The naturalist outraged the church, prompting a bitter debate that still sets creationists against evolutionists. Now a sinister link has emerged between his work and the recent spate of high-school killings by crazed, nihilistic teenagers
Dennis Sewell - November 8, 2009
You wouldn’t know from the celebrations of Charles Darwin’s life this year that the amiable Victorian gent portrayed in those TV drama-docs pottering around the garden of his home in Kent has been fingered as a racist, an apologist for genocide, and the inspiration of a string of psychopathic killers.
The Darwin double anniversary (2009 marks both the bicentenary of his birth and 150 years since the first publication of On the Origin of Species) has featured much vanilla hoopla: the Royal Mail issued commemorative stamps; Damien Hirst designed the dust jacket for a special edition of Darwin’s masterpiece; Bristol Zoo offered free admission to men with beards, and the Natural History Museum served pea soup made to a recipe devised by Darwin’s wife, Emma. The conclusion of dozens of lectures, articles and education packs for schools has been that Darwin wasn’t just a brilliant scientist, but a thoroughly good egg.
With hardly a mention that his name has been associated with some of the most infamous crimes of modern history, it is as if there has been an unspoken agreement to accentuate the positive. Certainly, the milquetoast Darwin played by Paul Bettany in the recent film Creation provided little hint that there might be a dark side to the great man’s bequest to posterity. The film focuses on Darwin’s inner conflicts in the years leading up to the publication of On the Origin of Species. The scientist is reluctant to make his ideas public, not because he has foreseen dire social consequences, but chiefly because he fears that the theory of evolution will upset his wife and the Church of England.