III. How Was Darwin’s Theory of Evolution First
As we showed last time,
a number of scientists were critical of Darwin’s theory. Darwin
gathered and systematized a good deal of data, but he proved nothing.
He no more proved evolution by amassing facts than scientists of an
earlier era proved the theory of phlogiston or that the world was flat
by amassing facts. Facts are facts but they can be interpreted quite
differently depending upon presuppositions and other considerations.
As another leading scientist of the day, Louis
Agassiz of Harvard University, author of the Contributions to the
Natural History of the United States, observed:
The facts upon which Darwin, Wallace, Haeckel, and others base
their views are in the possession of every well-educated naturalist.
It is only a question of interpretation, not discovery of new and
Darwin himself admitted his theory was bereft of
proof where it was most needed. In a letter to H. G. Bronn he
confessed, "You put very well and very fairly that I can in no one
instance explain the course of modification in any particular
instance," and further, "When we descend to details, we can prove that
no one species has changed; nor can we prove that the supposed changes
are beneficial, which is the groundwork of the theory,"29
and finally, "I am actually weary of telling people that I do not
pretend to adduce direct evidence of one species changing into
In other words, Darwin agreed he had no direct evidence for evolution.
As William Hopkins observed: "A great number of
facts are mentioned as being only explicable on this theory, and might
thus appear to an inattentive reader to constitute a large amount of
inductive evidence. But all that is attempted to be done is to
assert, not to prove, that the facts are consistent with
David L. Hull, Professor, Department of Philosophy,
University of Wisconsin, and former visiting Associate Professor,
Committee on the Conceptural Foundation of Science, University of
Chicago, points out that Darwin’s deficient methodology is still used
As Huxley observed, the Origin is "a mass of facts crushed
and pounded into shape, rather than held together by the ordinary
medium of an obvious logical bond; due attention will, without
doubt, discover this bond, but it is often hard to find." The modern
reader frequently grows impatient with Darwin’s method in the
Origin of piling example on example, but this was the only
method open to him given the structure of evolutionary theory. This
format is still characteristic of works in evolutionary theory
Again, even Darwin suspected that his factual data
were insufficient. He conceded to Asa Gray, "What you hint at
generally is very, very true: that my work will be grievously
hypothetical, and large parts by no means worthy of being called
induction, my commonest error being probably induction from too few
In the end, critical reviews gave Darwin no end of
trouble and caused him to constantly revise The Origin of Species.
After the "most cutting review" of St. George Jackson Mivart, Darwin
thought, "I shall soon be viewed as the most despicable of men."34
In a letter to J. D. Hooker January 16, 1869, Darwin complained, "It
is only about two years since the last edition of the Origin,
and I am fairly disgusted to find how much I have to modify, and how
much I ought to add; …"35
All of this is why Michael Denton concludes that:
The popular conception of a triumphant Darwin increasingly
confident after 1859 in his views of evolution is a travesty. On the
contrary, by the time the last edition of the Origin was
published in 1872, he had become plagued with self doubt and
frustrated by his inability to meet the many objections which had
been leveled at his theory. According to Loren Eiseley: "A close
examination of the last edition of the Origin reveals that in
attempting on scattered pages to meet the objections being launched
against his theory the much-labored upon volume had become
contradictory…. The last repairs to the Origin reveal… how
very shaky Darwin’s theoretical structure had become. His gracious
ability to compromise had produced some striking inconsistencies.
His book was already a classic, however, and these deviations for
the most part passed unnoticed even by his enemies."36
In conclusion, Darwin’s theory was subject to a
considerable amount of valid criticism immediately after publication.
As we documented in Darwin’s Leap of Faith (1998), the critics
were right all along and the scientists and theologians who accepted
Darwinism on naturalistic or philosophic grounds were wrong. Evolution
came to be an accepted theory not because it was ever proven but
because people wanted it to be true. Its appeal was that it provided a
seeming scientific explanation for living things as well as a
seeming testable mechanism for the origin of those
things—natural selection. How valid such appearances were
scientifically is shown in the above book.
Not only was Darwin unable to answer his best
critics, but in the subsequent 140 years, neither have modern
scientists been able to answer theirs. As Michael Denton observes:
Neither of the two fundamental axioms of Darwin’s
macroevolutionary theory [i.e., (1) the evolutionary continuity of
nature linking all life forms on a continuum leading back to a
primal origin and (2) the adaptive design of life [resulting from
blind random processes] have been validated by one single empirical
discovery or scientific advance since 1859. Despite more than a
century of intensive effort on the part of evolutionary biologists,
the major objections raised by Darwin’s critics such as Agassiz,
Pictet, Bronn and Richard Owen have not been met.... That the gaps
cannot be dismissed as inventions of the human mind, merely figments
of an antievolutionary imagination—an imagination prejudiced by
typology, essentialism or creationism—is amply testified by the fact
that their existence has always been just as firmly acknowledged by
the advocates of evolution..."37
From day one evolutionists have had serious, and, we
think fatal problems with their theory. In light of the evolutionary
establishment’s constant refrain of "evolution is a fact," those frank
enough to admit such difficulties should be commended.
28. David L. Hull, Darwin & His Critics: The
Reception of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution by the Scientific
Community (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974), p.
436, citing Atlantic Monthly, January 1874.
29. Ibid., p. 32, citing More Letters,
1903, Vol. 1, 172 and Darwin, Life and Letters, 1887, Vol. 2,
30. Ibid., p. 292, citing Autobiography, p.
31. Ibid., p. 267.
32. Ibid., p. 32.
33. Ibid., p. 9, citing Letter to Asa Gray,
November 29, 1859 in More Letters, 1903, Vol. 1, p. 126.
34. Ibid., p. 352 citing C. Darwin to A. R.
Wallace, July 12, 1871 in Life and Letters, Vol. 2, p. 326.
35. Ibid., p. 302 citing Letter of January 16,
1869 in More Letters, Vol. 2, p. 379.
36. Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in
Crisis (Bethesda, MD: Adler & Adler Publishers, Inc., 1986), p.
37. Ibid., p. 345.