What is the Argument?
As statues are being taken down and the names of significant places are being changed because of their connection with slavery, there is much debate about America’s history and what it represents now. During this time of reflection with COVID-19 on top of us, racial issues demand much of our attention. As we look deep into the conscience of America including our past transgressions in not holding our fellow humans with the honor and respect they deserve, we also need to recognize what is tearing away at the soul of America today. There is an old idea from God’s Word that brings humans together and teaches us not just to tolerate but to also love one another. It instructs us about our true value that we are created in the image of God, the author of all life. This fundamental principle was sought out by this country’s founding fathers who had a common connection with the holy scriptures. It is what keeps us together.
The reason why there seems to be so much discord is that we left this basic principle of humans being created in the image of God and have tried to replace it with man’s fabricated ideas and deceptive theories under the guise of science.
These ideas are actually hostile to our worth and strip away our dignity and purpose, not only of just one race but also of everyone who walks this earth. They are taught to us with the never-ending mantra in our textbooks and everywhere we look, dogmatically brainwashing us from generation to generation, so much so that we lose sight of the Creator who gave us life and everything we possess. We have lost our common purpose, shared values, and unfolding history of man continually working to correct his transgressions and humble himself before the living God. The result is confusion, anger, chaos, and discord on American streets.
Where is Charles Darwin and his tree of life in this discussion? How did his idea stick that we arose to the position of being human beings from the slime of the earth by random occurrences without the direction of a benevolent Creator? Explain why it was so easy to get rid of God. How did this truth disappear: that the Creator who loved us so much not only made us like Himself but would come down from His heavenly throne to take on our sin so that we may live? Where is this in the discussion of justice and equality for all?
A Radical Theory Proposed
Darwin formally introduced his radical ideas to a waiting world. He spoke of how all living things came to be in 1859 with his first publication of Origin of Species or as its official title goes, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. It was a major success selling out the first day of its publication in England as many were anticipating this new controversial theory that would describe how all life began. It’s the hallmark of evolutionary biology that is taught in almost every biology course today in our schools. His views would challenge a biblical approach to creation as many of the progressive intellects at that time were restless and seeking an alternative explanation to God as their Creator and Savior.
At the time, Darwin went to a college where both natural science and religion were inseparable. His father, Robert, a successful medical doctor, recommended a change in his pursuit of the same career as a medical doctor to becoming a pastor of the Anglican Church of England. At first, Darwin went to Edinburgh University in Scotland to follow both his brilliant grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, and his father in the medical profession.
Ironically, his grandfather wrote Zoonomia or the Laws of Organic Life (1794-1796), in which he was one of the first forerunners that formally introduced revolutionary ideas on evolution to the public. Darwin discovered while in Edinburgh that he was not suited for this career as he had a dislike for the operating room, mainly because he had a morbid fear of blood. After his second year, he transferred to Cambridge University and attended classes for being a pastor of the Church of England. Natural Science was taught as an elective, along with supplemental field excursions, lectures included botany, geology, zoology, and other sciences. Darwin was later mentored by John Stevens Henslow, a well-known botanist who corresponded with the famous American John James Audubon. Darwin was also taught by Adam Sedgwick who was an accomplished geologist and considered one of the founders of modern geology. Both Henslow and Sedgwick were pastors and believed that both the natural sciences and God’s Word were inseparable.
However, in Darwin’s theory of natural selection, God was nowhere to be found. He indeed drifted from what was taught at Cambridge and his old geology professor, Sedgwick, was not going to let it pass without expressing his disappointment after reading Darwin’s review copy of Origin of Species. Sedgwick cautioned Darwin in a personal letter dated November 24, 1859, by writing: There is a moral or metaphysical part of nature as well as a physical. A man who denies this is deep in the mire of folly…… You have ignored this link; and, if I do not mistake your meaning, you have done your best in one or two pregnant cases to break it. Were it possible (which thank God it is not) to break it, humanity in my mind would suffer a damage that might brutalize it—and sink the human race into a lower grade of degradation than any into which it has fallen since its written records tell us of its history.
According to Sedgwick, you cannot exclude God, who he believed is the author of all creation. He, like so many at that time in history, did not believe in transmutation as defined where one kind of species evolves or changes to another species. He defied it because he believed in the validity of the Genesis account and detested evolution taking the place of God. God made living organisms “after its kind,” and if we cross that line, it has the horrific potential to destroy the dignity of the human race. It was a prophetic warning for all those who have applied Darwinian evolution resulting in millions of deaths of the “unwanted.” Darwin wrote for the general public promoting his radical theory that all living things are formed by natural processes in which the strongest survive by changing or evolving over a long period of time. There were many intellectuals at the university level in England, throughout Europe, and in America, who eagerly promoted this secular approach to life. There was a cost for this way of thinking that would come as time moved on and it was damage to mankind as Sedgwick warned. He also found holes in Darwin’s secular theory that usually follows because of the folly of man and, in the same letter, warned Darwin about his theory’s prediction by declaring,
Many of your wide conclusions are based upon assumptions which can neither be proved nor disproved. Why then express them in the language and arrangements of philosophical induction?
There was an ever-present conflict with Darwin’s book, not only with those who believed in God’s Word, but also by other scientists who claimed his conclusions were inferred in deep time that was impossible to observe and measure. His resort was the fossil record that he honestly admitted in his book was void of the in-between species or transitional forms. He had hoped that one day the fossil record would complete this theory, but unfortunately, today it is still in grave shape. Today, very few evolutionary biologists believe that Darwin’s natural selection is the only mechanism for evolution.
Without the mention of a divine Creator, Darwin believed that nature would have the invisible force of survival to push upward. Darwin’s mechanism of natural selection was marked by millions of years of a struggle for existence and would be marred with the death of many of the unfit, which is the ugly side of his theory. There would be much waste before a successful new species arrived in the background of deep time. Today they theorize that soft body marine animals appeared 600 million years ago and gradually diversified from the simple forms to you and me. It is essential to have deep time to make the theory work. What is so attractive about the theory is that all life forms seem to have a common structural design that replicates itself throughout a large segment of different kinds called homologous structures.
The way the limb bones of land animals are constructed demonstrates that there is a standard design system that allows a wide variety of motion in order to ambulate on the earth. For example, the femur, or thigh bone, is a large bone connected to the torso, and is similar across many kinds of animals. Darwin concluded in his book like so many before him that this was a result of Common Descent. He concluded that we inherited this from our ancestors. The more accurate definition says that one species is the ancestor of two or more.
There are many beautiful illustrations of homologous structures that are used in basic biology as a tool to teach Darwinian evolution in our schools today. Although this looks like a logical conclusion when one observes these marvelous structures repeated in many different species, there is a prominent feature that must be emphasized called design. When one looks at this from an engineering perspective, one is forced to conclude that this design had to come from an outside intelligence. However, Darwin and his followers don’t like this logical conclusion because their belief is in nature. They use evolution as the creative design force void of any outside intelligence. And to see the natural world overwhelmingly filled with innumerable complex structures all working together to accomplish different tasks efficiently would make one conclude there was infinite intelligence behind it all. Just look at the anatomy of the human body and how it works together with excellence and that can only point to a Creator.
The common design in so many creatures on earth does not explain naturalistic evolution but one common divine intelligence throughout all of life. Jesus Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the Life.” (John 14:6)
The Book that Changed America
In the early 1860’s, Americans were sharing copies of Darwin’s book. Asa Gray, a pioneer in American Botany from Harvard University who also corresponded with Darwin, became Darwin’s representative to disseminate his book in America. Asa was one of the most prominent scientists in America at the time, and he wrote a series of articles in the Atlantic Monthly during the summer on the Origin of Species. He was conflicted because he applauded Darwin’s theory of natural selection in the production of new species, but could not let go of God–the all intelligent Creator.
So Gray compromised by introducing a supernatural component to his theory that God was the author of natural selection where life forms change from one kind to another (also called transmutation of species). This would be a form of theistic evolution which is popular today in many churches. It goes against the primary tenant of scripture that states that all creatures were made “according to its (their) kind” ten times in Genesis 1 to emphasize the point of “created kinds” in the first week of creation.
Gray’s acceptance of Darwinian Evolution not only had problems with created kinds, as stated in Genesis 1, but also in the new testament in 1 Corinthians 15:38 and 39 it states, “But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body. All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another fish, and another of birds.” The seed represents today what we know of genetics where the DNA carries the information for that kind or that kind of flesh. It exemplifies the verse in Genesis 1 and in particular verses 1:11-13 when the word seed is directly linked to “according to its kind.”
American intellectual circles also sought an alternative to the divine Creator and the Bible. They searched for meaning in their writing of poems, stories, essays, and books that have left an indelible mark on American literature. When copies of Darwin’s Origin of Species appeared from England at the beginning of the year 1860, they circulated with great interest. Professor Gray, with permission from Darwin, would have the book printed in America, and just like in England, it was well-received. As America was approaching the Civil War in the following year, it became a popular topic to discuss how humans fit in Darwin’s Tree of Life.
As the debate of slavery heightened between the north and south, it eventually reached a breaking point where blood would be shed on America’s soil and over 600,000 lives were lost. Darwin’s book would have a significant impact during this time of American unrest when it embarked on including all living creatures, as well as man, on his evolutionary tree. Randall Fuller, an American author and distinguished professor of American Literature who wrote the book, “The Book That Changed America” (2018), concluded that Darwin profoundly influenced those who were making a literary mark in American literature. It was also a time when transcendentalists were using their creative talents to lean on the idealistic human nature and learn more on the material world to provide answers to spiritual questions. They would seek out Darwin’s ideas to discover the truths of nature.
The God of the Bible was absent, and Darwin’s tree of evolution was wholeheartedly welcomed. According to Fuller, from the Amoeba to the human being, we are all part of nature fighting together in this race of survival. The American transcendentalist would use this argument to abhor slavery because we all have a respectful niche in the tree of life in the war to survive. No matter what race a man or woman is, we all came from one continuous cycle moving upward to perfection. This would fit in the transcendentalists’ philosophy because we would find God in the ever-changing tree of life.
Henry David Thoreau, a popular transcendentalist, is an excellent example of someone Darwin profoundly influenced. His words are still alive today in many whimsical and thoughtful quotes he left behind. Thoreau’s famous work titled Walden identified his philosophic connection with the natural order as he famously wrote, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” He preferred nature’s tiny steps over eons of time rather than God’s hand in beauties such as the majestic Oak tree in the forest he roamed. He held tight to Darwin’s ideas until his death.
Darwin’s Theory would take on another meaning, one that was not so idealistic as the transcendentalism, which, at times, has no sense of reality. Fuller, towards the end of his book, wrote, “Darwin’s evolutionary theory would soon be co-opted by Southerners and Northerners alike to ‘prove’ black inferiority. “Who would be on the highest branch of Darwin’s tree? Fuller continues, “Americans and whites might be from the same species, the argument went, but clearly the two races were in an ongoing struggle for existence, and just as clearly whites were better adapted for ultimate survival.” Many used this argument far beyond the Civil War into the Jim Crow years where southern states used these laws to abuse the civil rights of black Americans.
The Origin of Species did not mention human evolution, but Darwin certainly implied it. He made clear in 1871 when his Descent of Man was published that humans evolved from primates. He wanted to include the topic as a chapter in his Origins published in 1859, but his research was so extensive that he held back and did a complete project by itself. Darwin touched on the topic of race and demonstrated the different traits for these groups. He did state that there was a process of graduation that was present in the survival of the fittest, leaving the question of who would occupy the top branch of the tree, i.e., “savages” were being replaced by more civilized people. Many assumed that races could be differentiated, which led to social Darwinism and did not include just slavery, but also the many genocides experienced since this publication taking millions of lives.