It is only appropriate that on this “Darwin Day” we cut into Evolution wholeheartedly beginning with Charles Darwin. Yes above is a big picture of a younger Charles Darwin, a big picture because for the theory of Evolution, Darwin is a big man. While newer Evolutionists tend to vary in the type of Evolution they embrace, for most of its existence the Theory of Evolution has been considered almost synonymous with Darwinism. While we will not perform a full dissection in detail, I am hopeful our glance at the work of Darwin will reveal enough of his theory for us to understand where the current scientific belief has its foundations.
Charles Darwin (1809-1882) was a naturalist from England, meaning he studied plants and animals, their interactions and changes. His book On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle For Life, which we usually abbreviate (perhaps misleadingly) as The Origin of Species is the work which is touted as genius, and is the reason for the Theory of Evolution. It should be noted that in the book’s 6th edition the title was officially changed to The Origin of Species.
The hypothesis put forth in this work, which Darwin was inspired to write as a result of his five-year trip on the HMS Beagle to the Galapagos and other islands, where he saw animal species and fossils that had never before seen, is that all species of life evolved from common ancestors. This happens, he says in that work, by a process of natural selection, whereby beneficial traits are passed down from one generation to the next, and undesirable traits are slowly phased out. This is the process that has come to be termed “survival of the fittest.”
This “survival of the fittest” idea needs some elaborating because opponents of Evolution often misunderstand it. It does not mean that the strong of the plant and animal kingdoms take over the weak, nor does it mean that human beings do or should eliminate (consciously or not…) lesser men. The statement “survival of the fittest” is not an ethical proscription; it is rather an observation, and signifies only that the strong varieties— meaning those creatures which are possessed of the most beneficial traits for the immediate environment— survive, while those without, die out.
The Unity of All Life, and the Categories
Darwin’s theory, it is said, “…established evolutionary descent with modification as the dominant scientific explanation of diversification in nature.”
What this means is that Darwin established a way whereby ALL the creatures and plants of the world, all living things and every member of the chain of being, can be seen as related one to another. This is very important for a proper understanding of Darwinism from an historical perspective, so here is more good reading about the Categories too.
The Theory of the Categories, the scientist Aristotle’s brainchild, (he was also a metaphysician; a good summary also here), may be legitimately summarized as stating that all the objects of Man’s perception or contemplation—any object of consciousness—can be spoken of in only ten basic ways. The Categories are to the way we speak about things what the Genera of Being (scientific classification) is to the ways we classify things. Understanding the former, intuitively or by training, is necessary for evaluating any complex ideas and deciphering any communication, and so is a prerequisite for logical thought. These Categories are as follows; I include an example for each, and keep in mind that every Substance should be placed in only one Category at a time:
1. Substance—the most controversial and misunderstood category. This is something that exists in and of itself. While all the other categories say something about Substance (ousia), nothing can ever be predicated by substance. This is what we talk about, our subject, let’s say X. “X is an apple” or “X is man” would be incomprehensible, because we are trying to describe one substance in terms of another. He divided these Substances into Primary and Secondary types as well, and so “apple” would be the primary sort while “fruit” or “tree” would be secondary. You or I would be primary, while “Man” or “Human Beings,” secondary. The controversy occurs because later scientists have refused to admit that a Substance (you, or the apple) can be anything more than the sum total of the things which may be said about it. They have all but eliminated the thing-in-itself (the en sois). This ill-founded change gives Evolution an undeserved boost.
So is it real? What am I, if I take away my color, my position, my height and weight? For Aristotle and the Platonists, I am my Form (eidos), the idea of myself (idea), a Substance (ousia), and being (to on) all rolled into one. I, like the apple, exist independently and apart from the qualities, and both we and the apples are more than the sum of those things which may be said of us. We transcend, and so we always are more than our description. Qualities, the Categories, conversely, have no meaning unless applied to such a Substance.
That we too often settle for things like “I am an Evolutionist” or “I am a Democrat”” confuses the predicate with the Substance it can only partially describe. A complete elimination of the authenticity of Primary Substance presumed by ousia would be tragic, and would reduce all primary Substances to bundles of Formless qualities. Determinism being the dominant psychological and biological platform today, as opposed to free will and authenticity, ought to be proof enough that scientists have ignorantly leaned in this maleficent direction…taking the populace with them.
The Tower at Pisa, itself on a faulty foundation, like Evolution leans closer to falling every year. Applied to the human individual, such an elimination of his essence, a removal of his soul, a dispersal of his spirit, makes him into what he is not, and denies the very parts that make him unique. To eliminate this Category, or to dumb it down to the point of irrelevancy, is a mistake too many have made, and which has hindered true scientific progress.
2. Quantity—this is measurements or extention of a Substance, its size, weight, length, breadth, width, height, etc. “The apple is 50 grams” would be an example. Elaborations on this led to advances in mathematics, the concept of infinity, and many other things arithmetical.
3. Quality—this details the nature of a Substance and includes all descriptions that are not mathematical. “The apple is red (or juicy, or rotted… e.g.).”
4. Relation—explains the Substance compared to something else and describes the way this relation may occur. It can be by cause and effect, or comparison, or analogy. “The apple comes from the tree,” or “the apple is like the pear.”
5. Place—states the location of the Substance. “The apple is on the table.”
6. Time—places the Substance in some temporal situation. “The apple comes after the flower.”
7. Position—often debated, this is not to be confused with place, and probably meant to indicate a Substance’s position, as in sitting, standing, at rest, jumping, leaping, etc. “The apple is motionless,” possibly.
8. State—this is something about a Substance that is temporal and not necessary. “The apple has a stem.”
9. Action—describes what a Substance does to something else. For an apple this would be difficult. Maybe “The apple makes me hungry.”
10. Passion or Affection—describes what something else does to the Substance. “The apple was eaten.”
Had early thinkers like Aristotle not already assumed a unity in Nature such things like the Categories could never have ever commenced. Darwin concludes where Aristotle’s Categories only begin. It is often ignorance of ancient views like this one, or premature discarding of them, that appears to raise our newer thought so high, and that dares mention the word “progress” regarding them.
When Darwin is taken to task, nevertheless, it should not be for his “Survival of the Fittest” observation. That all species fight for survival is as close to a fact as you can get, as no plant or animal can be shown to hurry to its own demise. Plato again is poignant here, as by 300BC or so he had already said that all beings strive for the Good. All things want to be better and want to improve, and at all costs, they want to, usually, survive. The only species I think that is an exception is homo sapiens. Only this one occasionally becomes suicidal and wantonly self-destructive, or put another way, self-sacrificing to the point of martyrdom, and the bringer of novelty and genius. Plato would say that the reason for doing “bad things” is because such people mistake what they are doing—in this case, suicide, for instance—for the Good. And truly, not all reasons for such a prospect are bad ones. To keep your loved ones from bearing with your certain helplessness and agony, could be such a Good higher than even living. Without doubt, that we can do this, or not, is what distinguishes human beings from the other beasts. No other plant nor beast deviates from instinct like we do. But more on this later on.
This theory of Evolution has been accepted because it appears to explain, well enough for the Evolutionists and their disciples in the other sciences, the origins of all species. But let us say now, no matter the truth of Darwinism or Evolution, it makes no difference for the careful historian. He or she should know Darwin’s conclusion was Thought’s starting point, and that the “theory” is over 2000 years old.
It is not clear to me yet why the earlier thinkers we have discussed, who considered a similar proposal, were discarded out of hand, while Darwin’s restatement has been accepted. We have seen the similarities in thinkers such as the Presocratic philosophers and Lamarck, among others. This being so, rather than restate all of Darwin’s thought, we would perhaps be best served by concentrating on those aspects of Darwinism that appear to differ from earlier thinkers.
Common Descent and the Homunculi
We can begin by mentioning that no real thinker of any merit before Darwin would have doubted that all living things are somehow related. The same elements that make up the amoeba and fern make up also the lizard and the pig. In their constitutive basic parts everything alive breaks down to atomic structure. Also before Darwin many theorists noted the more complicated uniformities among certain various species, and observed that different physical traits are held, by these species, in common. It had also already been shown by others, as we have seen, that species can and do change to compensate for their environments or milieu, and as a result of parentage. Nothing new is to be found in this aspect.
Rather, what apparently, or at least on the surface, distinguishes Darwin’s thought from his predecessors is his insistence that all species derive from a common ancestor; that through the course of time, the first protobiont evolved and became, eventually, homo sapiens.
But is this claim even unique, let alone true? In Platonic terms, for instance, this consequent blurring of the lines between one living thing and the next would denote nothing more than that all things with Form (eidos) have being (to on). All things that have a form have that form by virtue of Form itself: they all have the form (idea) of Form (eidos) in common; they all strive to be better, or evolve, and so they all desire the Good (to agathon). Suppose DNA itself to be a Form, as some have said. Were this true, then DNA would (and I believe, does…) necessarily have built-in to itself a plan of action, a desire, to alter itself, if not downright improve. At this point we can stop and say “all DNA is related” in that they are a plan, a design that I am fast coming to believe is more message than structure. Regardless, all living things would thereby be related, and so, Darwin’s coup d’etat. Can I say now, and gain maybe a Nobel prize, that the Earth in fact is not flat?
This point ought to be pursued further, though, because we must also assume that, if not intrinsic to the elements which comprise even one DNA chain, then from a force outside themselves, those elements must want or desire (eros) to accumulate in a certain pattern, to bind in a certain way, to certain other elements. If we are searching for the Origin of Man, the source of these tendencies has much importance. IT is what we are after. There is a world of difference between being able to predict with some accuracy and training, oh, Man or electricity… and understanding what electricity, or Man really is, and from whence it came.
Consider the idea of the homunculus. As time has gone by this metaphorical symbol for infinity–the never-ending ladder of Plato’s symposium, or the snake eating its own tail—changed to where these homunculi were thought of as little copies, for example, of the adult contained within the seed.
Legend has it that the figurative homunculi were materialized even further and were occasionally conjured up, in the form of little omniscient men, by alchemists! And today, not to be outdone, our modern science in its aspect of psychology has given these little freaks new gnomish lives, demonstrating them with the usual Artist’s Conceptions to which we’ve grown accustomed:
What we care about, and the reason I have spent time on this, is the analogy, the whole metaphorical idea of the homunculus. For a human, it is imagining yourself, for instance, inside your own head, in your own mind. Now imagine this little copy of yourself with its own copy of itself inside its own head, and so on. It involves, it seems, an infinite regress. Using a mirror, we can take a photo of ourselves taking a photo of ourselves taking a photo of ourselves ad infinitum. Our true essence, in this introspective sense, appears as an infinite search within.
This was not unknown to the ancients. This is why they endeavored to distinguish practical science from ideal theory or metaphysics, and why they began to demarcate the lines between species, separating them categorically. We know already that all plants and animals, and even things, are somehow related. What we want to know, is what makes them different. Darwin’s proposal regrading humans, for instance, saying that we all share a common ancestor with the apes, is not a scientific proposition. It is rather a metaphysical premise, a guess just this side of wild, and both his hypothesis and conclusions were just the beginning of even archaic metaphysical speculation.
The space-god-aliens of von Daniken, the “materializing men gaining skins” of Blavatsky, the Sons of God who came and populated the world according to Genesis, The Titans, Zeus and Chronos and Greek legends, the South American Indian creation stories, the Sanskrit Book of Man…ALL these make metaphysical hypotheses as well, but at least they make claims more to the point of our search for the Origin of Man. Remember that our quest is not for an explanation or process of Man, nor about the changing of Man over time. We assume these things but want Origins, and I am afraid we must lean now to admitting that perhaps Origin of Species does not provide what it claims by any means. Maybe A Preface to the Search For the Origin of Species would have been more appropriate.
Above is a graphic (courtesy of Nature Master Encyclopedia) that illustrates the current Chain or Genera of Being as we now consider it. This effort to relate beings one to another, viz. Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and Species (“Life” and “Domain” are recent additions), was originally instituted by Linnaeus through the work of Aristotle, and was the first significant step to doing real practical science. Indeed, it was practical science.
In truth, before Linnaeus, by 400 BC, men had already postulated the metaphysical proposition that we are, all us living things, related somehow. We already knew a plant from an animal and both from a rock. We already could separate horse from antelope and antelope from corn. The Genera of Being allowed us a way to classify all those things which exist more clearly, with an eye towards precisely.
Be that all as it may, as a probably unexpected result of his research on the Beagle, Darwin became considered an eminent geologist, a spokesman or “man on the street” for the then-fledgling theory of Uniformitarianism. As you will see, the source just cited being one of many that would agree, this theory is still in use today and it probably one of the most important aspects of Evolution from a geological, or as it says in that article, geophysical perspective.
Uniformitarianism, Catastrophism, and Pangaea
Uniformitarianism, a bulky, ungainly word indeed, cannot be underestimated, either in its presumptions or conclusions in support of the Theory of Evolution. The presumptions of Uniformitarianism are that there were no great cataclysms, disasters, or celestial or global catastrophes in the history of the world, at least none outside the range of those which normally occur. Consequently, the Earth always has tended, and may be expected in the future to tend, to a predictable pattern.
This “past was like the present which will be like the future” Uniformitarianist idea, we must mention, cites as its adversary only one real opponent, as we live our very lives every day, Evolutionists, Creationists, whatever-ists, all of us, under the presumption of a predictable, immediate world. Part of this understanding of how the World works, though, is that we also know very well that the odds change from event to event, and at any time, we have all seen, how a 200 to 1 shot has come in and done the unexpected, when great-grandma smokes a pack a day and runs the roost with an iron hand, at 82 years old, ornery as ever. We never know when the exception will trump the rule, when things will not go as expected. When our computer will not boot up, when our cars do not start.
Forget probability for now. The one opponent to Uniformitarianism is Catastrophism, the theory that despite all these steady patterns there may have been, there have nevertheless also been exceptional catastrophes—massive floods, gargantuan earthquakes, collisions with celestial objects, atmospheric changes, axial shifts—and other similar glacial events which have drastically changed the “predictable” patterns assumed by Uniformitarianism. We do not yet know the long-term effects of nuclear blasts in our own atmosphere, let alone the consequences of a tilted axis.
Catastrophism, historical evidence of which is widely found in all ancient literature and legend, was discussed scientifically by Immanuel Velikovsky. Velikovsky aimed to prove that these devastations and this havoc reiterated time and again in the Bible, the Koran, the Iliad and Odyssey, the Vedas, etc. were not mere legend, that these events really happened, and he had the evidence to show it. More on him later on, the point is that Catastrophism is the alternative to Uniformitarianism.
As a spokesman for Uniformitarianism, Darwin began iterating his view that the continents of the Earth demonstrate such a pattern, one which would, for example, help explain why some animals and plants found on the Galapagos are found on the west coast of South America. This geological handmaiden to Evolution we know of as the theory of the mega-continent Pangaea. The same folks who reject the evidence of an Atlantis nevertheless straight-faced tell us of this giant mass which has slowly cracked up and formed the continents we now know. This theory is now assumed by sciences like geology and plate techtonics as fact; it states that all the continents of the Earth were once one big continent, Pangaea, which spread from a center, not unlike the Big Bang from its own central point.
Whether true in practice or not, and some evidence in support of a current shift of the continents (which should not presume constant or historical shift) is very good if not convincing, the dating methods simply cannot give us an accurate time as to when the initial separations or cracking occurred, nor why. Uniformitarianism would claim that this shift began as small rifts in the substratum millions, if not billions of years ago, and that this shift has been constant and measurable. Catastrophism would claim this division could have happened in a matter of minutes, the bulk of the distance between land masses established by even only one or two massive catastrophes.
Which is correct? Applied to the Origin of Man, Uniformitarianism would say that the process of human development has occurred slowly, something which lends itself very easily as support for anything like our current Theory of Evolution. From the primate came a higher primate from which came a semi-human from which came a human, all this over millions of years of adapting to the environment and genes rearranging to suit the environment. Catastrophism, on the other hand, would say that the changes from one species to the next, one genera to the next, come in giant leaps, and caused often by catastrophic factors. Man does not have his origins necessarily in a slow development from lesser species; he might just as well owe his uniqueness to an instant creation, a single massive mutation of existing genetic materials, or to a sudden appearance out of a virtual nowhere.
Probably, some compromise is the Truth, but we cannot yet make such a determination. In his greatest work, (1859, p. 162), Darwin says:
“Natural selection acts only by taking advantage of slight successive variations; she can never take a great and sudden leap, but must advance by short and sure, though slow steps.”
Natural selection, at its best, is simply a renaming of “Nature.” At worst this concept can be seen as very wrong. There are many semantic problems that would need to be addressed. What is a “slight” successive variation? How do we distinguish a slight one from a massive one? What is a “great leap,” and would not any genetic change deviant from the normal degree of variation be a great leap? What is a “short step” short relative to, and with which time scale are we operating?
Indeed, a few pages before the above-cited quote from the Origin of Species, Darwin had already said (p. 158):
“If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”
What about the Pituitary gland? The appendix? More than that, if we broaden “organ” to mean “organism,” cancers of unknown origin and new viruses appear all the time. From what conceivable modification did the starfish emerge, and is it not a stretch to assume the tortoise’s shell as of the same origin as its toenails? By such stretches of the imagination as that of the neck by which the giraffe, they tell us, bred its long one, we can unite any two things, no differently than we can trace everyone in Hollywood, in a few simple steps, to the actor Kevin Bacon. In truth, with science this identification is not so precise as linking Madonna to Bacon.
Really, any living thing can be said to be akin to any other. In the elements and cellulose and carbon they possess, by their respiration and consuming-excreting alone there may be found many such connections. If we look at this objectively, attempting to prove “living things are all related” is as silly as it is obvious. We are all parts of Nature. On these grounds, many of the early critics of Darwin were right to take him to task for saying little of any import.
As for Darwin’s admitted qualification of his own theory, only a very broad way of approaching the subject of kinship, and a very imaginative, even speculative understanding of descent, has kept it above water for this long. This breakdown of the Genera of Being for purposes of a general metaphysical theory is no help at all in our quest for Origins. It tells us, at best, what we already know, and at worst, absolutely nothing of significance.
There are to be found, should we push this issue, existing creatures which science is at pains to classify, as of this day. Protista, half-animal, half-vegetable creatures, strange or inexplicable (note: that link is a fun example of many creatures but be advised many of those are common deformed creatures, and some just manipulated images…) animals and even newly-discovered sea life, etc. For an Evolutionist, any of these things can be explained away, and if one common fish scale be had by the new creature that would be seen as enough to establish the descent of that creature from more common types of scaled fish. But which came first? When establishing this line of descent, how do we know? Is it not just as possible that the chimpanzee is somehow evolved out of, rather than from, Man? Does Evolution always necessarily lead to betterment, or can it sometimes lead a species to its necessary demise?
So before we move on let’s do a bit of examining of Darwin’s theory on different grounds, and assume the truth of what he says, as we have noted, in its most positive light. Even if it is all but void of real import, it is in its best rendition a renaming of Nature, and looked at that way, hardly debatable. Let us for the moment accept natural selection as a truth, and survival of the fittest as actually indicative of the way natural organisms get it on with the world.
Doing this we soon see more problems arise. Taken to its logical extremes, and given the amount of time which we are told by these theorists has elapsed since the first primordial slime, we should be fairly sure that all Life currently on the Earth should be similar, that all organisms should have gravitated by natural selection to be the most perfect. In short, most creatures should have evolved to be humans, varied only slightly as a result of the environment. For homo sapiens,we are spread all around the globe. We vary as to 7 or 8 types or variations based on skin color, stature, eye shape and color, hair type and color, etc., but we are all humans still, Environment has not made it so that our species can no longer interbreed. By this we seem to prove the influence of the environment on a species, but nothing more. But why haven’t all creatures become men? Or Tortoises, which after all have few natural enemies and live longer than humans?
We must then introduce the objection that none of what Darwin said addresses directly the subject of the source of the mutation necessary for distinct species to come about. The diversity of species itself ought to speak against the Origin of Species as a feasible doctrine. Why hasn’t everything evolved for the best?
Without getting into something like each species’ having an innate desire to improve itself (a la Aristotle), there are several other answers Darwin could give to these questions. Every species, he could say, is limited, by which I mean it will achieve that Aristotelian entelechy and proceed to die out. It has flowered and achieved its peak of beauty and import. But then he would be restating Aristotle, and shooting himself in the foot, because if Evolution is correct, then why should any species die out? It should rather become stronger, through its generations weed out the detrimental qualities threatening its survival, becoming the Superman and dominate. If the fittest dies out, what happens to this theory?
The Living Spirit
Finally, Darwin could answer by saying that everything is but one thing, and in fact some of his other writings seem to indicate, of all things, a “spirit,” or a “power” or “nature” which pervades and, with intelligence, guides the whole Evolutionary scheme. Here is a quote from his notebooks:
“There is one living spirit, prevalent over this world … which assumes a multitude of forms according to subordinate laws.There is one thinking sensible principle allied to one kind of organic matter.”
“Notebook C”, in Creativity, Psychology And the History of Science (2005 Gruber and Bödeker, p. 142)
What is this but the One of the ancients, the Good of the Platonists, the God of the religionists, the Logos, or the “all is One” Pantheism from before 2000 BC? Is it wise? Most certainly, I believe, as I believe the maxim “as above so below.” But “new,” by same belief, it is not. Nor is it indicative of progress, and even less, doing of any real science. This is, LET US RESTATE doing metaphysics. Science has, we see again, become a new religion… and one with all the power of executive law.
Probably this is not what Darwin wanted. Probably, Darwin wanted to be a philosopher, or at least a metaphysician, rather than a scientist. Probably he knew his theory from his science, but would not reject their confusion by others. In so doing, it was his disciples that begat the horrid association of speculation with fact. From then on, it seems, all one had to do to prove the moon is made of green cheese is say that the same elements found in cheese can be found on the moon. Buon Appetit.
But all my research shows me that Darwin was a good man, and his life belies his philosophy; in this he reminds me of Bertrand Russell. He opposed slavery, often refers to the One, or a guiding power behind all Evolution, and was a sincere man. His observations do aid in the quest for understanding the varieties of Life, and his theory, insofar as it is a reiteration and expansion of prior similar theorists, and as applicable to variations within species, is synonymous with adaptation. In a letter to Asa Gray in 1960 he sums up his own enigma:
“I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars or that a cat should play with mice…I cannot anyhow be contented to view this wonderful universe, and especially the nature of man, and to conclude that everything is the result of brute force. I am inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of what we may call chance.”
Darwin explains the results from his research, and I say this reluctantly, with the same confusion we began ours with here. Trying to find out the Origin of Man, we recognize the same paradox, and so we do this present research in effort to solve it. One could argue, this is why anyone ought to do anything scientific, or even any metaphysical inquiry. Let us then answer Darwin’s paradox, from a philosophical perspective.
To do this we must consider what Darwin means by God. He means an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent deity. Darwin claims he cannot understand why such a God would create certain creatures. As if he understands already, though, God’s entire schematic, Darwin, whose theory can make the ape, as we shall see, become a man, and the aardvark the zebra, in so many steps, cannot by the strength of all his imagination quite get at why cats like to play with mice. Besides this latter assumption being a stereotyping of cats (some abhor mice, or just kill them quickly…and what about lions?), a generalization we should better say, are there not hundreds of reasons why? Maybe, sayeth God, to give the cats amusement? Maybe, sayeth God in return, to amuse Darwin, watching the cats? Maybe, as instinct to play, to hone skills?
And what else is it that perplexes Darwin, about this God’s overseeing of the World? He is displeased, and cannot comprehend why it is that one species might feast off of another one, or we should add, off its own. But this is not difficult to explain either, as every day one sort of animal consumes another, somewhere at every moment this occurs, and for us humans, even the strictest vegetarian is right now somewhere consuming the living or once-living carcass of another living creature. But it is not the whole idea of Life consuming Life—symbolized throughout history as the serpent eating its own tail—that perplexes Darwin. It is but a few isolated events that he labels as incongruities, when he could have simply answered for them the way he did for everything else his theory encompasses. That he did not do this speaks volumes on the qualifications and limits he imposes on his own theory.
Witness, then, in the quote above, where Darwin gives homage to the beautiful world it is, and furthermore appeals to designed laws which, of course, presume a Designer. Darwin’s religious thought exists sure enough, and he is, by what he has written, at least a Deist, and therefore a believer, I dare say, in Creation. The plans for the Universe, and their manifestation, he acknowledges in several places. He was the grandson of Erasmus Darwin, the great freethinker, and he also attended a seminary and planned to go into the clergy. His religious background is evident.
So why is his theory cited as an alternative to Creation? Most likely, as we have seen, it is no such thing. While critics might be correct in stating that Darwin rejects the, for example, Biblical claims of God creating each type of creature (if not each creature) individually, he cannot be shown anywhere to reject Creation as a whole. Darwin’s is an attempt to show how it is possible that from a single source (“the Spirit”) can arise the various species and varieties of species that currently grace our planet. In this aspect, this theory is old news, a repeat of ancient theory, but nevertheless correct, if but to explain how but two breeds of dogs could produce, by variations of their genes, compound breeds neither one nor the other and with their own set of distinctive genes. This may be correct, but hardly rejecting of a real Creationist’s claims.
An interview with Darwin was conducted by the German magazine Spektrum. It has recently been reproduced by Scientific American here. In this interview Darwin says many interesting things. Speaking about his original plans to become a theologian, he said:
“Accordingly, I read with care Pearson on the creed and a few other books on divinity; and as I did not then in the least doubt the strict and literal truth of every word in the Bible, I soon persuaded myself that our creed must be fully accepted. It never struck me how illogical it was to say that I believed in what I could not understand and what is in fact unintelligible.”
What is eventually rejected by Darwin, namely Biblical doctrine, is rejected for two reasons, according to his own words and as evidenced by this interview. First, that it is illogical to say one can believe what one does not understand, and second, that it is illogical to believe what is unintelligible. But science, we know clearly, is not supposed to be grounded in belief, theories are not to be found true by belief alone. Similarly, intelligibility is also a matter relying on proof for it to make any scientific sense. Let us be clear and restate what we have been saying one final time. What is scientific, intelligible, and logical, in Darwinism, is the obviousness to which we have already alluded. No scientific breakthrough exists in this Darwinism, the logical foundations of its best dictates merely old hat in the world of metaphysical speculation, and its scientific observations merely fine tunings of earlier similar observations.
It therefore appears obvious to me that the few truly novel ideas found in Darwin’s thought, that new idol placed on the pedestal by Evolution and which adherents now worship nonetheless with full submission, is a sham god, at best a bad myth and at worst a spectre backed by second-rate science. He concludes his research into the Origins of Man and Life where even ancient thinkers knew it ought just begin.
Enough of Darwin. In the next section we will continue our study of the Theory of Evolution by examining the fine tunings it has endured since the idea’s first inception.