MAN HAS NOT BEEN DETHRONED QUIETLY
A few years ago, a friend who was ailing from cancer gave me as a legacy an encyclopedia, published in 1898, of the world’s best literature in forty volumes. In my retreat, I often scan a volume and find an author and topic of interest. Recently in volume ten, I found a short biography of Copernicus. His discovery that the earth is not the center of the universe was not new but the passion of the author’s style on behalf of Copernicus’ achievement entertained me and subsequently brought to mind the agenda of the intelligent-design advocates, those whose ancestors would have scoffed at Copernicus’ discovery and whose current descendants probably still question in their hearts his find. And they are a guerrilla remnant that refuses to go quietly into exile and oblivion notwithstanding Copernicus’ attack on Man’s kingship in the universe and later Darwin’s coup de grace.
Copernicus was on his deathbed when in 1543 the final printing of his work refuting Ptolemy’s theory that the earth was the center of the universe was delivered to him. He died a few days later. But his discovery did not die with him in spite of the Catholic church’s indexing his book as prohibited reading for the faithful and officially refusing for hundreds of year to acknowledge that indeed the earth did circle the sun. Galileo who read Copernicus and substantiated his finding had to recant faced with the fate of a heretic.
But Copernicus had caused with his one book a revolution of man’s place in the universe: “For thousands of years the earth, with its inhabitants, was the centre of a universe created for its benefit. At one step all this was changed, and man took his modest place. He became a creature painfully living on a small planet — one of many — revolving around one of the smaller stars or suns; and that was only one of millions upon millions shining in the stellar vault. Man’s position in the universe was destroyed. The loss of kingship would seem to be intolerable, were it not that it was by a man, after all, that Man was dethroned.”
The simple dictum of Copernicus—“The earth is not the centre of the universe”—changed profoundly and forever man’s concept of himself and his relation to the rest of life and caused him to ponder his history and hopes in view of his spinning in a sea of infinitude stripped of crown and throne.
It wasn’t, however, until the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in 1859 that man’s presumption of his semi-divinity and his position of kingship was subverted and defeated once and for all. The Creationists’ army that persisted after Copernicus was routed by Darwin; and today only a remnant of creationists and their allies are dedicated to restoring man to his throne. The battle is a losing one; for the evidence of evolution is overwhelming and its preponderance grows daily particularly since the discovery of DNA and the reading of the genome.
Ernst Mayr in his book What Evolution Is, after 264 pages of dispassionate and factual exposition concludes: “It is very questionable whether the term ‘evolutionary theory’ should be used any longer. That evolution has occurred and takes place all the time is a fact so overwhelmingly established that it has become irrational to call it a theory.” And that is precisely what they are who refused to acknowledge Copernicus’ and Darwin’s findings and conclusions as truth: they are irrational.
“The ID movement argues that random mutation in nature and natural selection can’t explain the diversity of life forms and their complexity and that these things may be explained only by an extra-natural intelligent agent.” That is, the only explanation of life forms and their complexity is that there is Something somewhere who has a drawing board and has designed thereon and hammered out on some primal anvil and shaped out of celestial clay every species fossilized, extinct or living and all else in the universe known and unknown, organic or inorganic. And that Something is God. This ID explanation is more rational and understandable than evolution!? How can one, in view of what evolutionists have scientifically concluded and what common sense dictates, react sympathetically to such an absurdity?
Before Copernicus, before Christ, and only after man became conscious of his mortality, did man conjure up that there was a divine Father somewhere—a God who had created all life, shaped man with particularity in His Image, endowed man with a soul and held out the prospect of eternal life. In spite of Copernicus and Darwin’s discoveries and all other evidence supporting that man is an animal, that he evolved on a planet circling the sun and that he is sailing in space to no one knows where and to what end no one knows why—there are some who cannot quietly accept that man is a product of nature’s creation over a period of billions of years with no more chance of heaven than a chimpanzee. And that Copernicus and Darwin have irrevocably dethroned him.