H.G. Wells, historian
The year 2020 is the 100th anniversary of one of the most influential books of the 20th century, The Outline of History by H.G. Wells. It was a huge bestseller in 1920 and still popular in 1964, when I read it and declared myself an atheist. Wells, who was also a skillful science fiction writer, appealed to my sense that children might believe in God, but at age 14 I thought: “Time to grow up and believe in Darwinian evolution and socialism.”
The Wells doctrine is now more popular than ever at schools and colleges in both the United Kingdom and the currently Disunited States. His is the evolutionary vision of mankind “at first scattered and blind and utterly confused, feeling its way slowly to the serenity and salvation of an ordered and coherent purpose.”
That sounds pretty mellifluous, and Wells clearly had learned to write bestsellers: Who’s against “serenity and salvation”? But I read during days of social isolation his first major work as a social and political commentator, Anticipations (1902). In that he did not hide what he felt about the “swarms of black, and brown, and dirty-white, and yellow people. … The world is a world, not a charitable institution, and I take it they will have to go. … It is their portion to die out and disappear.”
Similarly, in 1902 Wells truthfully argued that, for those who read and believed, “Darwin destroyed the dogma of the Fall upon which the whole intellectual fabric of Christianity rests. For without a Fall there is no redemption, and the whole theory and meaning of the Pauline system is in vain.” But 18 years later he merely complained how “foolish attempts were made to suppress Darwinian literature. … In the end men may discover that religion shines all the brighter for the loss of its doctrinal wrappings.”
The greater success of Wells in 1920 than in 1902 demonstrated once again that you can subvert more minds with honey than with vinegar. A century later, professors in some Christian colleges sell a mild version of Darwinism (under the label “theistic evolution” or even “evolutionary creationism,” a PR genius term) and claim that it will preserve faith in Christ, rather than kill it. —M.O.