DARWIN PAGE OF WAS DARWIN RIGHT?
About Darwin Darwin's doubts Darwin and Christianity Evolution of evolution Suggested reading
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About Darwin. Darwin, Charles (1809-82). Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire. He was the son of Robert Waring Darwin and his wife Susannah; and the grandson of the scientist Erasmus Darwin, and of the potter Josiah Wedgwood. His mother died when he was eight years old, and he was brought up by his sister. He was taught classics at Shrewsbury, then sent to Edinburgh to study medicine, which he hated, and a final attempt at educating him was made by sending him to Christ's College, Cambridge, to study theology (1827). During that period he loved to collect plants, insects, and geological specimens, guided by his cousin William Darwin Fox, an entomologist. His scientific inclinations were encouraged by his botany professor, John Stevens Henslow, who was instrumental, despite heavy paternal opposition, in securing a place for Darwin as a naturalist on the surveying expedition of HMS Beagle to Patagonia (1831-6).
Under Captain Robert Fitzroy, he visited Tenerife, the Cape Verde Is, Brazil, Montevideo, Tierra del Fuego, Buenos Aires, Valparaiso, Chile, the Galapagos, Tahiti, New Zealand, and Tasmania. In the Keeling Is he devised his theory of coral reefs. During this five-year expedition he obtained intimate knowledge of the fauna, flora, and geology of many lands, which equipped him for his later investigations. By 1846 he had published several works on the geological and zoological discoveries of his voyage - works that placed him at once in the front rank of scientists. He developed a friendship with Sir Charles Lyell, became secretary of the Geological Society (1838-41), and in 1839 married his cousin Emma Wedgewood (1808-96).
From 1842 he lived at Down House, Downe, Kent, a country gentleman among his gardens, conservatories, pigeons, and fowls. The practical knowledge he gained there, especially in variation and inter breeding, proved invaluable. Private means enabled him to devote himself to science, in spite of continuous ill-health: it was not realized until after his death that he had suffered from Chagas's disease, which he had contracted from an insect bite while in South America.
At Down House he addressed himself to the great work of his life - the problem of the origin of species. After five years of collecting the evidence, he began to speculate on the subject. In 1842 he drew up his observations in some short notes, expanded in 1844 into a sketch of conclusions for his own use. These embodied the principle of natural selection, the germ of the Darwinian Theory, but with typical caution he delayed publication of his hypothesis.
However, in 1858 Alfred Russel Wallace sent him a memoir of the Malay Archipelago, which, to Darwin's surprise, contained in essence the main ideas of his own theory of natural selection. Lyell and Joseph Hooker persuaded him to submit a paper of his own, based on his 1844 sketch, which was read simultaneously with Wallace's before the Linnean Society in 1858. Neither Darwin nor Wallace was present on that historic occasion.
Darwin then set to work to condense his vast mass of notes, and put into shape his great work, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, published in 1859. This epoch -making work, received throughout Europe with the deepest interest, was violently attacked because it did not agree with the account of creation given in the Book of Genesis. But eventually it succeeded in obtaining recognition from most biologists. You can read a bit more about the background to Darwin's theory at evolution of evolution.
However, in his book Darwin's Black Box, Prof. Michael Behe comments that there have always been since the time of Darwin, well informed and respected scientists who have found Darwinism to be inadequate. This is in spite of the likely millions of man hours that have been spent trying to prove the theory of evolution in the c. 150 since Darwin's book "Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection" was first published. With the advent of molecular biology, there are increasing number of scientists who question the theory of evolution as all living things at a molecular level are now know to be incredibly complex. Indeed, in the Spectator magazine, 24th October 2003, there was a quote "Once only religious nuts questioned Darwinism. All that has changed". This was accompanied by an article giving brief details of how many serious scientists now doubt Darwinism.
Darwin continued to work at a series of supplemental treatises: The Fertilization of Orchids (1862), The Variation of Plants and Animals under Domestication (1867), and The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871), which postulated that the human race derived from a hairy animal belonging to the great anthrapoid group, and was related to the progenitors of the orang-utan, chimpanzee, and gorilla. In his 1871 work he also developed his important supplementary theory of sexual selection.
Later works include The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals (1872), Insectivorous Plants (1875), The Effects of Cross and Self Fertilization in the Vegetable Kingdom (1876), Different Forms of Flowers in Plants of the Same Species (1877), and The Formations of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms (1881).
Darwin died after a long illness, leaving eight children, several of whom achieved great distinction. Though not the sole originator of the evolution hypothesis, nor even the first to apply the concept of descent to plants and animals, he was the first thinker to gain for that theory a wide acceptance among biological experts. By adding to the crude evolutionism of Erasmus Darwin, Lamarck, and others, his own specific idea of natural selection, Darwin supplied a sufficient cause, which raised it from a hypothesis to a verifiable theory. To top
"A man who dares to waste an hour of life has not discovered the value of life." Charles Darwin.
Darwin and Christianity. Darwin did not lack religious influences in his youth. Baptized an Anglican and steeped in his mother's Unitarianism, young Charles was brought up to pray.
However, Darwin drifted away from his Christian Faith and later said “I had gradually come by this time, [i.e. 1836 to 1839] to see that the Old Testament was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos or the beliefs of any barbarian.” and on another occasion he wrote, “I never gave up Christianity until I was forty years of age.” He turned 40 in 1849. Commenting on this, Darwin's biographer, James Moore, says, "... just as his clerical career had died a slow 'natural death,' so his faith had withered gradually."
More details of Darwin and Christianity. To top
Evolution of evolution (this article by Dr Mark Toleman also occurs on the old science page)
Many believe that the theory of evolution appeared abruptly in the second half of the nineteenth century mainly through the pen of Charles Darwin and his visit to the Galapagos Islands . However, this is simply untrue. Charles Darwin was the grandson of Erasmus Darwin (picture right). An accomplished poet, inventor, country doctor and furtive evolutionist. (1) In 1771 in keeping with his evolutionary beliefs Erasmus Darwin added the motto “E chonchis omnia”, or "everything from shells" to his family’s coat of arms, which featured three scallop shells. In response to these blasphemous words his neighbour Canon Seward of Lichfield Cathedral countered with his own inspired poetry:
“Darwin renounces his Creator and forms all sense from senseless matter. Great wizard he! By majic spells can all things raise from cockle shells.”
Twenty years after this event the elder Darwin, now the leading poet of his day expounded the theory of evolution in the first volume of his medical tome “Zoonomia” including the hypothesis of the survival of the fittest by natural selection. His life’s work was completed with the posthumous publication of a long poem that he called “The origin of society” but for fear of reprisals the publisher changed the title to “The Temple of Nature”. Below is a small excerpt:
Hence without parent by spontaneous birth
Rise the first specks of animated earth;
From Nature's womb the plant or insect swims,
And buds or breathes, with microscopic limbs.
ORGANIC LIFE beneath the shoreless waves
Was born and nurs'd in Ocean's pearly caves
First forms minute, unseen by spheric glass,
Move on the mud, or pierce the watery mass;
These, as successive generations bloom,
New powers acquire, and larger limbs assume;
Whence countless groups of vegetation spring,
And breathing realms of fin, and feet, and wing.
Charles Darwin was therefore, neither objective nor original in his thinking. In fact even the title of his first book was unimaginative “The origin of the species” is not a great leap from the title of his grandfathers’ poem “The origin of society”.
Certainly though, the theory of evolution appeared a very long time before the Darwin family. The first recorded evolutionary statements appear approximately 570BC from a Greek philosopher named Anaximander (611-546 BC). He hypothesized that:
“In the beginning there was a fish-like creature with scales that arose in and lived in the world ocean. As some of these advanced, they moved onto land, shed their scaly coverings and became the first humans.”
This first recorded evolutionary idea can be seen to have several of the features of current evolutionary dogma i.e. entirely naturalistic process that excluded any form of Divine intervention or design, life arising from the sea and the change of one creature into another. What this first idea lacked was any time span involved in the process. It is interesting that the Apostle Paul writing in 70 AD specifically in the first instance to the Greeks described the message of the cross as a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the gentiles and quotes God as saying “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar, where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe." (2)
In godless society this first evolutionary idea was slowly refined by the addition of a time span, albeit a short one. Life could arise “spontaneously”. Amazingly enough this idea was very fashionable right up until the 1850’s when the beautiful experiments of Louis Pasteur finally put paid to the pseudo-science entwined in this refinement of evolutionary dogma. The theory basically went this way. Life could arise from non-living things, for instance, if you observed a pond long enough you would eventually see a frog come from the pond. The reason for this, so it was said, was that the frog was spontaneously generated in the pond. Or again, leave a piece of meat on the side and leave it rot. After a while you would observe maggots on the meat that had been spontaneously generated out of the decay. There seemed to be rather good evidence for this belief system and as such it held sway through much of the civilised world and for many centuries. In fact the leading scientists of the day were the proponents of it. The learned naturalist Ross for example stated that:
“To question that beetles and wasps were generated in cow dung is to question reason, sense, and experience. Even such complicated animals as mice didn’t have to have mothers or fathers-if anyone doubted this, let him go to Egypt , and there he would find the fields literally swarming with mice, begot of the mud of the river Nile, to the great calamity of the inhabitants." (3)
The ideas of spontaneous generation were strengthened by the lack of careful observational science (scientia- to know), together with godless peer pressure. However, this was all to change with Francesco Redi. Redi was a graduate of medicine from Pisa in Italy in 1647 and goes down in history as one of the greatest scientists of all time. He published on a wide range of subjects but Redi’s true masterpiece was “Esperienze intorno alla generazione degl’insetti” (experiments concerning the generation of insects) published in Florence in 1668.
This experiment was designed to smash the philosophy of spontaneous generation, which it did admirably and is the first known example of a scientific experiment that was conducted with proper controls. Redi’s masterpiece used three Jars with meat placed in the bottom. In the first jar the neck was left open to the elements, the second jar was corked with a large bung but the third was a class piece of intellect, a jar exposed to the elements but covered with gauze that would not allow flies through. The result of the experiment could be experienced by anyone who would merely observe. Flask 1 developed maggots but both flasks 2&3 did not. In this one simple experiment the long held evidence of spontaneous generation of maggots from rotting meat was obliterated. The truth that even flies have parents and offspring was evident to all. The pseudo-scientific second version of the theory of evolution tottered and almost fell.
I say virtually because most people of intellect dropped the idea but a small core including the grandfather of Charles Darwin did not want to lose their excuse for not believing in an intelligent designer. The sad group included the great thinkers of the day not only Erasmus Darwin but also Comte de Buffon (picture right), one of the first proponents of an old age for the earth and the idea that men were descended from monkeys. The darling of the group was a man named Needham . Needham was a Catholic priest who liked to dabble in pseudo-science. Although the experiments of Redi had put an end to the idea that insects and large animals could be generated spontaneously yet surely they said small creatures such as animalicules (present day ciliates and bacteria) could. Added to his philosophy was real science that Needham thought was on a par with the great Redi. Indeed, so they thought, this was a proof backed up with scientific evidence in the form of undeniable experimental proof. (4)
Needham's experiments involved boiling mutton gravy in glass flasks and as "everyone knows" he bantered “nothing can survive boiling.” He then corked the flasks and left them for several days. After the allotted time span, he put the now rancid material under the microscope and behold animalcules were found everywhere. The only possible reason for this, so he thought, was that these animalcules were spontaneously generated from the mutton gravy as it putrefied. Not only was the scientific world rocked by this momentous discovery, but, also every strata of society. Here was scientific proof as good as any Redi that demonstrated that spontaneous generation of micro-organisms was a fact. Buffon said “father Needham you have discovered the very force of life we should call it the vegetative force”. The royal society was so impressed that Needham was made a fellow. This was the greatest scientific accolade of the day. Once again people could breathe safe in the knowledge that they could be intellectually fulfilled atheists no longer subject to the accountability of an intelligent designer. However, their hope was soon dashed.
In on our scene came another great Italian scientist Spallanzani (picture left) and for intellectually fulfilled atheists the worst kind, a man with a bias for truth. Spallanzani was a Catholic priest but one that really believed in a God. One who believed that life could only come from life and every living thing must have a parent. Enthused and empowered by the beautiful experiments of Redi he went to design his own. He thought to himself Needham is wrong he must have missed something, but what could it be? He thought of all the possible scenarios and then came to the conclusion. It must be that either Needham didn’t boil those flasks for long enough or, he didn’t boil them hard enough to kill the parents or, maybe their eggs are protected in some way. Or, maybe those tiny creatures could get into the flasks by the small cracks in the cork, but how to prove it?
Spallanzani designed experiments to test his ideas, or even defeat if necessary, his own explanations. He heated one group of flasks for a few minutes, another set he boiled for an hour. But how to seal them he thought-corks might not be tight enough, they may let these tiny animalcules through. He pondered. “I’ve got it, I’ll melt the necks of my bottles in a flame. I’ll close them with glass-nothing, no matter how small, can sneak through glass!” Then, inspired by Redi, he added a control, he made a duplicate set of flasks, which he plugged up with corks. After a suitable time he returned to his flasks and one by one he cracked open their necks, and fished down with a slender hollow tube to get some of the soup out. He first looked at drop after drop of the sealed flasks that had been boiled for an hour, nothing! Then he looked at the set that were boiled for a few minutes here and there, there were animalcules playing and sporting about. The truth dawned on him that the flasks were sealed nothing could get in from outside, these little being must be able to withstand boiling for a few minutes. Then the flasks that were just plugged with corks as Needham had done, every one of these flasks was alive with little animals, even the flasks that had been boiled for an hour. “That means the little animals get into Needham's flasks from the air!” he shouted. “And besides I have discovered a great new fact, living things exist that can stand boiling water and still live, you have to heat them to boiling almost an hour to kill them!”
This indeed was a great day for Spallanzani and a great day for the world. Spallanzani had proved that Needham's theory of little animals arising spontaneously was wrong just as the old master Redi had proved the idea was wrong that flies can be bread in putrid meat. Unknowingly he had laid the foundation for the germ theory of disease later discovered by Pasteur and Lister.
You may think that this was the end of the ideas of spontaneous generation. However, Erasmus Darwin would not let go of it. It was an essential part of his evolutionary theory and his poem “The origin of society” described and annotated it. (5) Erasmus Darwin simply chose deception rather than truth and ignored Spallanzani's experiments as though they were never performed. It was not until Louis Pasteur (interestingly another believer in Creation) that spontaneous generation was finally laid to rest, just in time for Erasmus Darwins grandson Charles to pick up the batten of godless philosophy. Interestingly, Erasmus Darwin combined spontaneous generation with millions of ages for the first microbes to change into humans. As such from pure philosophy he moved the hypothesis of evolution firmly out of the reach of experimentation by future Redis and Spallanzanis. Today the hypothesis of evolution can never be proved incorrect by real observational science and no controls can be used against it. As such it remains as an improvable and un-testable fashionable belief. But, by its very nature pseudo-science. To top
Darwin's doubts. It is to Darwin's credit as a Scientist that he was honest enough to express doubts about the validity of his theory of evolution. These are recorded in the sixth chapter of his book on the origins of the species and this chapter is entitled "Difficulties on Theory" (Darwin C., 1974). Some difficulties are also recorded in other chapters.
Please note, for some of these doubts (though not all as far as is known) Darwin proposed counter arguments that are not included here.
This is not intended to be deceptive. The doubts are of interest as they stand regardless of how good the counter arguments are. Please see his book to get a full view of all the arguments and counter arguments.
General difficulties: "Long before having arrived at this part of my work, a crowd of difficulties will have occurred to my reader. Some of them are so grave that to this day I can never reflect on them without being staggered .......". Also: " .....scarcely a single point is discussed in this volume on which the facts cannot be adduced, often apparently leading to conclusions directly opposite to those at which I arrived".
On natural selection: And to think that the eye could evolve "by natural selection seems, I freely confess, absurd to the highest degree". Also: "Nothing at first can appear more difficult to believe than that the more complex organisms and instincts should have been perfected, not by means superior to, though analogous with, human reason, but by the accumulation of innumerable slight variations ........".
On instinct: Such "simple" instincts as bees making a beehive could be "sufficient to overthrow my whole theory".
On his own reasoning: "But then arises the doubt, can the mind of a man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animals, be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions? ....... Would anyone trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind". and
"Often a cold shudder has run through me, and I have asked myself whether I may have not devoted myself to a phantasy". (Charles Darwin, Life and Letters, 1887, Vol. 2, p. 229).
In relation to religious thought: Darwin referred to his theory as "The devil's gospel" (Ankerberg, 1998a).
On fossil evidence: "Why then is not every geological formation full of such intermediate links. Geology assuredly does not reveal any finely graduated organic change, and this is the most obvious and serious objection that can be urged against the theory". To top
Suggested reading and videos
Books - These do not all focus specifically on the contents of this page, but all will have some content of direct relevance to this page. All these books can be bought on line at the "Was Darwin right store".
Creation Facts Of Life, by Dr Gary Parker.
Darwinism And The Rise Of Degenerate Science, by Dr Paul Back - A chapter is devoted to the age of the Earth.
Darwin's Black Box, by Professor Michael Behe..
Darwin's Enigma, by Luther Sunderland
Defeating Darwinism with open minds, by Philip E. Johnson.
Evolution, A Theory In Crisis, by Dr Michael Denton.
Evolution, The Fossils Still Say No, Dr Duane Gish.
Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth?: Why Much of What We Teach about Evolution is Wrong, by Jonathan Wells
The Fossil Book (Wonders of Creation), by Gary Parker, Mary Parker.
The Great Dinosaur Mystery Solved! by Ken Ham
The Naked Emperor: Darwinism Exposed, by Antony Latham
Darwinism and the Nazi race Holocaust
Darwin versus Compassion
Did Darwin recant?
The Origin of Species - Book on-line
The Voyage of the Beagle - Book on-line
References for evolution of evolution
(1) The furtive evolutionist. New Scientist April 12 2003.
(2) The Bible 1 Corinthians 17-23.
(3) Microbe Hunters, Paul De Kruif. Harcourt, INC Publishers. San Diego , New York , London . Chapter 2 “Spallanzani- Microbes must have parents” page 27.
(4) Microbe Hunters, Paul De Kruif. Harcourt, INC Publishers. San Diego , New York , London . Chapter 2 “Spallanzani- Microbes must have parents”
(5) The Temple of Nature: Or, The Origin of Society: A Poem, with Philosophical Notes, by Erasmus Darwin.
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