I’m writing this in part to tell you that if you ever wonder what you’ve done in your life, and everyone does wonder sooner or later, you have been God’s grace to me, a miracle, something more than a miracle. You may not remember me very well at all, and it may seem to you to be no great thing to have been the good child of an old man in a shabby little town you will no doubt leave behind. If only I had the words to tell you.

I am speaking, as I know it is rude to do, of the Social Darwinists, the eugenicists, the Imperialists, the Scientific Socialists who showed such firmness in reshaping civilization in Eastern Europe, China, Cambodia, and elsewhere, and, yes, of the Nazis. Darwin influenced the nationalist writer Heinrich von Treitschke and the biologist Ernst Haeckel, who influenced Hitler and also the milieu in which he flourished.

The difference between theism and new atheist science is the difference between mystery and certainty. Certainty is a relic, an atavism, a husk we ought to have outgrown. Mystery is openness to possibility, even at the scale now implied by physics and cosmology. The primordial human tropism toward mystery may well have provided the impetus for all that we have learned.

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