Charles Darwin Does Matter

Jul 9th, 2011 | By | Category: Culture & Wordview, Featured Issues

The debate within our culture about origins continues, and the legacy of Charles Darwin in this debate is immense and profound.  We tend to forget that Darwin?s ideas were truly revolutionary and their impact continues throughout western civilization.  Better than any other example, Darwin?s hypothesis about natural selection proves the point that ideas do indeed have consequences.  Two primary thoughts for this Perspective:

  • First is a focus on theistic evolution and its implications.  Marvin Olasky of World magazine writes correctly that ?Today, the overwhelming majority of American kids receive a Darwinian or neo-Darwinian education.  They learn at schools and then colleges that they are just matter, the result of occasional mutations and survival of the fittest.?  Because his ideas are so pervasive, is it possible to merge some of Darwin?s ideas with biblical Christianity?  Until very recently, theistic evolution (TE) has been resisted by most people who embrace biblical Christianity.  It was really not until the late 1990s that TE gained some legitimacy.  Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe and especially Francis Collins, genome pioneer, director of the National Institutes of Health, and author of the book, The Language of God, helped TE gain traction among those who embrace an evangelical worldview.  But as Marvin Olasky has shown, it has been the financial support of the Templeton Foundation that has made the greatest impact in legitimizing TE.  Olasky has shown that the Templeton Foundation has promoted a rather systematic attack on Creationism and also on the intelligent design movement.  His evidence is compelling.  So, the two-pronged advocacy of the Templeton Foundation and of Francis Collins has resulted in a significant number of books and articles supporting TE as the only real choice for Christians.  But, as Olasky has argued, ?The problem, though, is that many theistic evolutionists should rightly be called deistic evolutionists, since they believe that God created the first life-form and then left the rest to standard Darwinian processes.  Theoretically a theistic evolutionist could also believe in God?s creation of each of the trillions and quadrillions of mutations that led to today?s world, but that would also be rewriting the Bible?and we?re still left with the issue of Adam and Eve?s direct creation.?  As mathematician Bill Dembski contends, ?Theistic evolution takes the Darwinian picture of the biological world and baptizes it.?  Two recent books have challenged the argument of TE:  (1)  Should Christians Embrace Evolution?, edited by British medical geneticist, Norman Nevin, contains a series of significant theological essays, as well as important scientific essays.  Perhaps most important are the essays that challenge some of the contentions of TE.  One especially challenges rather compellingly the contention that genome mapping leads to the conclusion, irrefutably, that man and the great ape share common ancestors.  There is also an important essay by Nevins on the Cambrian explosion, when many animal forms and body plans (of new phyla, subphyla and classes) arise in a brief geological period, with no proof that they branched off from common ancestors.  (2) God and Evolution by R.T. Kendall is equally valuable because it challenges many of the hypotheses of TE with scientific evidence and reasonable logic.  One of the most important weaknesses of TE is the literal and direct creation of Adam and Eve.  Typically, most TE advocates are skeptical about the literalness of Genesis 1 and 2.  The special creation of our first parents is doubtful, most TE advocates argue.  Michael Reeves, one of the essay writers in the Nevins book, argues that it is biblically and theologically necessary for Christians to believe in Adam as first, a historical person who second, fathered the entire human race.  This is a critical belief because much of the New Testament affirms the validity of Genesis 1 and 2.  For example, Matthew 19:4-6 and Mark 10:6 refer to the creation of Adam and Eve as real historical events.  Luke?s genealogy of Christ in chapter 3 assigns a father to everyone except Adam, whom Luke calls ?the son of God.?  Acts 17:26 has Paul arguing strongly that from ?one man He made all the nations.?  Romans 5:12-21 has Paul referring to the sin ?of one man, Adam? and the sinlessness of one man, Christ.  1 Corinthians 11:8-9 refers to Eve?s special creation.  Finally, 1 Corinthians 15:22 treats Adam as a historical person, ?As in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.?  The Bible treats Adam and Eve as literal, historical human beings, directly created by God and then ties that truth to salvation in Jesus Christ.  The Bible does not permit us to see Adam and Eve as symbolic figures.
  • Second, the Darwinian hypothesis has had on impact on almost every other discipline of human knowledge.  The historian and World magazine editor, Marvin Olasky, has compiled a helpful set of influences discernible from Darwin:
  1. Woodrow Wilson was perhaps most decisive in embracing a Darwinian view of government.  He argued that government should ?be accountable to Darwin, not to Newton.  It is modified by its environment, necessitated by its tasks, shaped to its functions by the sheer pressure of life. . . Living political constitutions must be Darwinian in structure and in practice.?  As a result, Wilson began significant expansion of governmental power, from which we have never retreated.
  2. A significant number of historical works have linked Darwin?s thinking to Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse-tung and Hitler.  ?Darwin is obviously not responsible for the atrocities committed in his name, but evolutionary theory plus the musings about superior and inferior races provided a logical justification for anti-Semites and racists.?
  3. Alfred Kinsey?s controversial studies of human sexuality in the late 1940s and early 1950s contended that adultery is normal and homosexual experiences not uncommon, for ?the mammalian backgrounds of human behavior [made it] difficult to explain why each and every individual is not involved in every type of sexual history.?
  4. Darwinian thinking was instrumental in justifying abortion because the human life, according to Darwin, has no intrinsic value.  Early advocates of abortion connected the thought of evolutionary progress with the unborn child?s development and argued that babies in the womb are sub-human and of little or no value.
  5. Peter Singer, Princeton University ethicist, has defended infanticide in a Darwinian manner:  ?All we are doing is catching up with Darwin.  He showed in the 19th century that we are simply animals.  Humans had imagined we were a separate part of Creation, that there was some magical line between Us and Them.  Darwin?s theory undermined the foundations of that entire Western way of thinking about the place of our species in the universe.?

Ideas do indeed have consequences, but perhaps the most pernicious of recent history is the Darwinian hypothesis that explains the emergence of life (including human life) by random chance, plus an impersonal force [natural selection], plus vast amounts of time.  In such a model, even the TE one, there is little or no room for God.  But there is no room for this hypothesis in a genuine biblical worldview.

See Marvin Olasky in World (2 July 2011), pp. 37-41, 96. PRINT PDF

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3 Comments to “Charles Darwin Does Matter”

  1. Richard Pendell says:

    I heartily agree with everything in your article, except that Hugh Ross and Reasons to Believe in any way support evolutionary points of view. In fact, he continuously presents evidence that supports the 20 Creation accounts in the Bible. He sees no scientific evidence supporting a very young Earth, but in all his materials I have never heard him once take a TE position regarding life on Earth.

  2. John Birky says:

    If death did not enter the picture until after Adam and Eve sinned, then theistic evolution is simply incompatible with a literal interpretation of Genesis or of Romans 5:12-21. We can have one or the other, but not both. If this is true, than what religion do theistic (or “deistic”) evolutionists ascribe to? Fortunately I find the arguments for an active, intelligent designer very compelling (ref. Michael Behe’s books if you need a place to start).

  3. Dean Palmer says:

    You should be more careful in your characterization of Hugh Ross and Reasons to believe. They do not promote evolution in ANY WAY, SHAPE, or FORM. If you were to take the time to read any of their materials, you would see right away that just the opposite is true. You owe them a public apology. I will be looking for it.