastor of the Grace Bible entific statement. If science should
Church, said in a recent inter- one, day prove the evolution of
view that his church believes man's body conclusively, no con..
Genesis is authoritative in its flict would occur with religion.
statement of man's relationship "It would then become clear that
to God, but one may disagree as Conciudedj on Page 12
THE MICHIGAN DAILY MAGAZINE

sider themselves a fairly pious1
lot, the nature of that piety raises
serious questions as to whether£
any previous century might not
have pronounced it' tantamount to
atheism. The explicit rejection of
"all belief in anything that could
reasonably be called 'god,' " as "ai
fiction unworthy of worship"
proved to be at least popular al-I
ternative offered by the question-1
naire, but a clear plurality of the
votes went to "a God about Whom
nothing definite can be affirmed1
except that I sometimes sense Him
as a mighty spiritual 'presence'1
permeating all mankind and na-
ture."
The agnostic's view came in a
close second; after it came the
traditional Christian formulation
and then the belief in "a vast, im-
personal principle of order or nat-
ural uniformity working through-
out the entire universe . .. which,
though not conscious of mere hu-
man life, I choose to call 'God.' "
And 33 people felt moved to sketch
their ownconceptions of the Deity
since the poll hopelessly failed to
offer them a satisfactory approxi-
mation.
Except for the Christian version,'
all of these views present a God
whose substance is so tenuous and
vague that, like-certain very rare
gases, it becomes highly enigmatic
to say that He is "there" at all.
Such a being certainly seems in-
capable of having much more of
an effect on human life than the
normal inhalation of argon.. Most
of these notions come close enough.
to Tillich's- to be intellectually
"shoe," however, and their con-
formity to the negative doctrines
of some of the authorized Judeo-
Christian mystics gives them a
certain eccentrically o r t h o d o x
sanction that allows the West's
religious tradition to appear super-
ficially unbroken.
BUT THE FACT must be stated
plainly that the overwhelming
majority of Harvard students who
possess "the ability to speak the
word God without reserve or em-
barrassment," in President Pusey's
Baccalaureate phrase - and who
profess a belief in what that word
signifies - do so - in a sense that
is far removed from both the let-
ter and the spirit of anything to
be found in the Hebrew of the-Old
Testament or the Hellenic Greek
of the New. The idea of God as an
ineffable opaque Presence, as the
principle of causality, or as "the
Ground of Being" and "Being-in-
Itself" would surely have sent Ab-
raham and Moses, Mary and the
Magdalene, Saints Peter and Paul,
into gales of reverent laughter;
John McNees is a senior at
Harvard University and a
member of the Harvard Crim-
son staff.

be around.
The paradox of belief in God
at the University deepens when
one examines the self-declared
unbeliever. The most disturbing
thing to be said about the Harvard
atheist or agnostic is that he does
not seem disturbed. He has reject-
ed any positive belief in somehof
the cardinal propositions that
have sustained and nourished his
civilization for thousands of years,
but on any.issue, moral or politi-
cal, other than the theistic one, he
appears indistinguishable from his
believing classmates.
According to the poll, he him-
self will likely tell you that, on the
whole, his loss of all traditional
religious faith did not substan-
tially alter his ethical principles,
nor does he feel at all obliged by
his convictions to persuade the
pious to abandon their beliefs.,
Incredibly enough, well over a
third of those who either flatly re-
ject all belief in God or else hold
that there are no a d e q u a t e
grounds for deciding the question,
nevertheless, think that on "the
whole, the Church stands for the
best in human life," though it suf-
fers from certain minor human
shortcomings! And a substantial
majority, though naturally deny-
ing the orthodox doctrine of the
Incarnation, still feel that "Christ
should be r e g a r ded . . . as a
very great prophet or -teacher."
"Whether or-not he lived, many of
his teachings are well worthwhile,"
an agnostic notes marginally. "The
highest ideal of man," another
adds; and a former Conservative
Jew sees him as a "beautiful and
profound symbol."
A scant majority do feel that
their "moral concern has grown
more intense in the absence of any
assurance of God's existence or of
an after-life." However, the atti-
tude of the atheist-agnostic group
toward undertaking the risks of
world government was the same
as for the undergraduates as a
whole-evenly divided almost ex-
actly--except that, out of the 30
people who responded that they
were indifferent to the whole issue,
ten were agnostics and one an
atheist!

, ...............m.... .. t
Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern
t ~th
in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and es
cried incessantly, "I seek God! I seek God!" As many of 0o
those who do not believe in God were standing around justP1
then, he provoked much laughter. Why, did he get lost? 0o
said one. Did he lose his way like a child? said another. Or ;e
is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? ... Thus they yelled and "p1
laughed. Then the madman jumped into their midst and
pierced them with his glances.
"Whither is God?" he cried. "I shall tell you. We have h
killed him-you and I. All of us are his murderers. But
how have we done this? Are we not straying as through an -a
infinite nothing? Has it not become colder? Do we not feel c
the breath of empty space? Is not night and more night
coming on all the while? ... God is dead. What was holi-
est and most powerful of all that the world has yet owned ce
has bled to death under our knives. Is not the greatness of
at
this deed too great for us? Must not we ourselves become
gods simply to seem worthy of it? There has never been a ':.f
greater deed; and whoever will be born after us-for the
sake of this deed he will be part of a higher history than u
all history hitherto."
Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his
listeners; and they too were silent and stared at him in as- <V b
tonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground,
and it broke and went out. "I come too early," he said then; O
>}tmy time has not come yet. This tremendous event is still b
on its way, still wandering-it has not yet reached the ears of~s
man ... This deed is still more distant from them than the t
most distant stars-and yet they have done it themselves." t
-FRIEDRICH NETZSCHE,
Die Frohliche Wissenshaft.
.~. .ay

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On one of the most crucial ques- refutations of theoretical proofs
tions of the twentieth century, it of the existence of God" and "the
appears, the "enlightened skeptic" irreconcilability of a literal inter- a
exceeds his believing brethren only pretation fo the Bible with cer- a
in an appalling kind of apathy. tain established scientific truths,
such as the Copernican or Dar-
PERHAPS the key to a full un- winian theories."
derstanding of these Harvard It is probably no accident that p
and Radcliffe undergraduates who the apostasy rate is higher among
will not affirm the existence of Christians than Jews, and among o
God, considered as a group, lies Protestants than Catholic., (An- 1
in the fact that about 85 per cent glicans, incidentally, defect at the
of them will not deny His exist- rate of one out of every four.) o
ence, either-that is, they are pre- For it was Christianity's natal en- 1
dominantly agnostics who look tanglement with Greek philosophy I
equally askance at the theist and
the atheist who both say more
than they could possibly know. for the B ES
This is reflected in the factorsrB
they most frequently check as .
having principally contributed to
their present religious attitude:
"the fact that contemporary sci-SW IIIE A
ence does not appear to require
the concept of God to account
satisfactorily for natural phe- shawl collar
nomena" is the reason given more BULKY
than any other, and of the three
factors vying for second place, tvo KNIT
are equally epistemic, "phiosophi-
. cal considerations, such as logical 111 007

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