Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Christian Darwinism: Now you see the “Creator” and now you don’t, but believe anyway


Well, believe something anyway, subject to rapid change.

Once, years ago, I got a rather long phone call from a Christian evolutionist who wanted me to know that Darwin had added to the second edition of his Origin of Species the words “by the Creator” to imply that evolution was God-directed. That was supposed to show that Darwin was really, at heart, a theist.

That Christian evolutionist must have thought I an one of those dim, wimpy Christian writers who nod appreciatively, make vacuous statements about “faith and science,”and worse, make cute little jokes, and then just run off to cover a praisefest somewhere.

Sorry, chump. You dialed the wrong number.

Darwin believed nothing of the sort. He was a thoroughgoing committed materialist, but an astute public relations man too.

So, about “by the Creator” … ?

British physicist David Tyler recounts, discussing a recent article:

Why was the “Creator” absent from the 1st edition but present thereafter? The authors draw attention to Darwin’s own explanation, contained in an 1863 letter to Hooker and shortly afterwards another to the Athenaeum, based on the profound ignorance within science of any route for life to have emerged from non-life: “[to Hooker] But I have long regretted that I truckled to public opinion & used Pentateuchal term of creation, by which I really meant “appeared” by some wholly unknown process. – It is mere rubbish thinking, at present, of origin of life; one might as well think of origin of matter.” [to the Athenaeum] “Now is there a fact, or a shadow of a fact, supporting the belief that these elements, without the presence of any organic compounds, and acted on only by known forces, could produce a living creature? At present it is to us a result absolutely inconceivable. Your reviewer sneers with justice at my use of the “Pentateuchal terms”, “of one primordial form into which life was first breathed”: in a purely scientific work I ought perhaps not to have used such terms; but they well serve to confess that our ignorance is as profound on the origin of life as on the origin of force or matter.”

In the light of these comments, it is curious that Darwin did not drop the word “Creator” in subsequent editions. Whatever regrets he expressed in 1863, they were not deep enough to excise the injudicious word.

The regrets were not deep enough because Darwin and his allies sensed that the public would not yet accept science recast as materialist atheism. And there would always be “theistic evolution” gulls out there to spread the good news, like the one who contacted me.

Revealingly, the authors of the study Tyler references indulge themselves in the too-familiar liturgy of whitewashing the bad news about the Great One – they trash those who simply report the facts and draw reasonable conclusions from them.

Tyler muses,

It is surprising, therefore, to read this comment of the authors about people who misread Darwin: “Indeed, a careful examination and critical reading of his public and private writings shows that what appear to be contradictory opinions on the problem of the emergence of life are the result of texts read out of context, sometimes maliciously, as shown by some publications of creationist groups and advocates of the so-called intelligent design.” It is remarkable how often such comments appear in scholarly work, nearly always unsupported by references or quotes.

Of course these baseless insults are unsupported by references or quotes, because the references or quotes, read in any normal sense, would contradict the materialist atheist and theistic evolutionist claims, aimed at the supposedly gullible public.

Tyler notes,

By and large, creationist and ID scholars have exactly the same understanding of Darwin’s secular framework as the authors of this paper. Where they differ is in thinking that this secular framework is profoundly wrong and is an inappropriate foundation for science.

He also argues,

Those who should be accused of taking Darwin out of context are the Theistic Evolutionists, who do not want to acknowledge Darwin’s philosophical materialism. They generally refer positively to Darwin’s reference to a Creator and try to suggest that Darwinism can be harmonised with Theism.

Well, I’d put the matter more strongly myself: It’s going to take a long time to nail these lies. The “by their Creator” rubbish is publicly funded, brayed by pundits, and intoned by professors. These same people wring their hands in sheer angst, muttering dark predictions over the fact that the public in North America largely doesn’t believe it.

Again, sorry, chumps. Here in North America, we are still free to disbelieve what is flatly contradicted by evidence. May it always be so.

Note: About Darwin’s materialism in general, see Michael Flannery’s discussion in his biography of Wallace, Darwin’s co-theorist and a much maligned design supporter. You’ll never read flapdoodle about the “Creator” the same way again.
See also:

Stephen Jay Gould: A tragedy of failed convictions? (Partly about his trashing Wallace)

Alfred Russel Wallace vs. Charles Darwin on cruelty in nature

Alfred Russel Wallace and intelligent design

Ben Wiker’s “Life and Lies of Charles Darwin”

Darwin: Now that it’s all in ruins, they’re fighting over the rubble?


Leave a Reply