“Wait a minute! Stop! Let's come to our senses! I just read through a whole bunch of evidence for 'creation,' evidence that's supposed to convince me that this world was created by the all-loving, all-powerful God of the Bible. But just look around. The world's a mess! People are starving, babies are born deformed, disease kills millions, and 'acts of God' like earthquakes, fires, and floods have killed millions more. This is supposed to convince me the world was made by an all-wise Creator?”

Have such troubling thoughts crossed your mind? They certainly troubled a young amateur naturalist as he sailed around the world on the H.M.S. Beagle back in the 1830's. Charles Darwin was brought up in an England that at least paid lip service to the Bible and creationist thinking, and his only formal college training was in theology. Yet, everywhere he looked, as he collected specimens for the Beagle, he found only struggle and death. On the Galapagos Islands, he watched in horror as baby turtles burst from their sandy nests and made a mad dash for the ocean, only to have their brief lives swallowed by hordes of birds or, for the very few that even got to taste the sea, large fish and other predators.

How could such wholesale waste, violence, and death result from the plan, purpose, and direct creative acts of God? Darwin began to look for another explanation for the origin of life-and he found it. After years of thought, research, and self-doubt, Darwin was 12548 into publishing his revolutionary new theory in 1859: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.

Darwin's book (Origin of Species for short) has been claimed to be second only to the Bible in its influence on human history, and some would now put it first. Many saw in natural selection a means to explain all appearance of design without any reference to a Designer, and many more seized on that as an excuse to disbelieve a “Creator God” and to get out from under the oppressive rules of organized religion. The old creationist argument from design, “the watch implies a watchmaker,” was dead; long live the new “blind watchmaker,” natural selection: evolution by time, chance, and the struggle for survival!

After biologist Michael Denton identified himself on television1 as a skeptic regarding both creation and evolution, the interviewer asked him what he thought the chief impact of Darwin's book had been. After a pause, Denton replied that its chief impact had been to make atheism possible, or at least respectable. The much-admired historian and philosopher Will Durant2 said that we are now coming out of a pagan era that began in 1859 with Darwin's Origin. Darwin's book changed the whole course of history. Certainly, I can claim scientific evidence supports the Biblical framework for origins if and only if I can deal fairly and honestly with natural selection.

References

  1. Kelly, Thomas (producer), Puzzle of the Ancient Wing, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, “Man Alive” television series, 1981. Return to text.
  2. Durant, Will, Historian Will Durant: We Are in the Last Stage of Pagan Period, El Cajon (CA) Daily Californian, April 8, 1980 (by Rogers Worthington of The Chicago Tribune). Return to text.

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