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  Topic: Phil Johnson on Boy Scouts and Evolution, PJ needs a history lesson< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  

Posts: 319
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: April 14 2003,01:38   

Well, famed antievolutionist demagogue Phil Johnson took the opportunity to try to spread his message to the Boy Scouts.  Speaking as an Eagle Scout I find the whole thing intensly annoying, but that's another story.



Phillip Johnson on Boy Scouts and Evolution ...

In the March 2003 issue of Touchstone magazine (Vol. 16, No. 2), leading "Intelligent Design" spokesman Phillip Jonhson writes "If it is important to the Boy Scouts that their members be and remain believers in God, then they need to make some effort to protect the
boys under their care from the predictable effects of the teaching of evolution, that 'universal acid,' to use Daniel Dennett's classic phrase, which has dissolved the religious faith of so many. Perhaps there should be a merit badge for understanding the evolution controversy, including knowledge of the truth about the Haeckel
embryo drawings, the Cambrian explosion, and the peppered moth story .... For now, the law may allow the Boy Scouts to exclude atheists and homosexuals, but is it right for them to do so? That question will trouble the Scouts continually until the culture is persuaded again that God really is our creator rather than merely a
product of the human imagination, and that he cares about what we do sufficiently to build a moral code into the bedrock of reality."


There are a number of dumb things in this article, but it would have behooved PJ to actually do some reading on the history of the Boy Scouts before spouting off.  But this is PJ we're talking about, he's still repeating Wells' errors on the peppered moth etc...

The Boy Scouts were founded by Robert Baden-Powell.  See here for an extensive webpage on him and the history of scouting:

Now, Robert's father was:

The Rev. Baden Powell, F.R.S.,  
Savilian Professor of Geometry,
Oxford University

...and he lived from 1796-1860.  "F.R.S." means "Fellow of the Royal Society", and yes, this means he was well aware of Darwin and his Origin of Species.  Baden-Powell senior even contributed a positive review:



Professor Baden Powell wrote on mathematics, physics, theology and philosophy and fought for the principle acknowledging scientific advances were compatible with Christian religion. Following Darwin's "Origin of Species" in 1859, he contributed one of seven essays in "Essays and Reviews," 1860. This was violently attacked, and the authors denounced as being inspired by "the Evil One himself." "There was some expectation of him becoming a Bishop, before Essays and Reviews were published" (letter from his widow to her nephew 20.8.1909)

Further down on the page we have:


Science and Religion: Baden Powell and the Anglican Debate, 1800-1860 by Pietro Corsi was published by the Cambridge University Press in 1988. The publishers describe the context of this debate and the content of Corsi's research in the Cambridge University Press online catalogue:

Science and Religion assesses the impact of social, political and intellectual change upon Anglican circles, with reference to Oxford University in the decades which followed the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars. More particularly, the career of Baden Powell, father of the more famous founder of the Boy Scout movement, offers material for an important case-study in intellectual and political reorientation: his early militancy in right-wing Anglican movements slowly turned to a more tolerant attitude towards radical theological, philosophical and scientific trends. During the 1840s and 1850s, Baden Powell became a fearless proponent of new dialogues in transcendentalism in theology, positivism in philosophy, and pre-Darwinian evolutionary theories in biology. He was for instance the first prominent Anglican to express full support for Darwin’s Origin of Species. Analysis of his many publications, and of his interaction with such contemporaries as Richard Whately, John Henry and Francis Newman, Robert Chambers, William Benjamin Carpenter, George Henry Lewes and George Eliot, reveals hitherto unnoticed dimensions of mid-nineteenth-century British intellectual and social life.

& here is quote of what Baden Powell senior had to say about Darwin:


"Just a similar scepticism has been evinced by nearly all the first physiologists of the day, who have joined in rejecting the development theories of Lamarck and the Vestiges; and while they have strenuously maintained successive creations, have denied strenuously maintained successive creations, have denied and denounced the alleged production of organic life by Messrs. Crosse and Weekes, and stoutly maintained the impossibility of spontaneious generation, on the alleged ground of contradiction to experience. Yet it is now acknowledged under the high sanction of the name of Owen (British Association Address 1858), that 'creation' is only another name for our ignorance of the mode of production; and it has been the unanswered and unanswerable argument of another reasoner that new species must have originated either out of their inorganic elements, or out of previously organized forms; either development or spontaneous generation must be true: while a work has now appeared by a naturalist of the most acknowledged authority, Mr. Darwin's masterly volume on The Origin of Species by the law of 'natural selection,' - which now substantiates on undeniable grounds the very principle so long denounced by the first naturalist, - the origination of new species by natural causes: a work which must soon bring about an entire revolution of opinion in favour of the grand principle of the self-evolving powers of nature."


And Darwin wrote in a letter:


"Henslow [says he]... will go a very little way with us [in accepting the Darwinian theory of evolution], but brings up no real argument against going further. He also shudders at the eye! It is really curious (and perhaps is an argument in our favour) how differently different opposers view the subject... Baden Powell says he never read anything so conclusive as my statement about the eye!" (Darwin to Charles Lyell Feb. 15, 1860)

Anyway, this is Baden Powell's father, not the founder of scouts himself.  Baden Powell jr. was a military man, not a scientist, and never said much about Darwin one way or the other, although:



    In Chapter 6 of his book Rovering To Success, Powell addressed "irreligion" and atheism.  He clearly opposed the attacks upon religion expressed by many atheists and the divisiveness it caused.  He believed that nature showed evidence of God and that religion was essential for happiness.  He marveled, as so many religionists have, at the amazing workings of the eye.  B-P wrote, "Ask Mr. Atheist who it was who invented and made that wonderful machine?"  

    Curiously, Charles Darwin, whose observations of nature led him to embrace agnosticism, also marveled at the complexity of the eye, though came to believe its development would be explained by natural selection.  Darwin actually acknowledged B-P's father in the introduction to The Origin of the Species and wrote in a letter, (Rev.) "Baden Powell says he never read anything so conclusive as my statement about the eye!"   Indeed, Darwin's theory had been embraced and defended by the senior Baden Powell; yet, the only reference B-P made to Darwin in his writings was to use him as an example to boys that even those who did poorly in school could become successful scientists.

B-P's view of God was much more inclusive than most.  He always told the scouts that they needed to be tolerant and respectful of others' differing religious beliefs.  God, he said, is "a vast Spirit of Love that overlooks the minor differences of form and creed and denomination and which blesses every man who really tries to do his best, according to his lights, in His service."

    B-P's writings show a broad appreciation of culture and diversity and a deep desire to develop strong, moral character in the world's young men.  He staunchly maintained that chivalry and self-sacrifice were the basis of religion and this was necessary in scouting.

Heh.  Here's the Darwin quote from B-P jr:


"Is it not true that both Newton and Darwin, founders of the scientific method, were both regarded as blockheads by their school teachers?

Hmm, I guess other people have made my connections before:


Boy Scouts
Letter to the Editor
Los Angeles Times January 18, 1998.

Re Jan. 13 letters concerning atheism and the Boy Scouts: Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts, once stated emphatically in response to the question of religion, a quotation of the philosopher Carlyle. "The religion of a man is not the creed he professes, but his life—what he acts upon and knows of life and his duty in it. A bad man who believes in a creed is no more religious than a good man who does not." Lord Baden-Powell’s father was a professor and a great friend and admirer of Charles Darwin, and at one time had been reported to the bishop of London for heretical preaching, and so he was acutely aware of the tyranny of religious zealots. I would point out that most Nazi troops in World War II were Lutherans or Roman Catholics and very probably none were atheistic Boy Scouts!

--Alex Sheppard Reseda

A discussion at a scouting forum:

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