Darwinâ€™s Dead and He Ainâ€™t Coming Backâ€¦or so the Christian bumper sticker says. Personally, my favorite is the one of the Jesus fish eating the upside-down mutant fish with legs labeled â€˜Darwinâ€™. In the Jesus vs Darwin showdown, apparently survival of the fittest is true after all.
For many Christians, the instinctive reaction to Darwin, author of the theory natural selectionâ€”not, as commonly thought, the author of theory of evolutionâ€”is defensive and even hostile. Darwin, some think, is the guy who tried to kill God in the 19th century. Heâ€™s the main cause of modern secularization; his theory is in direct opposition to Christianity.
Everyone and their great-uncleâ€™s cousin have an opinion about Darwin. But few have slogged through his five hundred-page classic The Origin of the Speciesâ€”the book that influenced the future shape of biology, geology, botany, et cetera, et cetera…
But is it possible to let Darwin speak for himself? Not without cracking open Darwinâ€™s text.
From the Introduction, Darwin states that his purpose is to show that â€œthe view which most naturalists entertainâ€¦that each species has been independently createdâ€”is erroneous.â€ His goal concerns the origin of species, not the origin of life. Throughout the course of Origin, the exclusive focus of his work is the interconnectedness of specific species and how they trace back to one or more â€˜archetypalâ€™ organisms.
In fact, not even until the last pages of his work does Darwin address more universal implications of his theory:
Analogy would lead me one step further, namely, to the belief that all animals and plants have descended from some one prototype. But analogy may be a deceitful guide. Nevertheless all living things have much in common, in their chemical composition, their germinal vesicles, their cellular structure, and their laws of growth and reproduction.
Assuming that the analogy holds true, Darwin still never attempts to answer where that â€˜prototypeâ€™ might have originated. He certainly never rules out the possibility of a divinely orchestrated evolution that utilizes the means of natural selection. It would seem that, if a Creationist wishes to dismiss Darwin, it must be on scientific, not religious groundsâ€”common descent of species is possible within the Christian conception of God. As author G.K. Chesterton pointed out, â€œa personal God might just as well do things slowly as quickly, especially if, like the Christian God, he were outside time.â€
Whether discussing the hive beeâ€™s architectural genius or the tyrannical, slave-making habits of the Formica rufescens ant, Darwinâ€™s observations of the natural world evidence how miraculous it is. If those species had a common ancestor, would they be any less miraculous? For my part, and aside from any concerns of the theory’s accuracy, I find the idea of God using the gradual processes of the natural world to develop his energy from a single seed even more awing. But for any Christian, The Origin of the Species is well worth reading, particularly while keeping that in mind. Give Darwin the benefit of the doubt: heâ€™ll open up an amazing world of intricate and diverse, yet unified life. No cannibalistic Jesus-fish required.
The opinions here expressed are solely that of the author.
…well, not solely, but you know what I mean.