An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Friday, 14 October 2005

Galileo, Darwin, and Hawking: chapter 5 (part 2)

Before 1859 mechanical explanations were the norm in the physical sciences but not in biology. The publication of Charles Darwin’s (1809-1882)The Origin of Species in 1859 changed that. Here was a mechanism – natural selection - that provided a natural explanation for design.

Darwin believed his book to be ‘one long argument’ (p. 114): the argument takes the form of an argument to the best explanation. He compared two rival hypotheses and examined how well they account for the available evidence.

The similarity of organs across species, the existence of transitional forms, disused characteristics all suggest that natural selection is the best explanation. On the other hand, Darwin admitted that, the complexity of the eye, hybridism and the fossil record were problematical for his theory. Nevertheless, Darwin maintains that natural selection provides a better fit than special creation to the evidence.

The Calvinist Asa Gray (1810-1888), a professor at Harvard University, was a friend of Darwin. They corresponded many times and Gray became Darwin’s defender in the USA (see, for example his Darwiniana). Gray maintained that there was no conflict between natural selection and design. He maintained that it was by faith that we see the natural order as designed.

Dowe then briefly examines the debate between Huxley and Bishop Wilberforce and the 1925 Scopes ‘monkey trial’ before looking at the anti-Darwinian views of Charles Hodge (1797-1878). According to Dowe, Hodge holds to an Augustinian principle of hermeneutics. Hodge held that the days in Genesis 1 were undefined periods of time and maintains that this harmonises with geology.

Dowe writes:

The idea that the opposition to Darwinianism was based on literal interpretations of Genesis is a Whiggish reading of later creation science themes back into the nineteenth century.

This was not only true in the States, but also in the UK. Several prominent evangelicals on both sides of the Atlantic accepted evolution; for example, James McCosh (1811-1894) and B. B. Warfield (1851-1921).

Dowe then examines creation science and Henry Morris’s ICR in particular. He prevents an even-handed overview, but makes few evaluative statements, other than creation science present a conflict view – but that is not how they themselves see it. They see themselves as presenting a harmony of religion and true science.

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