RE: [asa] Was Darwin a Creationist?

From: Jon Tandy <>
Date: Fri Oct 24 2008 - 10:25:53 EDT

Does it make a difference whether one is talking about his Origin of
Species, versus The Descent of Man?


Jon Tandy


From: [] On
Behalf Of Michael Roberts
Sent: Friday, October 24, 2008 4:20 AM
To: Nucacids;
Subject: Re: [asa] Was Darwin a Creationist?


From what you cite a reasonable article similar to what I and others have
often published in the past. From 1830 to the 1860s Darwin was a creationist
in the sense that he had a place for a creator but not in either the YEC or
Progressive Creationist sense. He ignored the former and criticised the
latter as grossly multiplying creative acts.


Cosans also reflects what Darwin wrote , unlike Cornelius Hunter who seems
to write about another Charles Darwin who lived in a parallel universe at
about the same time and held drastically different understandings of science
to the real Charles Darwin.


Often good material about Darwin and the history of science is ignored as
many simply wish to peddle old myths rather than find out what the texts
actually point to. The conflict myth is still alive and well



----- Original Message -----

From: Nucacids <>


Sent: Friday, October 24, 2008 2:21 AM

Subject: [asa] Was Darwin a Creationist?


Philosopher Chris Cosans asks a question: Was Darwin a Creationist? Let me
share a few interesting excerpts from his paper (Cosans C. 2005. Was Darwin
a creationist? Perspect Biol Med. 48(3):362-71):

"Darwin's assertion in the Origin that all the living things we observe
descended from one organism can be traced back to speculations he had made
on theology during the 1830s.When considering the transmutation of species
in his notebook from 1837 and 1838, Darwin considered the theological
meaning of whether or not transmutation follows from a fixed natural law. He
remarks at one point in his private notebook that:

Astronomers might formely [sic] have said that God ordered each planet to
move in its particular destiny.""In same manner God orders each animal
created with certain form in certain country, but how much more simple, &
sublime power let attraction act according to certain law such are
inevitable consequences let animal be created, then by the fixed laws of
generation, such will be their successors. (Darwin 1838, p. 185)

Just as Newton showed the greatness of God in his Principia by explaining
how the one law of gravity governs the motion of all the planets, Darwin is
interested in showing that God did not make each species but created one
organic being from which different species could be generated by fixed laws.

Although his beliefs about God developed over the ensuing 20 years, Darwin
framed his biological Principia in a theological context. He opens the
Origin with two epigraphs on natural theology. The first, by Whewell, refers
to the British theological reconciliation of science and religion by holding
that the laws discovered by science are secondary causes, while God, as the
Creator of these laws, is the primary cause:"events are brought about not by
insulated interpositions of Divine power, exerted in each particular case,
but by the establishment of general laws." A second quote, from Bacon,
states no man can "be too well studied in the book of God's word, or in the
book of God's works," implying the need to study both scripture and science
to understand the world in which we live. Almost 500 pages later, Darwin
brings the Origin to a conclusion with a reference to Genesis that echoes
his 1838 remarks about science and religion:"There is grandeur in this view
of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few
forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on
according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless
forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved"
(Darwin 1859, p. 490). In a single sentence Darwin interweaves the
metaphysical breath of Genesis with the physical gravity of Newton's

Cosans also notes:

"Popular culture views Darwin's theory as providing scientific evidence
against religion. However, this is not supported by a close analysis of the
text of the Origin and its implications. A simple way of reading the Origin
as supporting theistic thinking is to see the first progenitors and the laws
of reproduction, variation, and selection as the results of God's action. In
his autobiography, Darwin confesses that this indeed was his conviction when
writing the Origin. Many historians of science have discussed the ways
Darwin's analysis drew upon the Christian theology of his time (Brown 1986;
Gillespie 1979, p. 124; Richards 1999, pp. 130""35). Although later in life
Darwin began to entertain an agnostic perspective, this was after he had
conceived of his theory." (emphasis added)

More wisdom from the article:

"Although usually ignored by neo-Darwinists, Darwin's hint about the
supernatural origins of life is actually a critical aspect of his framework
of analysis. Throughout the Origin, he usually contrasts his account not
with that of other evolutionists such as Lamarck or Chambers, but with that
of someone we would now call a "special creationist." The position of
Darwin's hypothetical creationist is the dialectical opposite of that
endorsed in the Origin.The Origin's creationist would seem in fact to be a
younger less sophisticated version of Darwin himself. In the introduction to
the Origin, Darwin tells us he used to believe that "each species has been
independently created" (p. 6). While the Darwin of the Origin believes all
life is united by its common ancestor, his creationist rejects the unity of
life. Darwin believes "all living and extinct forms can be grouped together
in one great system" (p. 433), but his creationist believes each form is
special and unique. Darwin accounts for the diversity of life as the result
of natural selection acting on existing variation; his creationist accounts
for it as the result of God creating the progenitors of the varieties of
organisms.Whereas Darwin believes life came into being only once, his
creationist believes "that at innumerable periods in the earth's history
certain elemental atoms have been commanded suddenly to flash into living
tissues" (p. 483)."

And then this:

"Owen claims that the special creationist and Darwin both ultimately rely on
the action of God. Insofar as Darwin concludes the Origin with the Biblical
phrasing, Darwin recognizes:"a direct creative act, something like that
supernatural or miraculous one which, in the preceding page, he defines, as
"~certain elemental atoms which have been commanded suddenly to flash into
living tissues'" (Owen 1860, p. 191). Darwin is no less a creationist than
his dialectical rival merely because he limits God to one intervention.
Indeed, Owen argues that in Darwin's theory, God's act of creation is even
more miraculous. For it requires God, at that one moment, to impart to the
progenitor the capacity to vary in such a way as to eventually result in the
present organisms' "infinity of complications and their morphological
results, which now try to the utmost the naturalist's faculties to
comprehend and classify" (Owen 1860, p. 191). Darwin's theism requires God
to have an incredible amount of foresight."

- Mike Gene

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Received on Fri, 24 Oct 2008 09:25:53 -0500

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