Why I Am Agnostic (Part VIII)
By: Robert Green Ingersoll
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The theologians had always insisted that their God was the creator of all living things -- that the forms, parts, functions, colors and varieties of animals were the expressions of his fancy, taste and wisdom -- that he made them all precisely as they are to-day -- that he invented fins and legs and wings -- that he furnished them with the weapons of attack, the shields of defence -- that he formed them with reference to food and climate, taking into consideration all facts affecting life.
They insisted that man was a special creation, not related in any way to the animals below him. They also asserted that all the forms of vegetation, from mosses to forests, were just the same to-day as the moment they were made.
Men of genius, who were for the most part free from religious prejudice, were examining these things -- were looking for facts. They were examining the fossils of animals and plants -- studying the forms of animals -- their bones and muscles -- the effect of climate and food -- the strange modifications through which they had passed.
Humboldt had published his lectures -- filled with great thoughts -- with splendid generalizations -- with suggestions that stimulated the spirit of investigation, and with conclusions that satisfied the mind. He demonstrated the uniformity of Nature -- the kinship of all that lives and grows -- that breathes and thinks.
Darwin, with his Origin of Species, his theories about Natural Selection, the Survival of the Fittest, and the influence of environment, shed a flood of light upon the great problems of plant and animal life.
These things had been guessed, prophesied, asserted, hinted by many others, but Darwin, with infinite patience, with perfect care and candor, found the facts, fulfilled the prophecies, and demonstrated the truth of the guesses, hints and assertions. He was, in my judgment, the keenest observer, the best judge of the meaning and value of a fact, the greatest Naturalist the world has produced.
The theological view began to look small and mean.
Spencer gave his theory of evolution and sustained it by countless facts. He stood at a great height, and with the eyes of a philosopher, a profound thinker, surveyed the world. He has influenced the thought of the wisest.
Theology looked more absurd than ever.
Huxley entered the lists for Darwin. No man ever had a sharper sword -- a better shield. He challenged the world. The great theologians and the small scientists -- those who had more courage than sense, accepted the challenge. Their poor bodies were carried away by their friends.
Huxley had intelligence, industry, genius, and the courage to express his thought. He was absolutely loyal to what he thought was truth. Without prejudice and without fear, he followed the footsteps of life front the lowest to the highest forms.
Theology looked smaller still.
Haeckel began at the simplest cell, went from change to change -- from form to form -- followed the line of development, the path of life, until he reached the human race. It was all natural. There had been no interference from without.
I read the works of these great men -- of many others -- and became convinced that they were right, and that all the theologians -- all the believers in "special creation" were absolutely wrong.
The Garden of Eden faded away, Adam and Eve fell back to dust, the snake crawled into the grass, and Jehovah became a miserable myth.