Chris' Original Blogbeque

A fresh, vinegar-based examination of life

Darwin stokes the evolution v. creation debate

Posted by Chris on May 2, 2010

Before reading, you may want to read my introduction which includes why I’m reading The Origin of Species, my scientific beliefs about evolution, and my theological beliefs about creation.  Also, click the category listed below the post for related post


Chapter 5 was not very interesting to me on the scientific level.  It is titled “Laws of Variation” and covers topics like: Acclimatisation, Correlation of Growth, Analogous variations between different species in the same genus, & Reversions to long lost characters.  Essentially, Darwin provides anecdotes of what he sees as different types of variation he has observed in nature and attempts to explain why these categories are seen repeatedly and why certain variations might come about.

Of course, this is all done with two constant “But’s”: 1) But there really is no way to know exactly why this happens and 2)But the view that all species were created individually would have to then believe x and y and thus isn’t very accurate.  An example of #1:

I have hitherto sometimes spoken as if the variations–so common and multiform in organic beings under domestication, and in a lesser degree in those in a state of nature–had been due to chance.  This, of course, is a wholly incorrect expression, but it serves to acknowledge plainly our ignorance of the cause of each particular variation.

An example of #2:

He who believes that each equine species was independently created, will, I presume, assert that each species has been created with a tendency to vary… [mumbo jumbo about horses getting stripes]… to produce hybrids resembling in their stripes, not their own parents, but other species of the genus.  To admit this view is, as it seems to me, to reject a real for an unreal, or at least for an unknown, cause.

I am going to address each of these in 2 separate points.

1. Man’s ignorance

This reminds me of an article I read in a popular science magazine (I think it was Discover) when I was in college (sometime between 2004-2006).  A professor at an esteemed university was attempting to “create life” from non-living things.  They had a lab set-up and were applying external stimuli (like electricity) to inorganic matter.  If successful, it would “prove” that life could indeed arise in a way that had no need of any intelligent design or creator.

Two things occurred to me: First, that it would be pretty amazing evidence that life can be created from inorganic matter in such a manner.  Second, that it wasn’t very good evidence that this could happen without an external force!  What was the researcher after all?  An intelligent designer; a creator of life, attempting (unsuccessfully up to that point) to use the correct methodology to produce life from non-life.

What’s the connection?  First, that both this article and Darwin’s admitted ignorance should be considered at least to raise a shred of doubt about their theories.  Second, the importance of intelligence and purpose in the creation and development of life.

Darwin wrote that natural selection far exceeded the capabilities of Man’s selection for the reasons I outlined here. Even though man, in selecting animals, acts with purpose and applies intelligence that has been learned over time, his selection lags behind natural selection.  I don’t know if Darwin is inferring that nature has greater intelligence, but it appears as an implication to me.  But is “nature” intelligent?

The researchers are certainly acting with intelligence and purpose.  They have very clear scientific goals grounded in not only biological thought but a philosophical viewpoint.  They seem to understand that if they just put the inorganic materials in a box outside, or in a fridge, or a vacuum, that nothing would happen.  I’m sure that they would say that it is because nature had limitless time and conditions to apply to inorganic material that life was spawned, but they can’t deny that what they are purposing to do is substitute intelligence and purpose, by applying an external stimulus, for time.  In other words, what nature might theoretically be able to do if allowed enough time, they attempt to effect through intelligence and purpose.

If that can happen for them, why not for God through whatever means He deemed desirous or necessary?

Job 37-39 contain many rheotorical questions for the man who seeks wisdom apart from God.  How would Darwin answer Job 38:4-5?

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.

Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?

2. Darwin asserts that Creationism must be wrong based on the evidence.

This statement is too strong to draw from Darwin’s numerous musings concerning alternate explanations for variations that would accomodate Creationism.  Fortunately for people like me who like to make things black and white, his last paragraph of the chapter before the summary removes all doubt about where he stands:

It [the quote above about horses] makes the works of God a mere mockery and deception; I would almost as soon believe with the old and ignorant cosmogonists, that fossil shells had never lived, but had been created in stone so as to mock the shells now living on the sea-shore.

What does he mean that the works of God would be a mockery?  Works of God could either be creation or the scriptures.  To make them a mockery could either mean that Darwin believes that there is some good and truth about God in creation, but the popular beliefs were wrong, or that creation and/or the scriptures are not truly the work of a god.

Of the 4 possibilities, I “feel” that it is one of the two that does not ascribe any credit to God.  In either case, if Darwin somehow gave God credit, it is clear that the purpose of his life and work was not to gently correct theology in order to give God glory, but to advance a humanist point of view.  Rather, from reading this book alone and knowing nothing else about Darwin’s life, my conclusion is that he is with some purpose and full awareness proposing a view that undermines Christian theology.


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