Without Darwin, wither faith?

Charles Darwin, father of modern evolution
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Three days ago, Michael Flannery at Evolution News and Views suggested that without Darwin, the worlds of science and faith would look vastly different today. He is correct as far as he goes. But the world without Darwin would not necessarily lack its strife and its sins. It would also have a complacency the world with Darwin now lacks.

World Without Darwin

Without Darwin, men of faith might be too complacent for their good.

Charles Darwin at 45. Drawing: Henry Maull and John Fox.

Flannery meant to review Peter J. Bowler’s Darwin Deleted: Imagining a World Without Darwin. Bowler sought to show that the world without Darwin would not differ much from the world with him. But as Flannery points out, Bowler considered only the published works, lectures, and so on of and by Darwin. He did not consider the published works and acts of those who came under the influence of Darwin. It’s not enough to suggest that without Darwin, someone else would have done the same as he did. If a man is influential enough, then without that man, entire movements might never be.

Your editor can illustrate that principle with Eliezer Itzhak Perelman, whom history knows as Eliezer Ben-Yehuda. Most of those who remember him say:

Before Ben-Yehuda…Jews could speak Hebrew. After him, they did.

That does not do him justice. Without Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, Hebrew would never have become the national language of Israel. It would have stayed a curiosity, a “dead language,” like Latin, fit for liturgy only. (It’s not even safe to say it would be fit for the occasional High Priestly Encyclical. For neither High Priest nor Sanhedrin today hold the prominent place of The Pope or The College of Cardinals.) More than that, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda made modern Hebrew what it is. He laid down the principles that enable modern Hebrew to handle modern concepts, concepts that King David never heard of.

Likewise, Charles Darwin was the founding High Anti-priest of the anti-faith we call “evolution” today. Michael Flannery shows this many times:

  • Without Darwin, even Charles Lyell and Alfred Russell Wallace would have settled for a world of gradual change with intelligence, even Divine, guidance. Those two would have been “theistic evolutionists” – long-agers, that’s true, but not atheists.
  • Without Darwin, the infamous X-Club would not have formed. Or if it did, it would never have succeeded in turning science explicitly atheistic.
  • Without Darwin, most of all, methodological naturalism would never have taken hold.

That last point needs emphasis. Methodological naturalism says that no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence, in any field whatsoever, can be valid if it posits any supernatural agent or agency. Judge E. Jones III’s infamous ruling in Kitzmiller v. Dover enshrined methodological naturalism into our law. Flannery attributes this “explicit materialism” specifically to Darwin, and with good reason.

Uniform complacency

But would a world without Darwin be a world of proper faith? No. Because a world without Darwin would belong to the long-agers. Hugh Ross, meet your spiritual ancestor: Alfred Russell Wallace. Not repeat not Martin Luther, or Leonardo da Vinci.

In the world without Darwin, uniformitarianism would still hold sway. Scientists in that world would see nothing wrong with imagining gradual change. They would interpret the Cambrian Explosion as the real expression of the Fifth Day in Genesis chapter 1. (And what about the plants growing on the Third Day? Blank-out.). And the Noahic Flood? Local at best.

This is nothing new. Floyd Nolen Jones (The Chronology of the Old Testament) showed that Ptolemy Soter’s Seventy Interpreters first tried to introduce gradual change into the Bible. Their Septuagint (Latin Interpretatio Septuaginta, Greek Hermeneutica kata ton Hevdomékonta, “Interpretation According to the Seventy”) postpones the named sons of the Patriarchs, and even lengthens life spans of the earliest descendants of Shem. (Jones, op. cit., p. 11ff) Why? To remove the impression that after the Flood, the life span of man fell ninety percent, and in a hurry.

To a gradualist, nothing happens in a hurry. The Greeks were gradualists. So were King Ptolemy and his court at Alexandria. And they interpreted the Tanakh, what we call “The Old Testament,” according to their tradition and world view.

Darwin took the matter one radical step further. Darwin, like Friedrich Nietzsche, said God did not exist. When he did that, he challenged people of faith to a war that still rages today.

Without Darwin, faith might be more widespread. But Lyell and Wallace would have watered it down. Would anyone have seen the need to challenge the gradualism and uniformitarianism of Lyell and Wallace? Maybe not. Maybe it took abiogenesis and “common descent” to galvanize people to action.

So without Darwin, William Jennings Bryan would never have even tried to prosecute John T. Scopes. Recall that Bryan admitted to Clarence Darrow, in open court, that he accepted a “long age” as reasonable.

Of frogs and hot and cold water

Throw a frog into boiling water and he will jump out at once. But put a frog into a saucepan and simmer him, and he will readjust his body to the ever-warmer water around him, until before he knows it, he’s cooked. Literally.

The world without Darwin would have been the slow cooker of the faith. Would Henry Morris and John C. Whitcomb have written The Genesis Flood? Would John Woodmorappe have studied whether Noah’s Ark could have sailed? Would Walter T. Brown have tried to stand geology, astronomy, and even nuclear physics on their heads with his counter-revolutionary theory of creation and the Global Flood? (Though Dr. Brown might say the evolutionists, not he, turned those disciplines on their heads. And he can probably prove it, too, if anyone will debate him.) Each of these men (that is, those who still live) will have to answer that question for himself. But the challenges they made to orthodox science would scarcely be as compelling in a world that “didn’t want to go to extremes.”

The atheists went to extremes, and followed Darwin’s lead. They drew the battle lines. We must join that battle, and pay Darwin a warrior’s respect, even if that’s not the kind of respect he might have wanted.