In his autobiography, Darwin presented himself as a man who was not deeply influenced by the skeptical environment in which he grew up. He claimed, in fact, to have believed the Bible as a Cambridge student and even during his voyage on the Beagle and only gradually to have become a skeptic solely as the product of independent scientific investigation.
This is a self-serving myth. In fact, as we have seen, he never was a true Bible believer, never professed Christ as his Saviour, and was influenced deeply by skepticism from a young age. He was drawn to the most radical skeptics at Edinburgh. And even on the voyage, far from being influenced positively by Captain FitzRoy’s faith, Darwin tried “to talk him out of it” (Desmond, Darwin, p. 152).
Darwin claimed that he read his famous grandfather’s Zoonomia “without producing any effect on me” (p. 49), but he then admits that he “admired greatly the Zoonomia.” Those are contradictory statements, and it is obvious, in light of the fact that Darwin promoted the same general concept of evolution as his grandfather, that Zoonomia indeed had a great effect on him. In his sympathetic biography of Darwin, Jacques Barzun admits “that for every volume by the grandson there was a corresponding chapter by the grandfather” (Darwin, Marx, Wagner, p. 46).
Darwin claimed that before the publication of On the Origin of Species he “never happened to come across a single naturalist who seemed to doubt about the permanence of species” (Autobiography, p. 124). That is a shocking lie. His own grandfather believed in the transmutation of species and taught it in his popular book, which Charles had read twice. Jean Baptiste Lamarck had presented transmutation in his very influential 1809 Philosophie Zoologique, which Darwin had read. Many of Darwin’s friends in the Plinian Society at Edinburgh University doubted the permanence of species, including his closest associate Robert Grant. He had attended Robert Jameson’s evolutionary lectures that presented the transmutation of species. Darwin read Robert Chambers’ 1844 Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, which described all of creation evolving from atoms. In London, men such as James Gully were teaching “transmutation” before Darwin published his book, and those were the circles he ran in. Gully translated Friedrich Tiedemann’s “evolutionary treatise on Comparative Physiology” (Desmond, Darwin, p. 219). Barzun says that “between 1810 and 1854 a score of other qualified scientists published their belief in the mutability of species” (Darwin, Marx, Wagner, p. 52). Irish classical scholar Benjamin Farrington observed, “No reader, however, could guess from the opening page of The Origin that descent with modification had a long history before Darwin took up his pen” (What Darwin Really Said: An Introduction to His Life and Theory of Evolution, 1982, pp. 110-111).
Darwin claimed that he came to his evolutionary theories “quite independently” of Humboldt, Lamarck, and others. But even sympathetic biographers such as Gertrude Himmelfarb characterize that as “not entirely candid.” Indeed, Darwin had read many books and attended lectures promoting evolutionary ideas very similar to those he later promoted, and it is impossible to form an idea independently of things you have actually heard!
Darwin protested that his book On the Origin of Species was not a product of something that was “in the air” and denied that “men’s minds were prepared for it.” This is nonsense. Social historian Himmelfarb observes, “It was in the air and men were prepared for it--the public for evolution in general, and the scientific community for some special theory that Darwin was known to be working on” (Darwin and the Darwinian Evolution, p. 240).
Jacques Barzun says, “Clearly, the spirit of evolution hovered over the cradle of the new century” (Darwin, Marx, Wagner, p. 46).
Unitarianism, German “higher criticism,” and humanistic philosophy had greatly weakened biblical faith within the Church of England and throughout society at large.
In The Darwin Myth, Benjamin Wiker observes,
“His was a close-knit family, and at least all the menfolk took for granted the self-evident truths of Enlightenment skepticism. The skepticism toward Christianity included an evolutionary account directed against the Christian, biblical doctrine of creation. It was part of the comfortable truisms passed on as a heritage. The family heritage allowed Charles to breathe in evolutionary doctrines that had been in the air for over a century ... Charles Darwin was a third generation evolutionist. He carefully read his grandfather’s Zoonomia very early on, he studied under the radical evolutionist Robert Grant while in medical school, he worked through the arguments of the French evolutionist Lamarck, and it would be hard to imagine him not discussing evolution with his father and brother around the table and in front of the fire--all this, before he had set foot on the Beagle. ... It means that the theory came before the facts. It was a philosophical and cultural inheritance before Charles Darwin himself went in search of evidence to support it” (pp. 136, 137).
The fact is that Darwin’s views and his book were most definitely the products of a skeptical environment. Darwin could have believed the Bible, because he had it in his possession and knew men that believed it, but he chose to reject it. There is no evidence that he even tried to find answers to the skeptical questions that he accepted, such as the question of suffering and homology and embryonic similarity and the geological record and the alleged contradictions in the Gospels. The answers were available, but Darwin was not interested in proving the Bible, only in disproving it. This willful skepticism has characterized committed Darwinists ever since and is a fulfillment of the prophecy of 2 Peter 3:3-6.
“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.”
Some have pointed to Darwin’s reference to creation at the end of On the Origin of Species as evidence that he continued to believe in God, but that was a mere sap thrown out by a weak man who feared the social and financial consequences of his own views. It must never be forgotten that Darwin was not a brave man. I am not aware of any occasion after the publication of On the Origin of Species that Darwin appeared in public to defend his book against an antagonist. He left all of that to Thomas Huxley and others. To reference “creation” in Origin of Species when he had rejected the concept of an intelligent creator was hypocrisy and cowardice. In fact, he came to regret it privately and expressed this in a letter to a friend to whom he admitted that he had feared public opinion:
“I have long regretted that I truckled to public opinion, and used the Pentateuchal term of creation, by which I really meant ‘appeared’ by some wholly unknown process” (Darwin, Autobiography. p. 272).
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