The Church's Three Denials: Chapter Two
The Scientific world had been placed on a sound foundation. Observation, measurment, and publication of findings for peer review. No sitting in an armchair just pondring. But as before, the work was to discover God's handiwork and his creation.
So we therefore have to move forward quickly and bypass all the philosophers and thinkers that followed. Descartes, Kant Hume, Hegel, etc to Darwin. It was into the new freedom that he was born. It has been said, "with Luther the monolithic medieval Christian world had cracked. With Copernicus the medieval Christian cosmology had cracked but with Darwin the Christian world view showed signs of collapsing altogether. As the earth had been removed from its position at the centre of creation by Copernicus so now was man removed from the centre of creation by Darwin to become just another animal".(Tarnas)
In the first few years on the nineteenth century there was already a movement towards the idea of the evolution of life. Men like Erasmus Darwin and Lemarke had supported the idea but there was no acceptable understanding of the way it could work, though Lemarke proposed the inheritance of acquired features. Virtually all naturalists considered it their place to examine and study God's handiwork and to think of any other point of view was very unpopular.
After an abortive time spent studying medicine and with Darwin's fathers blessing he started studies in Theology with the intention of becoming a priest. This entailed studying God's nature and this is where he excelled and was in his element. Studying all of God's Creation. His studies were very extensive and considering it was at the beginning of the 1800's his studies included chemistry and geology and was tutored and taken under the wings by outstanding men in their fields. These included Sedgwick for Geology and Henslow for Biology. He did have a good education even if much was self taught. He and his brother Erasmus had their own little laboratory in a a garden shed in the garden of 'The Mount' in Shrewsbury where they analysed for minerals in rocks. They made extensive collections of beetles. Darwin even paid others to collect for him.
After he finished his studies he was invited to join Captain Fitz Roy on the Beagle as companion and Naturalist for a circumnavigation of the earth charting various parts. The voyage took five years and included South America, The Galopogas Islands, New Zealand, Australia, Mauritius,,Capetown, St Helena, and Ascention Island. He sent specimens back to England and made copious notes.A number of years after returning, he came up with the idea that Natural Selection was the cause of the great diversity in animal and plant life and that all life had descended from a few or just one. What made Darwin different from all the previous scientists and naturalists was that this theory no longer needed the hand of God but brought in the element of chance with natural selection the architect. This was the Darwinian Revolution. There was much more freedom for Darwin than for either Copernicus or Galileo,as he did not have to concern himself with an all powerful church. The whole of Darwin's life was tied up with his theory. We also know so much more about him because of his and others writings and letters, whereas Copernicus' theory was only his hobby.
"In October 1838, that is, fifteen months after I had begun my systematic inquiry, I happened to read for amusement Malthus on Population, and being well prepared to appreciate the struggle for existence which everywhere goes on from long- continued observation of the habits of animals and plants, it at once struck me that under these circumstances favourable variations would tend to be preserved, and unfavourable ones to be destroyed. The results of this would be the formation of a new species. Here, then I had at last got a theory by which to work".
Charles Darwin, from his autobiography. (1876)
Darwin's theory of the origin of species is simple and elegant. Thomas Huxley said "it is so simple,why didn't I think of it myself?" The essential aspects of this theory may be more apparent when divided two interrelated parts
1] . Most species have numerous off spring, more than enough to maintain the population of the species,and they cannot all survive.
2] . There is variation between the individuals of the species, those with favourable traits that are able to reproduce and survive will be successful and those that do no will die out. Later the term coined by Spencer 'Survival of the fittest' was reluctantly adopted by Darwin.
The non acceptance of Evolution by natural selection is the Church's Second denial and they argue that it is "just a theory" Some Theory.However the Church does not understand the meaning of theory.
Darwin's book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life was about 500 pages long and in much of it he seemed to be trying to destroy his theory. I will deal with five of his objections
It was the basic picture which I have called 'Darwin's Jigsaw Picture' with many parts still missing and a puzzle to him. Many of these missing parts have since been filled in. I am looking for them in the vast literature presently available to us. .This has been my quest.