I. How Convinced Was Charles Darwin about His Theory
of Evolution? (con’t)
In light of what Darwin asked people to believe, it
is hardly surprising that he often expressed doubts about the
feasibility of his theory. In his sixth chapter, "Difficulties on
Theory," he remarked, "Long before having arrived at this part of my
work, a crowd of difficulties will have occurred to the reader. Some
of them are so grave that to this day I can never reflect on them
without being staggered;…"9
Darwin considered such things as instinct alone "sufficient to
overthrow my whole theory."10
He also referred to the common view of many naturalists who "believed
that very many [plant and animal] structures have been created for
beauty in the eyes of man, or for mere variety. This doctrine, if
true, would be absolutely fatal to my theory. Yet I fully admit [as
evolution requires] that many structures are of no direct use to their
Commenting on "the difficulties and objections which may be urged
against my theory," a few pages later he observes that "many of them
are very grave…."12
In Chapter 7 on "Instinct," he encountered other
problems, e.g., "So wonderful an instinct as that of the hive-bee
making its cells will probably have occurred to many readers, as a
difficulty sufficient to overthrow my whole theory."13
In commenting on how bees build honeycombs he said, "He must be a dull
man who can examine the exquisite structure of a comb, so beautifully
adapted to its end, without enthusiastic admiration…. Grant whatever
instincts you please, and it seems at first quite inconceivable how
they can make all the necessary angles and planes, or even perceive
when they are correctly made."14
In referring to the marvelous community of slave
ants he commented, "What can be more extraordinary than these well
ascertained facts? If we had not known of any other slave-making ant,
it would have been hopeless to have speculated how so wonderful an
instinct could have been perfected."15
This was a problem for Darwin because he admitted, "No complex
instinct can possibly be produced through natural selection, except by
the slow and gradual communication of numerous, slight, yet profitable
the facts of slave-ant communities were difficult, to say the least,
to explain on the basis of natural selection.
In considering the behavior of other insects he
observed, "It will indeed be thought that I have an overweening
confidence in the principle of natural selection, when I do not admit
that such wonderful and well established facts at once annihilate my
fact, Darwin has a very difficult time believing that natural
selection can accomplish all that he hopes it can: "But I am bound to
confess, that, with all my faith in this principle, I should ever have
anticipated that natural selection could have been efficient in so
high a degree…."18
In Chapter 9, "On the Imperfection of the Geological
Record," Darwin encountered additional problems. If evolution were
true, one would expect that the vast majority of fossils would be of
intermediary forms. Due to the incredibly slow nature of the
evolutionary process such forms would exist over the vast majority of
geological time. But Darwin, like modern scientists, could not find
the intermediate forms necessary to support his theory. He admitted,
"Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of
such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such
finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious
and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory."19
Further, "to the question why we do not find records of these vast
primordial periods, I can give no satisfactory answer…. The case at
present must remain inexplicable; and may be truly urged as a valid
argument against the views here entertained."20
Darwin concluded this chapter by confessing, "The
several difficulties here discussed, namely our not finding in the
successive formations infinitely numerous transitional links between
the many species which now exist or have existed; the sudden manner in
which whole groups of species appear in our European formations; the
almost entire absence, as at present known, of fossiliferous
formations beneath the Silurian strata, are all undoubtedly of the
gravest nature…. Those who think the natural geologic record in any
degree perfect, and who do not attach much weight to the facts and
arguments given in other kinds given in this volume, will undoubtedly
at once reject my theory."21
Darwin faced so many other problems—problems so
severe one wonders at his determination to pursue his theory. Among
such problems are:"…organs of extreme perfection and complication."22
For example, the human eye. Darwin confessed, "To suppose that the
eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to
different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for
the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been
formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the
highest possible degree."23
In Volume 2 of The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin by
Frances Darwin (1887, p. 67), Darwin confessed in 1860 that, "The eye
to this day gives me a cold shudder..."24
Indeed, a leading modern evolutionist, Pierre-P.
Grasse, a leading French Zoologist, observes,
We fully understand Darwin’s fears and wonder what they would
have been had he been confronted with the anatomical and cytological
complexity that is revealed by modern biology; he would have been
even more worried had he known that [natural] selection cannot
create anything on its own. We know absolutely nothing about the
evolution of the eye of the vertebrate, and embryology is of little
help. The problem is to know whether random mutations could have
given rise to an organ requiring, because of its complexity, a
considerable number of data for its elaboration. The number of
mutations must have been enormous.... The complexity of the retina,
of the sheathes, etc., need not detain us either; all this is
extremely well known, but we must say that no recent publication
inspired by Darwinism even mentions it.
In 1860 Darwin considered only the eye, but today he would have
to take into consideration all the cerebral connections of the
organ. The retina is indirectly connected to the striated zone of
the occipital lobe of the cerebral hemispheres: Specialized neurons
correspond to each one of its parts—perhaps even to each one of its
photo receptor cells. The connection between the fibers of the optic
nerve and the neurons of the occipital lobe in the geniculite body
is absolutely perfect.... As a rule everything works perfectly.
In fact, the picture we have just sketched is even more complex;
we did not consider the molecular structure which shows as many
peculiarities of adaptation as the macrostructure... and we have
neglected entirely the chemistry of a complex organ capable of
We took the eye as an example, but the ear would have been just
as instructive. Is not the human brain, the organ capable of
abstraction, an even better example?25
Another evolutionist wonders, "How then are we to
account for the evolution of such a complicated organ as the eye….
Since it must be either perfect, or perfectly useless, how could it
have evolved by small, successive, Darwinian steps"?26
It is hardly surprising that the human eye bothered
Darwin. Even today evolutionists can’t account for it—and they never
shall. But the eye was hardly the only thing to concern him. In fact,
one encounters the same kinds of problems for every organ of every
species. Darwin later admitted, "I remember well when the thought of
the eye made me cold all over, but I have got over this stage of the
complaint, and now small trifling particulars of structure often make
me very uncomfortable. The sight of a feather in a Peacock’s tail,
whenever I gaze at it, makes me sick."27
But the stunning beauty and design of peacock
feathers are not the real problem; even ordinary feathers are. No
evolutionary scientists has ever been able to offer a plausible
explanation or reconstruction for the evolutionary origin of simple
feathers, including their unique shaft barbs and barbules which give
them their insulatory and aerodynamic characteristics.
Darwin’s "demons" were everywhere in the natural
world. Throughout his book we find statements such as the following:
"I have sometimes felt much difficulty in understanding the origin of
"The belief that an organ so perfect as the eye could have been formed
by natural selection, is more than enough to stagger anyone;…"29;
and, "It is, no doubt, extremely difficult even to conjecture by what
gradations many structures have been perfected…"30;
and, turning to the geographical distribution of animals, "the
difficulties encountered on the theory of descent with modification
are grave enough."31
In Chapter 14, his concluding chapter, Darwin
writes, "that many and grave objections may be advanced against the
theory of descent with modification through natural selection, I do
not deny…. Nothing at first can appear more difficult to believe than
that the more complex organisms and instincts should have been
perfected, not by means superior to, though analogous with, human
reason, but by the accumulation of enumerable slight variations,..."32
And a few pages later, "Such is the sum of the several chief
objections and difficulties which may justly be urged against my
theory; … I have felt these difficulties far too heavily during many
years to doubt their weight."33
All of the above is why Darwin was impelled to admit
in his introduction, "For I am well aware that scarcely a single point
is discussed in this volume on which facts cannot be adduced, often
apparently leading to conclusions directly opposite to those at which
I have arrived."34
He further stated, "A fair result can be obtained only by fully
stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each
question; and this cannot possibly be here done."35
Darwin expressed many such doubts. Then he turned
around and attempted to resolve them. Then he went back to his
original doubts. Such oscillation is hardly surprising for someone
attempting to explain the unexplainable—and ultimately the impossible:
how the marvelous complexity of all life originated from dead matter.
Next, we will consider how Darwin attempted to resolve some of his
(to be continued)
9. Charles Darwin (ed. J. W. Burrow), The
Origin of Species (Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1974.), p. 205.
10. Ibid., p. 123.
11. Ibid., p. 227.
12. Ibid., p. 230.
13. Ibid., p. 234.
14. Ibid., p. 248.
15. Ibid., p. 244.
16. Ibid., p. 236.
17. Ibid., p. 259.
18. Ibid., p. 262.
19. Ibid. p. 292.
20. Ibid., pp. 313-14.
21. Ibid., pp. 315-16.
22. Ibid., p. 217.
23. Ibid., p. 217.
24. W. R. Bird, The Origin of Species Revisited
(New York, Philosophical Library, 1987, 1988, 1989.), Vol., 2, p.
25. Pierre-P. Grasse, Evolution of Living
Organisms: Evidence for a New Theory of Transformation (New
York, Academic Press/Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1977.), pp.
26. In Bird, Vol. 1, pp. 73-74.
27. Ibid., p. 75, citing F. Darwin, ed., The
Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. 2, 1887, p. 296.
28. Darwin, The Origin of Species, p. 224.
29. Ibid., p. 231.
30. Ibid., p. 435.
31. Ibid., p. 437.
32. Ibid., p. 435.
33. Ibid., p. 440.
34. Ibid., p. 66.