Re: Hunter on Darwin and Gnosticism

From: Michael Roberts <>
Date: Tue Aug 02 2005 - 14:58:59 EDT

----- Original Message -----
From: "Cornelius Hunter" <>
 Sent: Tuesday, August 02, 2005 1:27 AM
Subject: Re: Hunter on Darwin and Gnosticism


You wrote:---------
> Darwin did not reject divine creation. He did reject the separate
> creation of most organisms (though allowing for the possibility of
> multiple origins), and he seems to have rejected divine involvement in
> many day-to-day events, to the best of my knowledge, but the latter
> does not follow from the former.

No, Darwin most definitely did reject divine creation. He used both implicit
and explicit rejections of creation as his strong arguments. Following pages
and pages of meandering thought experiments, and gee/ maybe/ would-a/
could-a/ 's, he would then make his powerful conclusions about how evolution
must be true because divine creation was obviously failing. Here are two
quick examples:

"What can be more curious than that the hand of a man, formed for grasping,
that of a mole for digging, the leg of the horse, the paddle of the
porpoise, and the wing of the bat, should all be constructed on the same
pattern …"

"How inexplicable are the cases of serial homologies on the ordinary view of

Michael comments, Neither of these two quotations support your claim that D
rejected divine creation (Page numbers and edition would help in locating
them). The first is simply mention the same structure of the forelimb in
mammals, which was common ground among 19century naturalists and pure
Cuvier. I discuss Darwin's use of "the ordinary view of creation" in Dembski
and Ruse, debating design 2004 p 283 (incidentally some joker among the
editors wrote my identity of contributor there, without consulting me. I
know who it was not) He used this loose term to mean the progressive
creationism of his day, which was beginning to crack up anyway, In the
Origin of Species he did give any indication that he rejected divine
creation but only the ordinary view of creation. Hence various Chrsitans eg
Gray, Tristram, Temple, Kingsley etc had no problem and accepted his idea.
Opponents like Wilberforce and Sedgwick did not accuse D of rejecting
Your statements are based on a misreading of Darwin and his reception by
I cannot think of anything in his published books. papers and notebooks and
letters which support your contention, except that he said he later i.e.
long after 1859 , became an agnostic.
I will try your arguments out on soem Harvard biologists I shall be taking
on a Darwin tour next week!

You might see my book *Darwin's God* for more details of the role these
arguments played, and many more examples, both from Darwin and later
evolutionsts. Gould summed it up well:


"Odd arrangements and funny solutions are the proof of evolution—paths that
a sensible God would never tread but that a natural process, constrained by
history, follows perforce. No one understood this better than Darwin. Ernst
Mayr has shown how Darwin, in defending evolution, consistently turned to
organic parts and geographic distributions that make the least sense."


God must be "sensible," right?

I hadn't realised that Gould has passed on some revelation on the nature of

You wrote:---------
>>CH: "God wouldn't create a Linnean pattern" (characterization of an
> argument for evolution).
> This falsely assumes “either God or evolution”. Since Linnaeus assumed
> that the pattern was created, it seems unlikely that many people
> believed such an argument. However, the Linnaean hierarcy in fact
> turns out to match very well with the expected results of evolution.
> On the contrary, it is not clear why separate creation should produce
> such a pattern. Separate creation could produce such a pattern, or any
> other pattern, but why it would produce one in line with the
> expectations of evolution is not evident to me.

People have not only believed such an argument, it has been an important
proof text for evolution.

Darwin wrote: "The several subordinate groups in any class cannot be ranked
in a single file, but seem clus-tered round points, and these round other
points, and so on in almost endless cycles. If species had been
independently created, no explanation would have been possible of this kind
of classification." More recent evolutionists agree wholeheartedly:

"If species are separately created there is no reason why they should be
created in large groups of fundamentally similar structure." -- George

"Could the single artisan, who has no one but himself from whom to steal
designs, possibly be the explanation for why the Creator fashioned life in a
hierarchical fashion—why, for exam-ple, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and
birds all share the same limb structure?" -- Niles Eldredge

By the way, the Linnean pattern is not, as you say, "line with the
expectations of evolution." It could easily explain other patterns.

Just a little point . There is one illustration in The Origin of the
branching tree of evolution. See how one evangelical played with it ;

The most illuminating response (to Darwin)came from the tragic and flawed
palaeontologist John Salter (1820-1869) (D19CBS). In the 1840s worked with
Adam Sedgwick on the geology of North Wales. As both were evangelicals they
read their Polyglot Bibles together on Sundays. In 1854 he became
palaeontologist to the Geological Survey in 1854 on a salary of £250. While
with the Survey, Salter carried out his most important work, including
superb palaeontological work for William Ramsey’s memoir of the geology of
North Wales. The evidence on whether or not he accepted Darwinian evolution
is contradictory and would repay further study. In 1860 to the fascination
of Darwin he presented Devonian and Carboniferous spirifers (brachiopods)
‘arranged (not at my request, for I thought he was dead against me) after my
(Darwin’s) diagram in the “Origin”’. This showed how a group of fossils
fitted in with Darwin’s branching tree picture of evolution. Unfortunately
there is no record except Darwin’s letter. Salter’s later life was marred by
mental illness, and after differences with Huxley he resigned from the
Survey in 1863. In 1869 he jumped off the Margate– London steamer, after
giving his son the gold watch Sedgwick presented to him." See Thoemmes
Dictionary of 19th century British Scientists "

And finally

If geological timescale be correct, then these different fossil elephants
appeared consecutively and despite “gaps” form a graded sequence. They
indicate only “annual model upgrade”. Assuming that this is a fairly
complete sequence, the Intelligent Designer seemed to have adopted the same
sequence of modifications as would be expected by evolution. This is exactly
the point Darwin made in his 1844 draft;

            I must premise that, according to the view ordinarily received,
the myriads of organisms, which have during past and present times peopled
this world, have been created by so many distinct acts of creation. … That
all the organisms of this world have been produced on a scheme is certain
from their general affinities; and if this scheme can be shown to be the
same with that which would result from allied organic beings descending from
common stocks, it becomes highly improbable that they have been separately
created by individual acts of the will of a Creator. For as well might it be
said that, although the planets move in courses conformably to the law of
gravity, yet we ought to attribute the course of each planet to the
individual act of the will of the Creator.[1]

From his 1838 notebooks Darwin first came to be scientifically convinced of
evolution by the fossil record. That is not very apparent in The Origin


[1] C Darwin The Essay of 1844, Works of Charles Darwin, vol. 10, p133/4

Received on Tue, 2 Aug 2005 19:58:59 +0100

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