|By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2003|
|Sadly, Darwin continued to hold to his theory despite his many doubts. Dr. Robert Clark (and others) suggest that Darwin’s motivation to hold on to his ideas was his continued rejection of the God of the Bible.|
People believe in evolution for a variety of reasons. As we will see later, one reason is so they can reject the Christian faith. And, as we also observe later, the theory of evolution bears great responsibility for people’s loss of faith, intentional or not.
Like most people during his era, Charles Darwin was raised in a Christian environment. At one point he made half-hearted attempts toward a call to the ministry and becoming a clergyman. Eventually, however, he lost whatever “faith” he had, concluding that, “The Old Testament was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos [sic]” and “I gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity as a divine revelation.” As he stated in Life and Letters, Vol. 1, pp. 277-278, “Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress.” In fact, it seems Darwin was determined not to believe; for example, to rationalize his unbelief he continued to raise the level of evidence required to sustain faith.
Unfortunately, Darwin’s loss of faith had more serious repercussions than he was willing to admit.
It seems that Darwin could not live with God but neither could Darwin escape God. The battle endured throughout his life and it not only made him physically ill, it also cost him, to some degree, his mental health. Most biographers of Darwin acknowledge his rejection of Christian faith. What they don’t usually do is reveal the consequences. James Moore’s definitive biography: Charles Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist is a notable exception as well as the volume by Clark and Bales (Why Scientists Accept Evolution) and that of Sunderland (Darwin’s Enigma).
Dr. Robert E. D. Clark (Ph.D., Cambridge) shows how tortured Darwin’s life was because of his rejection of God. Darwin even referred to his theory as “the devil’s gospel.” T. H. Huxley was Darwin’s most committed and vocal supporter. On August 8, 1860 in a letter to Huxley, Darwin referred to him as “my good and kind agent for the propagation of the Gospel—i.e., the devil’s gospel.”
In Darwin: Before and After Dr. Clark points out that it was from the beginnings of Darwin’s unbelief that the first important instances of physical illness began. Fitting a typical pattern, as his faith in God faded, his consecration to science became almost religious. Nothing was physically wrong with Darwin, “but his illnesses became worse and worse” in spite of his “normal” health.
Yet he was a chronic invalid. Unfavorable reviews of his books gave him continuous headaches; even half an hour’s discussion with a fellow naturalist about scientific matters would render him incapable of work for hours. If he met people in society, anxiety afflicted him. “My health almost always suffered from the excitement, violent shivering and vomiting being thus brought on,” he wrote. His constant preoccupation became one of protecting himself from anticipations and conflicts while his chronic anxiety brought on the usual digestive and nutritional troubles.
In addition, Charles Darwin was morbid and self critical to an extreme. His letters abound with the typical language associated with a feeling of guilt. A letter “was vilely written and is now vilely expressed,” his manuscript was a “foul copy,” [etc.]; “Psychologically there can be little doubt as to the meaning of these symptoms. Charles Darwin was suffering from a feeling of guilt. But what was worrying him?”
What concerned Darwin was not the initial critical response to his Origin of Species. Even after the battle was won and his reputation assured, his psychological suffering and physical symptoms continued. In other words, Darwin was dealing with a much deeper and fundamental feeling of guilt. As far as the Christian faith was concerned, he had not only banished God from his own life, but, it seemed, the entire universe as well.
Darwin’s real problem lay with the suppression of his religious needs: “His life was one long attempt to escape from Paley [i.e., his Natural Theology], to escape from the church, to escape from God. It is this that explains so much that would otherwise be incongruous in his life and character.”
It is clear both scripturally and psychologically that those who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18) will pay the price. God tells everyone, “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked. Whatever a man sows he will reap” (Gal. 6:7). The truth about God is evident to all men through the creation because God Himself made it evident:
We documented this perceptual and intuitive knowledge of God in some detail in our Knowing the Truth About Salvation: Is Jesus the Only Way to God? (Harvest House, 1996).
To suppress this truth is to live in unreality and this is never psychologically or physically healthy. As noted existentialist psychologist Rollo May pointed out in The Art of Counseling, unbelief does have its consequences: “I had been startled by the fact that practically every genuine atheist with whom I have dealt has exhibited unmistakable neurotic tendencies. How [do we] account for this curious fact?”
Thus, whatever else it may be, even Darwin’s prized theory of natural selection appears to be an emotional tool to comfort his unbelief. Dr. Clark explains that Darwin went to great pains to prove to the world that he had discovered the truth of natural selection only after two decades involving a painful collection of facts that was carefully analyzed over and over. Darwin thus presented himself as a defender of truth and truth alone; it was only his passionate desire for truth that now compelled him to make his theories public. But in fact:
As Francisco Ayala of the University of California says natural selection “exclude[s] God as the explanation accounting for the obvious design of organisms.”
In essence, natural selection became a kind of substitute for God. Darwin did his level best to escape God, but God was uncooperative:
For year after year, Darwin carried on a discussion with various friends on the subject of design in nature. Throughout he showed the same vacillation. One moment he thought he could do without design; the next, his reason told him that the evidence for design by a personal God was overwhelming. He was forever seeking an escape from theology but never able to find it.
This is exactly what Romans 1 teaches. Thus, despite his faith in evolution, in other moments, Darwin was
At one point in Darwin’s life, a letter from botanist J. D. Hooker brought the force of Paley’s Natural Theology back upon him. Darwin realized that Paley could not be disposed of so easily:
Darwin’s own reasoning processes became increasingly strained because “Darwin was determined to escape from design and a personal God at all costs.” Not surprisingly, Darwin’s letters “exhibit a resolution not to follow his thoughts to their logical conclusion.” Of course, there were exceptions. For example, he spoke of the “impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity.” But then, because his mind was really descended from lower life forms and more kin to a monkey’s mind, how could its reasoning processes really be trusted? Darwin wondered, “But then arises the doubt, can the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animals, be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions? ...Would anyone trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”
As Clark and Bales observe:
In other words, it would appear that Darwin rejected God not from reason, but “because of some violent prejudice” against God—itself an unreasonable reaction. In the end, “Darwin’s determination not to believe cost him his mind.”
It also cost him good science.
Having adopted logical positivism with its exclusion of the metaphysical, Darwin was hardly unbiased in his scientific methodology. Robert Kofahl, Ph.D., argues that Darwin’s particular philosophy of science was intended to invoke naturalism and accomplish something heretofore unthinkable—to remove the concept of divine intervention from the category of scientific endeavors—a feat that if successful would have profound consequences:
Professor Marvin L. Lubenow comments on this issue are important enough to cite in detail:
Darwin further had the “notorious habit of jumping to conclusions without adequate evidence” and “of stubbornly maintaining his theories regardless of the valid arguments and evidence that could be brought against them.”
Historian Jacques Barzun, Provost and Dean of the Graduate Faculties at Columbia University, further observes that the common view of Darwin as an intellectual and a lover of truth needs qualification.
Darwin himself appeared to have serious doubts about how distinctive his theory of evolution was; in at least 45 instances between 1869 and the final edition of the Origin, Darwin deleted the word “my” before the word “theory.” As noted earlier, Darwin hardly invented the idea of evolution, he merely systematized a certain amount of data allegedly in favor of it. Regardless:
In the end, Darwin had simply got a taste of his own medicine. He had deprived the universe of meaning and paid the price. As Leslie Paul observes in The Annihilation of Man (New York: Harcourt-Brace, 1945, p. 154), “The final result of the application of the theory of The Origin of Species to the whole material universe is to deprive it completely of meaning.” Cambridge scholar John Burrow observes in his introduction to The Origin of Species: “Nature, according to Darwin, was a product of blind chance and a blind struggle, and man a lonely, intelligent mutation, scrambling with the brutes for his sustenance. To some the sense of loss was irrevocable; it was as if an umbilical cord had been cut, and men found themselves part of ‘a cold passionless universe.’” What Darwin had wrought for modern man is, in the eyes of many, hardly worth the meager scientific validation it has encountered.
Darwin’s Origin is today much less convincing. As an illustration, we may cite the esteemed entomologist, W. R. Thompson, who penned the introduction to the Origin of Species for the “Every Man Library” No. 811 edition (1956). Thompson reveals not only severe problems with Darwin’s basic thesis, especially descent by natural selection, he also shows how the manner in which Darwin argued appeared to give his theory more credibility than it deserved.
It is worthy to note that Dr. Thompson penned the above words nearly 50 years ago. In subsequent years, recent developments and discoveries throughout the sciences have made belief in evolution more and more difficult. So much so that some scientists have now abandoned the theory while others, although continuing to exercise faith that evolution is true, concede that convincing evidence for it may never be forthcoming.
In the end, Darwin also continued to exercise faith in evolution because he had little choice. He found the theory an emotional necessity and had convinced himself as to its plausibility, despite innumerable problems.
Darwin may have succeeded in convincing himself about evolution, but as we will see in Part 3, it was another story entirely for the scientific community.