It is often casually assumed that we have assimilated Charles Darwin. He established the mechanism of our relationship to the natural world and thereby completed the project that began with Copernicus – the displacement of humankind from its throne at the centre of creation. Darwin, Richard Dawkins has said, made it intellectually respectable to be an atheist.
Dawkins’s mistake, and that of all those who think that, post-Darwin, we have somehow suddenly grown up, is not to overestimate Darwin, but wildly to underestimate him. If all Darwin did was to underwrite atheism, then he achieved precisely nothing. For atheism is, in the words of John Gray, ‘a