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(3rd edition - June 2007) by A.O. Kime
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Charles Darwin (1809-1882), the English naturalist born in Shrewsbury, England, has been widely considered the first to put forth a theory on evolution but it really began with Aristotle and Lucretius in their vague concept in ‘ladder of nature’. It was also his grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, a physician, scientist and poet who preceded him with a theory on evolution among many others, including individuals such as Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and Robert Chambers, the author of The Vestiges of Creation (1844).
Studying medicine was how Charles Darwin began his formal education at Edinburgh University in 1825 but he soon found himself unsuited for such a career. So instead, in 1827 he tried the ministry for three years at Cambridge University but also became disinterested. In 1831, after a short geological expedition in North Wales, he was appointed naturalist (unpaid) for an exploratory voyage aboard the H.M.S. Beagle which left England on December 27, 1831. Darwin was only 22 when the ship departed which was to circumnavigate the globe.
This voyage was extensive, stopping at many exotic places and a trip which took nearly five years; they did not to return to England until October 2, 1836. During that time, they visited Tenerife, the Cape Verde Islands, the Brazilian coast, Argentina, Uruguay, Tierra del Fuego, Chile, the Galapagos Archipelago, Tahiti, New Zealand, Tasmania and the Keeling Islands. However adventurous, the trip had a damaging effect on Darwin's health which would hamper him until his death at age 71.
In 1838 and until 1841, Charles Darwin was secretary of the Geological Society in London and wrote three works about his trip and in 1842 wrote his first draft on the origin of species at the age of 33. In 1844, he expanded it and in 1855, began a correspondence with Asa Gray, the United States naturalist, followed by a letter explaining his views in 1857. Meanwhile, sometime during 1856, Sir Charles Lyell, author of Principles of Geology (1830), urged Charles to prepare a third and more extensive treatise. That summer when Darwin was about half-finished he received a manuscript from Alfred Wallace, who was then in the Moluccas. Coincidently, Charles found it to be nearly identical to his own theory of natural selection and that they were both familiar with the same earlier published works on population by Thomas R. Malthus and Lyell’s views on geology, both had studied fauna, flora and geological formations in island groups and were both experienced in observing a wide variety of species. With nearly identical backgrounds, they came to the same conclusions.
In 1858, the essays of both Darwin and Wallace were read as a joint paper before the Linnacan Society in London and then in 1859, Charles Darwin, claiming poor health and therefore an uncertain future, rushed to publish his famous The Origin of Species. This book was widely met with both praise and criticism and has been controversial ever since. His second famous book, Descent of Man, was published in 1871 which further stirred-up the controversy. Charles followed that with several other works considered important contributions, the last of which was in 1876.
Yet, there were problems getting the theory of natural selection accepted by academia, one of the first to overcome was the concept of Catastrophism in the early nineteenth century. This theory, widely accepted at the time, held that the earth had been in a series of catastrophes and cataclysms on a worldwide scale, the Biblical Flood being the last of these. It was assumed each cataclysm wiped out all (or most all) living creatures at that time and a new act of creation was required to repopulate the earth with new types of creatures. Catastrophism was loosely linked with the concept of ‘progressionism’ which held that each of these successive creations became more complex and advanced, culminating in the creation of man himself.
There was also Sir Charles Lyell's Uniformitarianism theory floating around and widely accepted as the material basis of the universe, that the universe was formed out of the ‘laws’ as Newton described, but laws divinely created... although it too conflicted with Catastrophism because his time-frame for the formation of the earth was considered vastly too long (but roughly accurate) and further deviated from the Bible.
Meanwhile, recent discoveries began to influence Darwin and other scientists as well such as the discovery of stone implements in Somme Valley found side-by-side with the fossilized bones of mammoths, long since extinct. They completely contradicted the Biblical account as to when man was created (3761 B.C.).
As to how theologians accounted for this, in that these discoveries did not conform to the literal interpretation of the Bible, they made the concession that perhaps each ‘day’ of Genesis actually meant a thousand years. Apparently justifying this was a statement made by the Psalmist that “a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday”. This was all they would bend however, not willing to accept the millions of years required for mountain ranges, rivers, valleys and gorges to form.
While it's usually a slow process to alter beliefs but it took place relatively fast in this case by a reading and interested public. Prior to Darwin’s The Origin of Species, there were other theories on evolution in circulation (also called 'transformism' at the time) but singularly lacked the attention Darwin’s book would later attract. While they also ran counter to Divine Creation and weren’t being accepted by the theologians either, all along the public was following the developments and opinions were changing. Yet, none of these publications were singularly popular enough to serve as a lightning rod, not enough to draw the wrath of the church.
Charles Darwin surely recognized his book would bring about a confrontation with the church and why he tip-toed through The Origin of Species without mentioning how his theory of evolution applied to man. Only at the very end of this book did he state anything about humans at all which simply said “light would be thrown of the origins of man and his history”. Darwin cleverly omitted humans but it was clear to everyone his theory must surely also apply to man. The firestorm of controversy thus began… attracting strong opposition from the clergy and even those religious-minded.
Following the publication there was the famous debate in 1860 between a Darwin supporter, Thomas H. Huxley, and the Bishop of Oxford which focused on the relationship of man to lower animals and man’s place in nature. The controversy persisted even amongst scientists, many of whom were deeply religious. While this theory was being generally accepted as it might apply to plants and animals, as it applied to human origins could not be disentangled. The attacks on Darwin raged for years from both eminent scientists of faith and theologians who were more inclined to believe minor variations in a species could occur due to climatic conditions but believed all species were otherwise immutable. The religious point-of-view had the support of another theory circulating independently at the time, called the ‘persistent types’ theory. It held that species do not undergo drastic evolutionary changes... although with some flexibility it might have flown.
Similar to Lyell's contentions, Charles Darwin’s time-factor for evolutionary changes, ever-so gradual and requiring vast periods of time, was also difficult to swallow for many of those with opposing views. At the time, St. George Mivart, a Roman Catholic biologist, published a book in 1871 called Genesis of Species in which he estimated Darwin’s theory would require 2.5 billion years to unfold at a time when it was believed the earth, since it’s cooling, could only have been inhabitable for the past 100 million years. At the time it seemed to be a victory for those opposing Darwin’s theory but that was to be short-lived. Years later more accurate calculations estimated the earth could have been inhabitable for 2 billion years, not 100 million. These new calculations effectively squashed that argument. Not knowing this at the time however, Darwin’s camp countered that perhaps there was a period of time in the past that evolution was accelerated... an unimaginative response but, as it turned out, not necessary. There were numerous other credible challenges as well, such as Darwin being unable to produce the various stages of transformation (missing links). Of course, these 'missing links' later became the most popular weapon for discrediting the theory of evolution.
There was also the idea that God may have created various ‘archetypes’ from which similar vertebrates descended, each a modification of a basic theme although still assuming mankind was divinely created.
It was man’s reasoning power that set him apart from other animals, the religious believed, and his intellectual and ethical attributes. These notable differences were also commonly used for discrediting the theory of evolution.
The church, having been proven wrong on other fronts during those days, such as the aforementioned clear evidence that the movements of celestial bodies were subject to the laws of physics and therefore not divine ‘omens’, but with the mounting scientific evidence disputing Catastrophism... the church had finally had enough, deciding to draw the line and make a stand on Divine Creation (of man), not to budge, claiming the matter was outside the scope of scientific inquiry. In this, the church was right.
As to how the scientific community in general was swallowing all of this, it was of great concern Darwin’s theory would upset the order of things philosophically as well. Progressive evolution conflicted with the firmly established concept of a fixed and static universe. Conservative thinkers, already shaken by what the Enlightenment in Europe produced in the previous century, were content with the status quo and felt it necessary to hold some ground as well. The immutability of species was considered part of the 'established order'.
While the theory of evolution has been the accepted reality for the scientific community for the past 150 years, almost unanimously… it still cannot account for the phenomenal designs, the complexity of organs, and that each species is so perfectly suited. Powerful arguments for the existence of a ‘designer’ were put forth by William Paley and also by the authors of the Bridgewater Treatises, published between 1831 and 1846. They contended that even adaptations, if that were the case, would be by design in the wisdom of the Creator to make each species perfectly matched to their environment and circumstances. Charles Kingsley, a notable clergyman agreed, stating it would be an insult to God to say he didn’t have the ingenuity to devise a system for progressive evolution as needed in the very world he created. Importantly, they considered the theory of natural selection was merely the ‘mechanical’ explanation and that it was not necessary to include the question of Divine Creation in the analysis.
Arguments also centered on the survival of the fittest and the weaker types prone to extinction being the greater cause for changes and not transformations. The question also arose as to why the same species, living apart from one another, didn’t independently evolve differently. Also excessive interbreeding due to those individuals with favorable traits could doom that variation. Further, it was argued, that unless all aspects of the species evolved simultaneously, such as its instincts, the creature could not survive.
Faced with all these arguments, Charles Darwin began to be more inclined to accept other factors in the evolutionary process and began trying to refine his theory.
At this point, a long-lasting curiosity developed... people began holding their breath wondering whether or not Darwin was willing to tinker with his theory and advance it someway... as if the final authority. Even today Darwinism is referenced as if decrees chiseled in stone... hardly anyone talks about evolution without mentioning Darwin. Strange, considering the new technologies... although being evidence this 'ol choo-choo train hasn't moved.
At any rate, without somehow incorporating Divine Creation, his theory is still out in left field and represents only a spattering of truth in the matter.
While Darwin's contributions did have merit, being necessary and inevitable that the elephant in the living room be finally addressed, perhaps his greatest contribution was that he brought about a tremendous liberation in thought, breaking the hold theologians had on the thinking man for centuries. This hold was nearly a death grip... to the extent that even religious cosmogonies were in vogue, albeit enforced. Today, such voguishness is called 'political correctness' and can repeat itself with any supposition left to stand unchallenged. Evolution is the supposition in vogue today, underwritten by academia just as religions underwrote their suppositions... although being right about Divine Creation.
When the mistaken concepts of religion were revealed, it wasn’t because some theologian or bishop stepped forward to point out these misconceptions, but rather someone outside their circles. It will surely be the case with academia as well... scientists are more conservative minded than they’ll admit. In Darwin’s case, it took great courage for a man to step forward as he did but he handled it with finesse. Although it wasn’t as dangerous as it would have been during the Spanish Inquisition, nonetheless religious fervor was still around in the nineteenth century. While Darwin himself had religious beliefs, he obviously felt he was not bound by church doctrine and purportedly believed Divine Creation was responsible for life but only in its original form.
Today, perhaps not surprisingly, all the remarkable scientific breakthroughs has had the effect of further distancing people from the idea of Divine Creation. While genetics merely represent the means for understanding the mechanics of natural selection, instead it is often taken as evidence Divine Creation is a fallacy. Rather, as Charles Kingsley put it, it is further evidence of divine creativity. Genetics or not, the elephant stubbornly remains... the flaws in Darwin’s theory of evolution are still as evident today as they were 150 years ago. Yet, bound by its own dogma, the church now seems a helpless bystander... seemingly unable to mount an effective defense.
While Divine Creation may not seem logical... being most people have no idea what the possibilities are in the metaphysical, neither does evolution for essentially the same reason. Nonetheless, a belief in Divine Creation as it applies to man does not mean the theory of evolution must be discarded since, in some respects, it also has merit. While evolutionary genetics will likely discover different types of evolutionary processes, they'll likely discover immutable species as well... and if they'll admit it, they'd be satisfying both camps. In short, it doesn’t have to be either/or, it can be both and is both.
Darwin should have recognized that while he was going in the right direction for getting at the truth, he was stepping too far when he published Descent of Man. However, since the origins of man was left hanging in the air after he published The Origin of Species, he obviously felt he had no choice but to involve the matter of Divine Creation as it applies to man. To do so, however, would be over-reaching when the matter should have been left hanging. The temptation was too great to resist publishing Descent of Man I suppose, especially after the success of his first book. Yet over-reaching is a common trait in men, and for many, usually their downfall. Any conclusions as to whether or not Divine Creation was responsible for the origins of man should not be drawn from just the discovery that a evolutionary process exists, the general idea, when assuredly there are several types of evolutionary processes capable of producing persistent types and the not-so-persistent types.
While the complexities of evolution are enough to tackle without adding another complexity of enormous proportions, that of creation, science does it anyway... and philosophers. While separating them would be wise, it boils down to the freedom of speech. It is only wishful thinking that science would withdraw since they're not qualified to comment on the matter of man's origins (metaphysics). After all, dentists don't design buildings nor do architects pull teeth. Science has only managed to irritate the public for 150 years and proved nothing... and they certainly wouldn't look hard for an immutable species. Of course, there isn't any need to ask religions to withdraw... they're still stuck in the 12th century.
Instead the public should have a publicized shot at the question... and denying the public thus far has been the media. While the media is already ignoring religions, but for good cause, it has granted science total jurisdiction in these matters... effectively blocking other conclusions from becoming mainstream because the media, the mouthpiece of the establishment, never prints anything about the origins of man except academic conclusions. Thankfully, the Internet will likely change this situation.
However rigged the process, the reason the media supports unproven Darwinism is because religions haven't proven their case in 2000 years... nor have they tried. Science, the media believes, will eventually prove Darwinism... except they're wrong... being only a party to spreading disinformation. After all, the picture is not complete without incorporating metaphysics of which science knows nothing. While neither have been 'proven'... at least not scientifically, the whole matter remains academically unresolved. Actually, it's just for the sake of argument anyway... believers don't really care what academic thinkers think.
Since science is not advanced enough to incorporate metaphysics, as it continues to prove itself incapable, we’re overdue to have this whole matter of evolution reconsidered. After 150 years, too many doubts remain and none of the original problems with Darwin’s theory have been resolved, none at all, except for his geological timeframe. The solution is to first recognize evolution is not a one-size-fits-all circumstance... then go from there.
Since some species are likely prone to radical changes and others only to subtle changes, it would indicate there is more than one process of evolution in existence... and the methodology used in that discovery should prove useful for discerning immutable types as well. It could end up being according to phylum. However, in allowing for the effects of natural selection, we'll have to settle for the idea of 'essentially immutable'... meaning we'd be sitting very close to the old but credible theory of archetypes. Of course, those found to be essentially immutable means Divine Creation, but let the chips fall where they may. The discovery of a persistent species would be of monumental proportions.
While it seems true the growing belief that early in history there was more than one human species, such as Lucy, Java Man, Peking Man and the Neanderthal, therefore not being the missing links in the our purported evolutionary chain, it doesn't shed much light on Divine Creation... but it doesn't put evolutionary processes in a bad light either... just the current idea. In that both remain 'hard to imagine', nonetheless the difficulty in understanding has no relationship to the truth. Like Divine Creation, the scientific explanation takes quite an imagination to accept as well... it just doesn’t compute that we could evolve so perfectly suited and how such things as sight and hearing could develop randomly or even by design. Even a second set of teeth should spark amazement.
On the other hand, how could the first human or archetype be instantly created, seemingly out of thin air? On the surface, that doesn't logically compute either. In either case, it seems evident there is a greater presence. If we did evolve, considering the complexities of the human body, then the process surely had direction, divine guidance. If that could be agreed upon, that effectively 'magic' is involved in both beliefs... then it would be curious if evolution remained the favorite of the scientific community. Would the determining factor be the amount of magic thought necessary... as if wise to always choose the less magical of two magical things?
Nonetheless, of these two choices, it is challenging for many on which to accept. Yet knowing all along what a creature would be, why would the Creator require evolution, apparently by design to take millions of years, when he could create it instantly? Of course that's assuming God has the ability to create something instantly... but was not the universe created instantly (the 'big bang')? Now, in considering all of this we would naturally be trying to rely on our common sense… that’s a mistake. We must understand that the realities within the spirit world are quite different... of a nature we can’t fathom without help from the Divine Intellect (divine intelligence). Knowing full-well there are vast differences in these realities, why would anyone insist on using their common sense? It should be evident human logic won’t work therefore we shouldn’t summarily write something off simply because we can’t fathom it.
Last modified: 04/30/13