Can you believe it? I was there that night also. I offer my competing account of the event.
Campbell argued that Darwin’s idea can’t be fully understood without understanding the idea Darwin was seeking to replace, namely (using today’s jargon) intelligent design. Thus to learn about Darwin correctly, one must learn about intelligent design.
Darwin explicitly points out he’s going after “special creation”, “plan of creation” or “unity of design”. (See Chapter 14.)
It is so easy to hide our ignorance under such expressions as the `plan of creation,’ `unity of design,’ &c.,
This grand fact of the grouping of all organic beings seems to me utterly inexplicable on the theory of creation.
What is the proper relationship of special creation to intelligent design? [and this is my clarification, not John Campbell’s] Intelligent design is a necessary but not sufficient condition for special creation. This logically implies that if one can negate the design argument through a designer substitute (Darwinian mechanisms), one can destroy not only the design argument, but also the case for special creation.
To illustrate, a typical car needs fuel to run. Fuel is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for a car to run (a lot of other things like electricity and oil are needed to make a car run, not just fuel). But if there is no fuel, the car doesn’t run.
In like manner, if there is no intelligent design, there is no special creation. In fact, since intelligent design is a necessary condition for theories like Front Loading, PEH, etc., they (in addition to special creation) would be swept away if Darwin’s hypothesis were true.
Darwin attacked the idea of special creation by attacking the intelligent design argument.[end of my clarifying remarks and back to Campbell]. Thus to understand Darwin, one must understand intelligent design.
Campbell said (to me later), the other great work we should read was by Mills, and that he would especially admonish his fellow Darwinists to heed Mills words:
But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error. …
We have now recognized the necessity to the mental well-being of mankind (on which all their other well-being depends) of freedom of opinion, and freedom of the expression of opinion, on four distinct grounds; which we will now briefly recapitulate.
First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.
Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied.
Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds.
And not only this, but fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but encumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience.
There were some creationists from the Shenandoah Valley Family Forum asking of Campbell as he concluded one of his remarks, “Would it be alright if with you if we all said, Amen?”. Campbell might well be one of the few Darwinists who ever received such an honor from a group of creationists!