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Charles Darwin and the Origin of the Species

October 10, 2009

About seven years ago, I went with the lovely Mrs. St. Thomas to our favorite city in the world, London. I love everything about London. I love how history seems to seep out of the very pores of the city. London is one of those places where the veil between the present and the past is an illusion. The ghosts of history ready to poke through that veil at any moment.

Nowhere is this more evident than at Westminister Abbey. Not only is it a working church, but it’s a vast graveyard of history. That isn’t just colorful language, as everyone knows, manyy famous kings, queens and other luminaries of English history have their final resting place in this beautiful cathedral.

As I was walking around, I saw a simple stone in the ground. I was shocked to see the name on the stone, Charles Darwin. At the time, I remember being a bit outraged. How could this man be buried here? The man who worked so hard to tear down belief in God and who, at the time, had always struck me as rather dark and sinister figure.  This man, I felt, had no business being buried in a church.

As I have continued to find out more about Darwin’s life and the theory of evolution, I have changed my opinion on a lot of things. First, I realized how conflicted Darwin was during his life and how he only lost his faith after the tragic death of his daughter. But, at the same time, he still gave to the church, particiated in missions of mercy and loved his devout wife. He worried a lot about how much his theory would undermine people’s faith in God, realizing it was a good possibility.

Second, I have begun to change my mind on much of what I had believed at the time I quietly raged over Darwin’s grave. I no longer think that creation happend in a six day 24 hour period. I understand, thanks to Ken Miller, Francis Collins, Jack Collins and Denis Lamoureux, that Christians can  accept evolution. 

So, with all that mind, I’m now about to start reading Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species. My plan is to blog about the experience, with the hope of posting after every chapter. This should start around Monday or Tuesday.

I’m hoping this will be a great way to start discussion. I’m hoping to encourage atheists by taking science seriously and encourage Christians to see there is nothing to fear from the theory of evolution.

Pretentious? Probably, but I already blogged about that.

Update and Clairfication:

For those of your Christians who are asking, I do believe the Bible is God’s word and should be taken as such. This is what I think about creation

Gen. 1 and two were never meant to be taken as literal twenty four hour days. Therefore, God created the world over billions of years using natural proceses that He designed for such purposes. The text itself is very clear that Gen 1 and two are not to be taken as a literal time frame. One, it was designed to tell us that God created the world, two, that He is greater than the gods of nature and indeed, nature itself, Three, it must be remembered this book was written to Jews after the covenant was given to Moses. As such, the text is meant to enforce the order God established in said covenant, ie, six days you shalll work, and on the seventh you shall rest.

I believe that God at some time and place, designated Adam and Eve as our literal represenatives.

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35 Comments leave one →
  1. October 10, 2009 6:04 pm

    Please tell me this won’t be the Ray Comfort edition. O.o

  2. thomas2026 permalink*
    October 10, 2009 6:06 pm

    Well, I have been eating a lot of banana’s lately….

  3. erp permalink
    October 10, 2009 6:54 pm

    I might suggest reading Voyage of the Beagle first because it is easier to read and because it gives an idea of Darwin as a person.

  4. Patrick Truitt permalink
    October 10, 2009 7:10 pm

    This seems appropriate:http://www.theonion.com/content/news/god_introduces_new_bird

  5. Ash permalink
    October 10, 2009 10:25 pm

    I love the idea that you’re ‘taking science seriously and encourag(ing) Christians to see there is nothing to fear from the theory of evolution.’ However, I’m really not sure this is the book to do that; It’s 150yrs old and very much incomplete as far as the theory of evolution goes…

  6. thomas2026 permalink*
    October 10, 2009 10:58 pm

    Ash,
    Well, you gotta start somewhere. No place like the begining. 🙂

  7. Dave permalink
    October 10, 2009 11:32 pm

    Thomas,

    I have quite a hard time understanding how you can preach Christ, and support the idea of evolution in the same light. If Jesus is God, and He Himself said that everything was created in six days, then the idea of evolution would go contrary to Jesus’ own spoken words. If you believe Jesus is God, then you are calling God a liar. I do hope that you straighten this out.

    Regards,
    Dave

  8. thomas2026 permalink*
    October 10, 2009 11:44 pm

    Dave,
    Welcome to the site.

    Last time I checked, I don’t think that seeing Genesis one and two as not being taken as literal 24 hour days is calling Jesus a liar. So, I hope that straightens it out.

  9. thomas2026 permalink*
    October 10, 2009 11:56 pm

    Oh and could you share the references to which you are refering?

  10. Dave permalink
    October 11, 2009 12:00 am

    Thomas,
    Thank you for the welcome to the site.

    Here’s how I see the idea of Theistic Evolution as calling Jesus a liar.

    1.) Jesus created everything. Col 1:16
    2.) Jesus said that the beginning is when He created Adam and Eve Matt 19:4
    3.) Adam was the first man. 1 Cor 15:45
    4.) Adam brought death into the world 1 Cor 15:21-22

    Theistic Evolution says that Adam came way after the beginning. Billions of years after. And in that time a lot of death happened. There are some serious problems with scripture there. And considering that Jesus is the Word of God mentioned in John chapter 1, then yes, this would be calling Jesus a liar.

  11. thomas2026 permalink*
    October 11, 2009 12:13 am

    First, I certainly believe that Jesus created everything.

    Second, I think there was a literal Adam and Eve. So, let’s dispense with that.

    Third, Adam brought spiritual death into the world. There is nowhere in scripture that says that death in nature didn’t occur. And, Adam was not supposed to die once he took on God’s image.

    Fourth, beyond that, nothing contradicts scripture in anyway.

  12. Dave permalink
    October 11, 2009 12:18 am

    Would you like to address point 2?

  13. thomas2026 permalink*
    October 11, 2009 12:36 am

    I did. I said there was a literal Adam and Eve.

  14. Dave permalink
    October 11, 2009 12:39 am

    Yet Jesus said that the creation of Adam and Eve was the beginning.

  15. thomas2026 permalink*
    October 11, 2009 12:53 am

    The begining of the human race, sure…

  16. ferret wrangler permalink
    October 11, 2009 1:13 am

    I suggest also checking out “The Greatest Show on Earth” from Richard Dawkins after reading Darwin.

  17. Andrew permalink
    October 11, 2009 3:01 am

    I said there was a literal Adam and Eve.

    You do realize that this position isn’t scientifically defensible?

  18. Richard Eis permalink
    October 11, 2009 6:14 am

    I’m afraid that there can’t have been a literal Adam and Eve if you follow theistic evolution.

    Oh just to warn you, the book is hard going. It’s written in victorian prose and frankly Darwin was a better scientist than writer.

    Still, I suggest you read the book and then worry about fitting it into your understanding of the bible. You can’t answer Dave about a book you haven’t yet read.

  19. Matheus permalink
    October 11, 2009 8:51 am

    I don’t see the point of arbitrarily defining two coexisting human beings as Adam and Eve, as there never was only two humans alive. We know that because with genetic studies we can determine that the last common male ancestor of all humans alive today lived around 60,000 years ago, and the last female common ancestor lived 150,000 to 250,000 years ago.

  20. thomas2026 permalink*
    October 11, 2009 9:04 am

    Richard,
    Nah, see, I hope to not try and fit Darwin into the Bible. I think that would be dishonest. Dave wasn’t questioning my Biblical orthodoxy on Orign of the Species. Actually, I don’t know why David was questioning my Biblical orthodoxy, as he had no reason for doing so.

    I’m not sure I see your points on why there couldn’t have been a literal Adam and Eve. There are number of different ways this could have happend that line up with the scientific evidence. I never said they the only two humans alive. What must be kept intact, from a theological point of view, is the idea of their representation of humanity, ie, they stood in our place in relationship to God.

    Having said all that, there are certainly tensions between the Bible and current scientific understanding. But, those tensions don’t merit the absolute statements that some of you are making.

  21. Andrew permalink
    October 11, 2009 9:16 am

    Genuine question: in what theological sense can two individuals represent the whole of humanity?

  22. AdamK permalink
    October 11, 2009 12:21 pm

    Darwin is quaint and out-of-date, but of historical interest. He had no idea of genetics, which is crucial to the modern synthesis of evolutionary theory.

    I would recommend Coyne’s Why Evolution is True for a clear modern account.

    People who think they’re arguing against/supporting evolution by arguing against/supporting Darwin are fools.

  23. Matheus permalink
    October 11, 2009 1:05 pm

    Interesting article out today, according to this bible scholar the genesis account has been mistranslated:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/6274502/God-is-not-the-Creator-claims-academic.html

  24. thomas2026 permalink*
    October 11, 2009 1:41 pm

    True, Adam, but, for my purposes, Origin is a good starting point.

  25. thomas2026 permalink*
    October 11, 2009 1:42 pm

    Andrew,
    That is an interesting question. In short, it’s a reference to Paul’s mention of Adam in Romans as being the first human and his failure to obey God. Whereas Jesus is the second Adam, who doesn’t fail. .

  26. thomas2026 permalink*
    October 11, 2009 1:47 pm

    Hmm, will be interesting to read her paper when it comes out. I’m highly skeptical when people make such grand claims. But, I’ll reserve judgement until we hear more about it. But, even if she is correct, that is, it’s a start of the narrative, it doesn’t call into question the traditional view of God. It’s when people start making statements like that is when my history attenae go up.

  27. Matheus permalink
    October 11, 2009 2:31 pm

    @Jonathan
    Doesn’t that view contradict the notion that Jesus and God are the same thing? Or you don’t believe in the trinity?

  28. Johann permalink
    October 11, 2009 2:41 pm

    @Matheus
    Picture God reflecting on Adam, irritably muttering “If you want something done right, do it yourself”, and rolling up his metaphysical sleeves to impregnate Mary. 😉

  29. Richard Eis permalink
    October 11, 2009 2:59 pm

    -’m not sure I see your points on why there couldn’t have been a literal Adam and Eve. There are number of different ways this could have happend that line up with the scientific evidence-

    Well, I look forward to that discussion. I will let you read the book first though.

  30. Matheus permalink
    October 11, 2009 3:24 pm

    @Johann
    Haha, but then he did fail in the sense that there are no known descendants of Jesus 😉
    Another thing I can’t understand is the virginity of Mary thing. Jesus did have 4 brothers and some sisters, as described in Mark for example, and it would be a safe bet to say he was not the elder one, as other passages say his siblings rejected him. So how even was Mary a virgin? Even if you take the bible alone, it does not make sense.

  31. Ray S. permalink
    October 11, 2009 11:21 pm

    Science is deadly to certain forms of Christianity, though not all.

    I agree with the others that think Origin is the wrong book for you to read. I think you are setting yourself up for failure, focusing on a book that is known to be out of date.

    Good luck with your project whatever you decide.

  32. Andrew permalink
    October 12, 2009 4:34 am

    Another thing I can’t understand is the virginity of Mary thing. Jesus did have 4 brothers and some sisters, as described in Mark for example, and it would be a safe bet to say he was not the elder one, as other passages say his siblings rejected him. So how even was Mary a virgin? Even if you take the bible alone, it does not make sense.

    It especially does not make sense if you take the bible alone. It’s one of those beliefs that grew up in early churches over time; it just happened not to have done so in such a way as to become reflected in the writings which became regarded as canonical. (It’s expressed for instance in the Protoevangelium of James, believed to date from around 140-170, which was extremely popular in its time but later rejected.)

    Only in relatively recent times has Mark’s use of “brothers” (adelphoi) been accepted as literal (by Protestants); early Protestants followed the Catholic tradition (in which they are taken to be his cousins, whereas the Orthodox churches have them as Joseph’s sons from a previous marriage).

  33. AdamK permalink
    October 12, 2009 11:08 am

    What I don’t get is how Dumbledore knew ahead of time that somebody was about to try and steal the sorcerer’s stone and that it had to be moved to Hogwarts, but didn’t know Voldemort had returned or that Quirrell was the thief.

    Oh. Different fantasy. Never mind.

  34. Ermine permalink
    October 24, 2009 8:00 pm

    There are quite a few places where a literal reading of the scripture makes God into a liar. The Genesis story itself, since that’s the current topic – God told Adam & Eve that if they ate of the fruit, ‘In the day that you eat of it, though shalt surely die.’

    They didn’t die the day they ate it, did they? In fact, the serpent was the one telling the truth when he said ‘You won’t die, instead you’ll become as God(s), knowing good from evil’.

    Now, unless that particular death was somehow metaphorical, (And how can you distinguish it from the -literal- 6 days, or the -literal- rest of the story?), that very book of scripture makes God out to be a liar. Why are you giving Thomas trouble when your own scriptures are very clear on that? You don’t have to go looking for scattered verses that might be construed to mean what you claim they mean, oh no, it’s plainly written right there in chapter 2 of the very same book!

  35. Ermine permalink
    October 24, 2009 9:53 pm

    It is far easier for anyone with any education at all to see the events in Genesis as stories than to try to believe them as literal truths. We are surrounded by reams of peer-reviewed evidence that the universe, the world, life, and humanity itself did not begin as the Genesis story states.

    The more I hear christians insist that all those events were the literal truth, the more easy it is to completely disregard *everything* they claim. Why should I believe anything said by someone who can so quickly and easily be proven wrong, by evidence that any court in the nation would agree with? – In fact, many of those courts HAVE, and in one of the more recent cases, the Dover trial, it was shown once again that the ‘Christians’, the ones who most loudly touted their surety and god-given truth – were the ones who were lying most egregiously. In the words of Judge Jones, from his verdict:

    “It is ironic that several of these individuals,
    who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would
    time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID
    Policy.”

    When an obvious truth is staring me in the face, having someone tell me that I can’t believe in God and also believe the evidence which lies before me is going to convince me to give up my belief in God long before I give up my belief in those things that has been so thoroughly and scientifically ascertained.

    If you hold up something as well-studied and documented as the Theory of Evolution against the book of Genesis, and then say that either the ToE is a lie or God is, more and more *rational* people are going to be forced to abandon God as a working hypothesis.

    Of course, in my eyes that’s probably a good thing, so please, keep at it!

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