I have long been a fan of Bertrand Russell, and I am endlessly fascinated by issues in science and religion, so perhaps it is surprising that I have not read Russell’s book Religion and Science. Until now, that is. I have now read the first three chapters and anticipate finishing the book later this week.
Chapter Three deals with evolution, and it is just filled with examples of the elegant and lucid writing that makes Russell so much fun to read even when you are disagreeing with him. I laughed at loud when I read this:
Religion, in our day, has accommodated itself to the doctrine of evolution, and has even derived new arguments from it. We are told that, “through the ages one increasing purpose runs,” and that evolution is the unfolding of an idea which has been in the mind of God throughout. It appears that during those ages which so troubled Hugh Miller, when animals were torturing each other with ferocious horns and agonizing stings, Omnipotence was quietly waiting for the ultimate emerganece of man, with his still more exquisite powers of torture and his far more widely diffused cruelty. Why the Creator should have preferred to reach His goal by a process, instead of going straight to it, these modern theologians do not tell us. Nor do they say much to allay our doubts as to the gloriousness of the consummation. It is difficult not to feel, as the boy did after being taught the alphabet, that it was not worth going through so much to get so little. This, however, is a matter of taste.