Death and evolution

Ted Davis (
Tue, 05 Jan 1999 09:56:37 -0500

Mark Phillips raises the central issue, IMO, relating to theology and
evolution. As I've stated several times before in this forum, the problem
of sin/death/suffering and the goodness of God and the creation appears to
be the single most outstanding reason why YECs are YECs. And, as I've
stated several times before, this was seen to be an issue long before
Darwinism was proposed: accepting an "old" earth, ie accepting the
life/death/extinction of many races of animals before Adam was created,
comes with certain theological problems that, for many Christians
(apparently), have no satisfactory solution.

Let me recommend, once again, the truly excellent treatment of this subject
by the leading geologist in antebellum New England, Edward Hitchcock,
president of Amherst College and evangelical pastor of a church in that
town. It's far too long for me to summarize it here without oversimplifying
an issue that mustn't be oversimplified. I leave it to those who are
interested to locate a copy, which shouldn't be too hard: the book in which
it appeared went through many editions, is found in numerous university and
city libraries, and is also available fairly cheaply from various online
used book dealers. Mr. Phillips should even be able to find copies in
Australia, for it was published simultaneously in the USA and London.

The book I have in mind is his Elementary Geology, later editions of which
also bear his son's name on the title page. There is a long section on
natural theology near the end of each edition, not identical in all editions
but similar in content, in which he discusses various issues related to
death and the fall. Hitchcock accepted the "gap" theory, so he had to
confront this.

Forgive me for adding to my earlier point about history. Several times on
this forum, esp in this area and in the arguments about creation/design, I
sense that we are not improving on what people said about this a century or
more ago. Obviously we do improve on the scientific knowledge, but that's
not my point. We don't improve on the theological/philosophical side of the
arguments. Perhaps we should be putting "online" some of the classic
arguments about these matters? I've been thinking about doing this with
Hitchcock, for example, and it would be lovely to have selections from
Galileo (legally obtained translations, that is), Asa Gray, Robert Boyle,
and many others also. Can anyone out there help with this?

Ted Davis