Sunday, July 10, 2005

The Central Myth of Charles Darwin and Darwinism

Psalm 14:1 (New Living Translation)

1 “Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”

A week or so ago I received a comment about Charles Darwin. The commenter claimed that Darwin embraced Christianity.

The statement was, of course, untrue. While it is true that Darwin studied theology and until he embarked on his journey of “scientific discovery” on the H.M.S Beagle, he even practiced what others called fundamentalist Christianity. But that all changed. His theory, and his subsequent philosophy of life, rejected any religion, particularly Christianity.

A few excerpts from his autobiography give vivid testimony to the real truth about Darwin’s religious thought and life. I believe his words tell us more about his belief system than many of his advocates, who try to paint a religion friendly version of Darwinism. Here, then, is the truth of Darwin’s thought, in his own words:

“By further reflecting that the clearest evidence would be requisite to make any sane man believe in the miracles by which Christianity is supported, -- that the more we know of the fixed laws of nature the more incredible do miracles become, -- that the men at that time were ignorant and credulous to a degree almost incomprehensible by us, -- that the Gospels cannot be proved to have been written simultaneous with the events, -- that they differ in many important details, far too important as it seemed to me to be admitted as the usual inaccuracies of eyewitnesses; -- by such reflections as these, which I give not as having the least noveltry or value, but as they influenced me, I gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity as a divine revelation (my emphasis added). The fact that many false religions have spread over large portions of the earth like wild-fire had some weight on me. Beautiful as is the morality of the New Testament, it can hardly be denied that its perfection depends in part on the interpretation which we now put on metaphors and allegories.”

“At the present day the most usual argument for the existence of an intelligent God is drawn from the deep inward conviction and feelings which are experienced by most persons. But it cannot be doubted that Hindoos, Mahomadans and others might argue in the same manner and with equal force in favour of the existence of one God, or of many Gods, or as with the Buddists of no God. There are also many barbarian tribes who cannot be said with any truth to believe in what we call God: they believe indeed in spirits or ghosts, and it can be explained, as Tyler and Herbert Spencer have shown, how such a belief would be likely to arise.”


carrie said...

yeah, so?
charles darwin felt that christianity was a false religion.
do you think he was wrong?

James Fletcher Baxter said...

"...the creative process is a choicemaking process."

The missing element in every human 'solution' is an
accurate definition of the creature. The way we define
'human' determines our view of self, others, relationships,
institutions, life, and future. Important? Only the Creator
who made us in His own image is qualified to define us
accurately. Choose wisely...there are results.

In an effort to diminish the multiple and persistent
dangers and abuses which have characterized the affairs
of man in his every Age, and to assist in the requisite
search for human identity, it is essential to perceive
and specify that distinction which naturally and most
uniquely defines the human being. Because definitions
rule in the minds, behaviors, and institutions of men,
we can be confident that delineating and communicating
that quality will assist the process of resolution and
the courageous ascension to which man is called. As
Americans of the 21st Century, we are obliged and privi-
leged to join our forebears and participate in this
continuing paradigm proclamation.

"WHAT IS MAN...?" God asks - and answers:

Many problems in human experience are the result of false
and inaccurate definitions of humankind premised in man-
made religions and humanistic philosophies.

Human knowledge is a fraction of the whole universe. The
balance is a vast void of human ignorance. Human reason
cannot fully function in such a void; thus, the intellect
can rise no higher than the criteria by which it perceives
and measures values.

Humanism makes man his own standard of measure. However,
as with all measuring systems, a standard must be greater
than the value measured. Based on preponderant ignorance
and an egocentric carnal nature, humanism demotes reason
to the simpleton task of excuse-making in behalf of the
rule of appetites, desires, feelings, emotions, and glands.

Because man, hobbled in an ego-centric predicament, cannot
invent criteria greater than himself, the humanist lacks
a predictive capability. Without instinct or transcendent
criteria, humanism cannot evaluate options with foresight
and vision for progression and survival. Lacking foresight,
man is blind to potential consequence and is unwittingly
committed to mediocrity, averages, and regression - and
worse. Humanism is an unworthy worship.

The void of human ignorance can easily be filled with a
functional faith while not-so-patiently awaiting the foot-
dragging growth of human knowledge and behavior. Faith,
initiated by the Creator and revealed and validated in His
Word, the Bible, brings a transcendent standard to man the
choice-maker. Other philosophies and religions are man-
made, humanism, and thereby lack what only the Bible has:

1.Transcendent Criteria and
2.Fulfilled Prophetic Validation.

The vision of faith in God and His Word is survival equip-
ment for today and the future. selah

For the complete message, see my site. jfb

Ed Darrell said...

I did NOT say Darwin "embraced Christianity." I pointed out that he was a faithful Christian his entire life (especially by today's standards), that he raised his children as Christian, that he was active in church affairs to his death, that he was buried in Westminster Abbey, and that despite cruel and ill-informed attacks on his faith and reputation by people who claimed (without authority) to be speaking for the church, Darwin never attacked the church.

And then we get this old chesnut of a fog argument from Darwin's autobiography?

At best for the erroneous case that Darwin was not Christian, these words of his were written more than 40 years -- two generations -- after he discovered evolution. To the extent that life experiences affect one's work, it is simply impossible to make an accurate and honest case that Darwin's faith or lack of it affected his discovery of evolution. He was, by his own confession (I'm sure you read the full autobiography, yes?) very much a fundamentalist Christian when he set sail on H.M.S. Beagle, a believer in a literal Genesis and one of the best students and deepest admirers of William Paley's work on design in living things being evidence of God. As he wrote several times, his Christianity was strong until much later in life, and it was strong when he wrote Origin of Species

So we cannot with reverence or honesty claim that Darwin's discovery of evolution was driven by any animus. That is historically false.

Then, note carefully what he says in the passage cited in this blog: Darwin does not question the value of faith, nor does he question any teaching of Christianity. What he said in the passage you quoted is that he came to disbelieve Christianity as a divine revelation.

And, importantly, in context, he's talking about Christianity's record on natural history and human history.

Darwin, finally, wrote that he does not know for certain the existence of God, but hopes, and remains "agnostic," meaning he's waiting for evidence. Critically, he doesn't deny God: ""Another source of conviction in the existence of God, connected with the reason, and not with the feelings, impresses me as having much more weight. This follows from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his
capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist. This conclusion was
strong in my mind about the time, as far as I can remember, when I wrote the 'Origin of Species;' and it is since that time that it has very gradually, with many fluctuations, become weaker. But then arises the doubt, can the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animals, be trusted when
it draws such grand conclusions?

"I cannot pretend to throw the least light on such abstruse problems. The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one
must be content to remain an Agnostic." (Darwin's works collected by his son Francis, as Life and Letters)

My statements about Darwin's faith were absolutely accurate. It is untrue that Darwin "studied theology," however -- there was no such degree offered at Cambridge at the time he attended. If anything, he studied geology. It us also true that he was Christian during his voyage around the world, and for the rest of his life he remained a member of the Church of England. It is true that he was a practicing Christian at the time he discovered evolution, in about 1837, and it is true that he remained a full believer and active in the church for several decades more.

Darwin's "philosophy" did embrace Christianity -- and he specifically wrote of the value of morality, and in fact the necessity of morality such as that taught by Jesus (see chapter 5 of Descent of Man, for example).

Darwin's words accurately reflect the doubts any Christian may have -- we allow Jesus to ask from the cross why God has forsaken him, and we should allow Darwin or any other Christian the ability to say there are doubts, if they have doubts.

But we should not attribute a great scientific discovery and one of the great ideas of Western civilization to an imagined animus toward religion that we can only evidence by fabricating discord between a great and gentle man and the church.

Had it been true that Darwin were atheist, or that he had rejected religion, it would not affect in any way the validity of evolution theory.

But it is not true that Darwin fell from Christianity, and it is absolutely untrue that he rejected religion. So when those charges are made, as if they should affect the validity of the science, we should condemn those charges as false, as calumnous, and as an attempt to sow strife in place of information.


I've been promising Jesus Christ I'd write Him a song. Hear "Giving My Regards To Jesus" at Thank you.

prying1 said...

Simple logic settles the question, "Is there a God or not?"... And the answer still involves a decision by each human on earth.

Does God exist, yes or no?

If the answer is no then all other discussion and contemplation on the subject is foolishness.

If the answer is yes then a life without discussion and contemplation on the subject is foolishness.

Is this something that should be answered with the throw of dice or cutting a deck of cards?

I'd say it is more foolish to run with the assumption the answer is no than to utilize more logic with the yes answer.

Such as, to ask: "If God exists does He concern himself with the affairs of men..."

Ed Darrell said...

Central Myth of Anti-Darwinism

A central, erroneous belief of anti-Darwinists is that study of science and understanding of evolution requires a finding or belief that there is no god.

Most evolution theorists of major contribution, including Darwin and Wallace, have been Christians. Evolution makes no statement on the existence of God, and it requires no assumptions about God other than if there is a deity, it is an honest deity.

On the other hand, assuming Darwin to be in error requires an assumption that the creator was not wholly honest.

The former position strikes me as closer to Christian belief.

prying1 said...

Your Quote Ed - "I cannot pretend to throw the least light on such abstruse problems. The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one
must be content to remain an Agnostic." (Darwin's works collected by his son Francis, as Life and Letters) - end quote -

If I read this correctly Darwin claimed to be agnostic. Christian theology does not allow for the wishy washy statement above. Christianity claims that through Him (Jesus Christ) all things (that is, things that affect our 5 senses) were created from nothing. It is true that how this was accomplished is still up for debate.

Unless your definition of Christianity is different from the norm Darwin could not have been both an agnostic and a Christian. This would not preclude him from church attendance, raise his children with Christian principles nor stop him from embracing a Christian lifestyle. It would preclude his claiming the title of Christian as defined by most mainstream churches.

James Fletcher Baxter said...

Darwin's opinion is not science. Science is based on evidence - not mere theory. True science is not totalitarian - foreclosing on any other opinion.

The opinion that fueled Hitler's Nazi militarism was Darwinism - and is taught in every American public school with disagreement NOT ALLOWED! Science? HA! A spawn of a Christian? Not possible.

I love the 'scientific' illustration that attending a church no more guarantees you are a Believer than if you sleep in a garage you are a Cadillac - or a Honda!

Darwinians exist in a material causal universe yet purposefully offer no opinion on First Cause - yet, will supply ONLY a metaphysical opinion on beginings!?!??!!? Sure. Talk about your blind humanistic faith! No wonder their 'faith' led them to believe that morality evolved from animal instincts. (I wonder which beasts {other than Adolph} used criteria.)

This subject is gettng as boring as Al Gore. Let's discuss the ginger bread house of Hansel and whats-her-name.

Bottom line: We all have more ignorance than knowledge. Some have more of the self-imposed variety. selah

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, I don't have time to read the whole post and comments, so I hope Im nost missing anything, but I'd at least like t point out that state and religion should be separate for one very good reason, we're not all Christian!
I'd hate to see a Christain govt determine my rights! I don't hold the same beliefs and values at all. I believe in tolerance, love and compassion.. where it's clear this govt does not, regradless of 'supposed' religious orientation.

Maybe if they WERE real Christians, it would be very different. I have no argument with real Christians, the ones that are capable of really following what Jesus taught. Jesus was cool.

Ed Darrell said...

The term "agnostic" in Darwin's day was brand new. It didn't mean "areligious" as it has come to mean today. It meant simply, "I do not profess to know with certainty."

Specifically, Darwin was saying he was agnostic about the creation of life on the planet. How life came to be is not an issue in evolution theory. However it came to be -- perhaps by a divine "breathing life into one form or many" as Darwin wrote in Origin of Species, or perhaps arising spontaneously as the result of the function of divinely-created laws of physics and chemistry.

My chief point was that evolution theory contains no animus toward Christianity, nor did Darwin, who was a faithful Christian (NOT agnostic) when he discovered the theory, have any animus toward the church at any time.

If Christianity is so bent against self-doubt that it cannot allow any doubts, then we have to remove that crucified guy, Jesus, from the rolls. His doubts were famously expressed just prior to His death, according to scripture. Will you be the one to tell Him, Prying1?

But in any case, it is erroneous to say evolution has an anti-Christian bent. It doesn't.

And to answer your question, from all writings of Darwin, it would be safe to say he assumed and believed God exists. You'll have to find some other extraneous, probably trivial and irrelevant reason to oppose teaching science to kids. Darwin's "lack of faith" is more fiction than "intelligent design."

Ed Darrell said...

Mr. Baxter,

Hitler knew Darwin less than he knew any form of Christianity. Hitler's policies were anti-Darwin, especially on the topic of heritage and blood banks -- Hitler used the Biblically-based error that blood carries the genotype as a justification to ban the use of blood banks (you can read all about it in Ashley Montague's 1959 book, Human Genetics.

Darwin noted, in Descent of Man, that what Jesus expounded and we know as the Golden Rule is absolutely essential to the survival of a social species such as ours -- and Darwin endorsed such morality explicitly. This is contrary to the Nazi philosophy, of course. It indicates just one more time that Hitler's insanity was not based on his misinterpretations of Catholicism or the rest of Christianity, nor on any misinterpretation of Darwin. Hitler was ignorant of Darwin and dismissive of Christianity. His insanity was his own, and not attributable to either faith or science, both of which he tried to abuse to his own ends.

ariadneK, Ph.D. said...

Accepting the theory of evolution and embracing Christianity are completely separate issues. Darwin DID believe in a higher power, but when it comes down to it, the autobiographical statements (as well as ones mentioned elsewhere in the literature), he was more so frustrated by the facade imposed all too frequently by organized religious sects (INCLUDING "Christian" ones).