Monday, October 4, 2010

Darwin and the Chain of Being

I re-examined the readings that we addressed in class last week looking for something Darwinian that could be further, yet briefly, brought to the attention of our blog followers. The hope is to inspire some further postings and/or discussion that will continue to advocate for Darwin.

It is my understanding that the concept of the Chain of Being, as referred to in "An Essay of Man" by Alexander Pope, has existed for centuries. This hierarchical ladder is described in Pope’s work: “Vast chain of being! which from God began” and moves downwards through angels, men, other living beings concluding with: “insect, what no eye can see.” During our group discussion in class, we touched on the fragility of this Chain and supported Pope’s assessment: “Where, one step broken, the great scale’s destroyed.” Although I could not find any direct reference to this Chain in the Origin of Species (please bring this to my attention if it has been overlooked) it would seem that this concept might not be too contrary to Darwin’s thinking except for possibly one not so insignificant matter: God!

We can determine which links on the Chain have the power and how each link is stronger the further up the ladder one progresses. Would Darwin consider the Chain ending with Man as the most powerful; the strongest; the one who would live while the weakest die? Would Darwin respect the intent of the Chain that considers God the most powerful? Where would the Angels and God fit into a Darwinian perspective ... or would they? As Maziar noted in his contribution to this Blog dated September 24: " Its fair to say that most atheist today consider Darwin's theories to be the main argument against god and/or religion.“

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