I recently came across the following in a biographical sketch of Henry F. Osborn at Strange Science, a website which in and of itself presents a quite interesting insight into the history of biology and paleontology. My purpose here is not to denigrate either the author of that site nor its content (nor indeed even Osborn himself), but rather to point out the all-too-human tendency to confuse selfishness and self-centeredness with virtue or overall goodness.
From Strange Science:
He was a prolific author as well as a member of prestigious scientific societies, and he had an ego to match. His approach to museum management was steeply hierarchical — him and the top, and his subordinates, even those whose abilities outshone his, handling the tedious tasks. He was so convinced of his superiority that when the paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson once tried to blot Osborn's excessively inky signature, Osborn chided Simpson, "Never blot the signature of a great man."
And yet Osborn had a soft side. After decades of marriage, he still exchanged weekly, if not daily, love letters with his wife. Her death was a blow from which he never quite recovered.
So, we here have a man overflowing with pride, who believed that those of European descent were genetically superior1Yes, there are differences between races. To deny this is to deny reality. However, for anyone to postulate that one race is superior to others and that those others should be treated in a subservient manner, i.e. they are worth less as human beings, is repugnant and antithetical to everything that the Bible teaches about man. and who believed himself to be above others in some sort of class hierarchy being praised for have a 'soft side' for that which he loved. This is akin to saying: he treated almost everyone around him with contempt and derision, but he was very kind to his dog and enjoyed stroking Fido's head when sitting at a fireplace reading a book, and so he wasn't such a bad guy after all.
Upon reading a bit more about Osborn and juxtaposing how he lived and treated those around him with his love for his family and children (one especially), the following pericope from Matthew 5 leapt to the forefront of my mind (emphasis added):
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Translation? It's no great virtue or feat to love your own family. Granted, in today's benighted culture where the family has been practically consumed in a firestorm of hellish flames disguised as 'love,' it is rare to see commitment and gentleness even towards one's family, but at the time at which Osborn lived, the chaotic and self-serving principles for which he advocated and lived out in his own life had not yet had their inimical effects upon Christendom. The complete man loves his friends and family as well as seeks to show the love of Christ through service to those outside of that circle. The distortion loves only those in the family circle, and the abomination loves only that which encompasses the self.
One might protest that Osborn was a regular churchgoer throughout his life. However, church attendance was more or less a requirement in most of civilized society at that time: (wrongly I would argue) to not go, one risked being treated as a pariah. So, instead of dealing with possible ostracism, many people attended church who had no desire to be there or to serve those less fortunate than themselves. When one considers the reminiscences of his colleagues and subordinates as to how he treated people along with his strong deistic and racialist world view, one would be hard-pressed to convincingly infer that Osborn was a disciple of Christ. In so concluding, it's natural to recall what C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity about the churchgoing prig being closer to hell than a prostitute. Therefore, it behooves all who believe themselves to be amongst God's elect to obey God's command to work out their salvation with fear and trembling lest they greet eternity with only their own righteousness in hand2(which has all the worth and merit of filthy rags).
- 1Yes, there are differences between races. To deny this is to deny reality. However, for anyone to postulate that one race is superior to others and that those others should be treated in a subservient manner, i.e. they are worth less as human beings, is repugnant and antithetical to everything that the Bible teaches about man.
- 2(which has all the worth and merit of filthy rags)