Mercy anyone?

Stephen SparrowCharles Darwin
Mercy! where would we be without it? But where did Mercy come from? Was it wrapped in a particle of dust drifting in space after the Big Bang set the Universe in motion? Did Mercy then somehow become lodged in our genetic makeup? We could ask similar questions about cruelty or vengeance. Anyway, these questions form the basis of my complaint against the theory of Natural Selection formulated by Charles Darwin in his book “On the Origin of Species : By Means of Natural Selection” published in 1858. The core of the theory is that the agent for change in organic evolution is random, meaning that the retention of useful mutations occurring to an organism, is “decided” by environmental “favouritism”, and for the theory to be valid it must also apply to behaviour. But, if the Natural Selection theory is right, then surely by now it must be possible to verify it. Let’s use Mercy as the yardstick. If in civilization history, human beings are steadily improving, should it not be obvious to everyone that Mercy like human longevity is on the increase? That this world is becoming increasingly more merciful? Don’t make me laugh, it’s time to drop a few names; Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot – all 20th Century Utopian despots who in using Darwin’s theory, put in place atheistic regimes that controlled their citizenry inside Natural Selection parameters. As a result, between 1930 and 1980, at least 150 million died violently.
Despite the glaring contrast between Utopian ideals and the path taken to achieve them, most scientists continue to give uncritical support to the Natural Selection theory – something Darwin himself later had difficulty adhering to. In 1861, he wrote to Harvard botanist Asa Gray admitting that he could not believe that the world was the result of Chance, but neither could he look at separate things as a result of Design. He said, “I am and shall ever remain in a hopeless muddle”. Darwin had never intended his theory to either rule out purpose in nature, or, displace belief in God, but what did happen was the hijacking of the theory by agenda driven scientists and philosophers determined to rid from their investigations, anything that could possibly point to the Supernatural; which of course resulted in opinion becoming embedded in the scientific community that the Universe was devoid of all purpose. Well, the fleas come with the dog, and so 150 years after The Origin of Species was first published, the name Darwin has become almost synonymous with Atheism.
It would be an unobservant person indeed who denied the existence of organic mutation. It constantly makes the news in areas such as influenza strains, deformities among the newborn and confronts us each time we step inside a garden centre. On supermarket shelves we find a mutant form of Brassica in broccoli – it doesn’t occur naturally. Consequently, a vast amount of scientific effort goes into studying organic mutation, and rightly so. The puzzle comes down to the judgements made by scientists on why organisms can mutate in the first place, either naturally or under controlled experiment. Invariably the conclusion is that when such phenomena occur either spontaneously or otherwise, the overall agent at work is still Natural Selection. Like Brer Rabbit stuck to the Tar baby Western Society seems stuck to the widespread notion that our world is inhabited by organisms that spontaneously and randomly change. So God becomes redundant, purpose joins the extinct list and philosophy replaces religion. Okay then, so all assessments of phenomena and scientific data are philosophic – they cannot be anything but, and although such philosophic assessments cannot affect recorded observation, they do affect attitudes on how the knowledge acquired may be applied.
But wait a minute; we started off discussing Mercy, right? Are we to believe that Mercy is a fleetingly existent aberrant form of behaviour in mortal combat with Natural Selection? Now if Natural Selection reigns, we would expect it to crush any perceived “weakness” such as Mercy at the moment of hatching wouldn’t we? But then they’ll tell us that Mercy is a psychological mutation that over millennia has carefully nurtured and groomed itself – well that’s their theory and an untestable theory at that and the same theory could also be applied to cruelty or vengeance couldn’t it? Shouldn’t we (like the little boy in Andersen’s tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes”) cause embarrassment by pointing this out – ask the Natural Selection theorists, who did the nurturing? Well, don’t expect any quick answers. In practical terms some of us seek this thing known as Mercy, and all of us have the opportunity to dispense it, to forgive anyway – Our Father … forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who …. But what about those tyrants we mentioned above? What motivated them? Well Christian Doctrine tells us that the ultimate reality behind the Universe is Love: the love of a Creator who infused His creation with love, and with meaning and purpose. So the theory of Natural Selection must bow to the reality of Supernatural Selection. Prominent Australian geneticist Charles Birch in a little book entitled On Purpose wrote that God is the spirit that breathes life into the creatures and calls the higher organism to the more abundant life of love.
“God is the spirit that breathes life into the creatures and calls the higher organism to the more abundant life of love. There is no compulsion or control here, only gift and persuasion”
The tyrants using Free Will took the opposite path. They compelled, they controlled, they killed, ruthlessly. But taking the expanding Universe for a model, shouldn’t our spiritual life be in constant growth? A growth that creates foretastes of heaven here on earth. Don’t the Gospels show the way? The way in which full rein is given the virtues of Faith, Hope and Love? Okay, so because the Saints managed it, does that mean we cannot? Does our spiritual indolence justify relegating the Gospels to the “too hard” category? “By no means” answers St Paul, and when the Apostles asked Jesus Christ for Faith – as if it were some commodity – He told them that if they had Faith the size of a mustard seed they could order “this mulberry tree to uproot itself and plant itself in the sea and it would obey them”. (Luke 17: 5–6), [Jesus was not afraid to use hyperbole to illustrate a point]. And again, St Paul in 2 Cor 4: 3 – 5, wrote, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God. For what we preach is not ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord.” Some three hundred years later, that great scholar and Bishop of Milan, St Ambrose preached, “It did not please God to save his people by means of logic. Rather, he sent His Son.”
Yes indeed, Mercy is not a human construct: Mercy is Divine with its origin in God and its byproduct is a well ordered peaceful society.
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Post Script.
I would challenge any enthusiastic atheist to try reconciling either Portia’s oration on Mercy from Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice”, or The Sermon on The Mount (Matt 5 : 3-16); with Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection – it’s an interesting exercise.
© Stephen Sparrow: December 31 2007