Saturday, July 4, 2009

Darwin was a creationist

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and...from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved. -Charles Darwin

A friend of mine pointed out my posts so far have sometimes used the generic term "creationist" when I really mean "young earth creationist." He's right. There's a big difference between young earth creationists who believe the earth is maybe just 6,000 years old and those creationists who believe in evolution albeit with varying doses of divine intervention.

Some "old-earth" creationists believe evolution has been primarily responsible for speciation, but that a supernatural designer has stepped in along the way to help evolution bridge gaps that it otherwise couldn't overcome (like the step from apes to humans). Other "old-earth" creationists think evolution has progressed along fine on its own, but to get things started the Creator had to craft the first one or two organisms, as Darwin apparently believed.

Interestingly, scientists tend to view all of these viewpoints with the same disdain. This may not be too surprising given recent conflicts over science education standards. Creationists (even the young-earth variety) have shifted towards supporting the teaching of "mostly evolution with a dash of creationism." As of this writing they call it Intelligent Design, but that has changed in the past and is likely to change again in the future.

Still, there is some irony in that even Charles Darwin wrote in his last sentence of "The Origin of Species" (quoted above) that he believed in a form of creationism! It's important to remember that even the father of natural selection taught that an intelligent designer was in the mix--at least in the beginning.

My point in all this is not that Darwin was right. (Even biologists today agree he was wrong about many aspects of his theory.) Instead, I want to emphasize the importance of recognizing the wide spectrum of viewpoints that fall under the generic banner, "creationism." It's not fair to equate all old-earth creationists or even "Intelligent Design Theorists" with young-earth creationists. Many creationists put forth theories that are 99% consistent with accepted science.

So why aren't scientists more warm to even Darwin-style creationism? Again, I think it's mostly due to the fact that these new forms of "soft-creationism" are being used primarily to get non-scientific (read: religious and philosophical) ideas into the science classroom.

And that's a shame, because even today most scientists I know agree they don't have all the answers and that philosophy and religion can contribute to our perspective on life. But they usually don't think--and I agree--that philosophy or religion should be taught as science. Which is probably why Darwin devoted the entirety of "Origin of Species" to building a scientific theory based on observable facts, and left philosophical speculation to the last sentence of his book.


abandonedtoJesus24-7 said...

I was noticing your page, and it seems that you are a Darwinian evolutionist. I was just wondering. Let’s start with the term the “theory of evolution.” A scientific theory is In the sciences generally, a scientific theory (the same as an empirical theory) comprises a collection of concepts, including abstractions of observable phenomena expressed as quantifiable properties, together with rules (called scientific laws) that express relationships between observations of such concepts. A scientific theory is constructed to conform to available empirical data about such observations, and is put forth as a principle or body of principles for explaining a class of phenomena.4 Notice I emphasized observable phenomena, because for something to be a scientific theory there has to be observable proof that verifies the scientific theory itself. There has to be physical evidence of evolution occurring (remember from now on when I mention evolution I am talking about macro-evolution. The belief that our ancient ancestor was pond scum). So what am I saying, for something to be a scientific theory there has to be evidence that you can look at of the theory occurring. Here is where the first problem lies no one has ever witnessed the occurrence of evolution. NO ONE! Also there is no proof that verifies evolution ever occurred, so to say in its most basic form that evolution is a theory, according to the definition of a scientific theory is wrong. So evolution is not even a theory because there is no observable evidence that it ever occurred.

I would love to hear you regarding this issue, also check out my blog at.
until we go to the ends of the earth...

Acts 1:8


Chris Sanford

David Board said...

You sound like me when I was a creationist:

I do not agree with your definition of scientific theory, nor do I agree no one has witnessed evolution.

But let's cut to the chase: If I could give you evidence of evolution, would you change your mind about it? Would you believe it was a sound theory? If not, then maybe you should reconsider why it is you think it's not true.

I find most creationist use scientific-sounding arguments but when I rebut their science they don't change their views--they just move on to some other argument. So I'm really not much interested in arguing with you unless you are willing to change your mind about evolution.

Let's start there: what would it take (in terms of evidence) for you to change your mind about evolution?

Unknown said...

FYI, there was no reference to a Creator in the original First Edition of the Origin of Species. It was a line added later, likely to get religious types to actually read it without so much hand-wringing and offence-taking.

David Board said...

True, the first edition didn't use the word "Creator," but it said basically the same, "There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one..."

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