A hundred years ago, prominent elements of the Western World’s political and intellectual elite embraced a new and exciting scientific theory. Leaders cheered it from conservative and progressive parties, from among the rich and poor, from feminists and misogynists.
Its theory was a natural evolution of Darwinism, and it was applauded by:
- Scientists like Alexander Graham Bell and Charles Davenport,
- Politicians like Woodrow Wilson and Winston Churchill,
- Authors like George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells
- Activists like Margaret Sanger and Francis Galton (a cousin of Darwin).
University presidents from Harvard and Stanford praised it. High schools and colleges taught it. Mainstream media loved it. To doubt it brought scorn, ridicule, and accusations of ignorance. It united thinkers from the United States, Canada, Australia, Asia, Britain, and Europe.
Because of it, most US States adopted laws that affected marriage, immigration, and treatment of mental patients. In 1927, the United States Supreme Court upheld such supporting laws.
Enormous funding furthered its advancement. Societies were established to promote its message and enact laws that bolstered its meaning. It was backed by the American Medical Association, National Academy of Sciences, and the National Research Council. To deny it was to deny science and invite disgrace.
Darwin’s activist cousin Galton coined the name for this scientific “discovery”: Eugenics.
When Science Births Pseudo-Science
Eugenics is control of human reproduction to increase qualities its sponsors support (i.e. to make more people more like themselves) and to eliminate traits its biased backers despise.
Today we know that the theory of Eugenics was pseudo-science, a belief backed by personal bias without scientific process. People just wanted it to be true. Its acceptance resulted in tens of thousands of forced sterilizations (California administered the most), and ultimately it led to the forced “extermination” of millions under the Nazis who backed Eugenics religiously.
Why would scientists (and intellectuals and politicians) support such a fairy-tale hypothesis?
Thomas Kuhn answers this question with his 1962 book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, a book that challenged the modern understanding of scientific progress. Kuhn disputed the classic idea of the scientific process, which believed progress was built on impartial, methodical contributions, much like a wall is built by placing one brick on another.
Instead, Kuhn argued, scientists have biases based on a blend of enthusiasm, education, and personal culture. These biases interpret data in ways that support their prejudices.
A consensus among scientists creates a prevailing pattern of assumptions (a scientific zeitgeist). Science continues to add additional data (brick by brick). Bu soon contrary information arises. At first it is first explained away by the dominant prejudices. Eventually, though, the weight of so many anomalies force a revolutionary change in thinking that Kuhn called a “paradigm shift.”
Which is what happened to Eugenics after WWII.
The New “Science” of Identity
Bertrand Russell, highly influential 20th Century philosopher and mathematician, said:
You are the product of causes that had no prevision of the end they were achieving. All your hopes, all your fears, all your loves, all the beliefs of your mind are nothing but the accidental collocation of millions of atoms and molecules.
Russell claims you were an accident. The brain cells and DNA that embody you are mere chance. If you want meaning in life, you must create it. There is no master plan to discover.
Therefore we don’t find identity inside by examining that “accidental collocation of atoms,” nor do we find it outside by looking for a master architect. Our identity is who we choose to be.
More than deity or family, our greatest loyalty, our first commandment must be: Thou shalt have no other god beside Choice (1 Russell 1:1).
Russell had no scientific basis for lack of design. It’s just an assertion, a contemporary Declaration of Independence from a God who could say,
I made humanity with a design, with a specific life-style in mind, with my morality. If you abandon it, your life will disintegrate.
These modern pseudo-scientists tell us that our assertion of a God-blueprint is tyranny; in fact, they say it is oppressive to tell people to live in a certain way, to get identity outside of choice. But there are three (at least) logical problems with this position:
- If all our “beliefs” are just accidents, then so is Russell’s belief. So why listen to him?
- If I “choose” to believe in a God-design, how can others say my “choice” is any less valid or any more tyrannical than their choice?
- If I’m a goldfish, no matter what my accidental mind believes or what my open-minded choices are, when I leave the liberty of water, I’m just a beached whale. Only smaller.
The God Who Is There
But there is a God, a God different than our “accidental beliefs,” a God who “made the earth by His power and established the world by His wisdom and who stretched out the heavens by His understanding” (Jer. 10:12):
- A God who is “acquainted with all our ways” and who “calls us by name;”
- A Creator who “formed our inward parts” and who hates to see His creation mutilated;
- An Artist who calls us his “masterpiece” and the “crown of creation;”
- A Bridegroom who chooses us, out of all the cosmos, to be his beloved bride.
If given a choice, I’d choose His life of design over the shortened life of a beached Shamu.
I wrote my book, Hearing God in Conversation, to help all of us (including its author) connect with the God who is our Father and Designer; to hear and know Him personally.
To find our identity in Him as his children, friends, and bride.
If you want to nurture a personal, intimate relationship with God, may I suggest you buy Hearing God in Conversation.
Eugene Peterson said,
I picked it up out of curiosity, and I couldn’t put it down.
Gary Wilkerson wrote,
This is a remarkable book that teaches both how to hear God’s voice in Scripture, and then to hear his voice in every avenue of life. It’s filled with humor, insight, practical tips, and sound theology. I can’t recommend a better guide than Hearing God in Conversation.