A quarter a century ago I was asked to review Darwin’s Black Box by Michael Behe for Science and Christian Belief. I was keen to do so, as some Young Earthers were raving about it.
An so I read about mouse traps,
blood clotting, and other things in Behe’s book. i was not convinced and felt it would not survive and soon be forgotten. I was wrong. For the next five years or so ID made in-roads and got the support of philosophers but not biologists and geologists. I’m still wondering how glacial moraines are intelligently designed.
Here is my review, and there is little I would change after 25 years.
Normally reviews get no response, but the editor of Science and Christian Belief got a flurry of letters, including one from Dr Emyr MacDonald of Cardiff University. He was very critical of me and the editor published his letter and my response, which came out in 1998.
After this I delved into ID along with my studies on Darwin’s geology and also considered Buckland’s wonderful stuff on design with “old Scratch” aka megatherium,
along with his work on glaciation. However hard I tried I could never find a convincing case for ID and noted that the Intelligent Design activists were charging up a cul-de-sac dragging too many non-YEC evangelicals with them. Perhaps their refusal to commit themselves on the age of the earth made them ultimately acceptable to no one.
In the last quarter century ID has convinced no one of significance, yet their activists still come out with similar arguments and, of course, the Cambrian explosion. But that is another story.
Evangelicals and science in the Age of Revolution 1789-1850
This was a hectic sixty years, Napoleonic Wars, great advances in technology and science all over Europe. Selection is impossible, but here I have chosen “evangelical” issues partly based on a backward glance.
That means a considerable focus on geology, as many British geologists were evangelicals, as were those who opposed geology.
This period saw the formation of the geological column; Cambrian, Silurian, Devonian etc, and a universal conviction of Deep Time
161 years ago today Darwin published The Origin of Species. As all know it had a mixed reaction but many don’t know that Christians were more welcoming than physicists, but that is another story.
Also today we heard the sad news that some of Darwin’s notebooks from 1837-40 had gone missing from Cambridge library, presumably stolen. and so the iconic evolutionary tree of life sketch has been lost.
Most consider Darwin’s work as on evolution, but it needs to be considered on design as well. To understand Darwin’s idea we must start with his rooms in Christ’s College, Cambridge, which he entered in 1828.
He had the same rooms as William Paley did many decades before. He was famous for his design argument put forward in his Natural Theology of 1804
IN crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there; I might possibly answer, that, for any thing I knew to the contrary, it had lain there for ever: nor would it perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place; I should hardly think of the answer which I had before given, that, for any thing I knew, the watch might have always been there. Yet why should not this answer serve for the watch as well as for the stone? why is it not as admissible in the second case, as in the first? For this reason, and for no other, viz. that, when we come to inspect the watch, we perceive (what we could not discover in the stone) that its several parts are framed and put together for a purpose, e. g. that they are so formed and adjusted as to produce motion, and that motion so regulated as to point out the hour of the day; that, if the different parts had been differently shaped from what they are, of a different size from what they are, or placed after any other manner, or in any other order, than that in which they are placed, either no motion at all would have been carried on in the machine, or none which would have answered the use that is now served by it. To reckon up a few of the plainest of these parts, and of their offices, all tending to one result:– We see a cylindrical box containing a coiled elastic spring, which, by its endeavour to relax itself, turns round the box. We next observe a flexible chain (artificially wrought for the sake of flexure), communicating the action of the spring from the box to the fusee. We then find a series of wheels, the teeth of which catch in, and apply to, each other, conducting the motion from the fusee to the balance, and from the balance to the pointer; and at the same time, by the size and shape of those wheels, so regulating that motion, as to terminate in causing an index, by an equable and measured progression, to pass over a given space in a given time. We take notice that the wheels are made of brass in order to keep them from rust; the springs of steel, no other metal being so elastic; that over the face of the watch there is placed a glass, a material employed in no other part of the work, but in the room of which, if there had been any other than a transparent substance, the hour could not be seen without opening the case. This mechanism being observed (it requires indeed an examination of the instrument, and perhaps some previous knowledge of the subject, to perceive and understand it; but being once, as we have said, observed and understood), the inference, we think, is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker: that there must have existed, at some time, and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually to answer; who comprehended its construction, and designed its use.
And thus the design one was so powerful and popular in England for the next fifty years. The greatest exponent was William Buckland, and it comes out in his Bridgewater Treatise of 1836 and a lecture on megatherium in 1832.
Many think that the Intelligent Design of today is a continuation of Paley. It is not. It is an argument from ignorance. “Wow! We can’t explain it thus Goddidit and designed it.”
Here I contrast the design of Paley and Buckland with that of ID in the person of Michael Behe. Give me Buckland and Paley any day!
Well, back to Darwin. He rejected Paley standing him on his head BUT always looked for functions in any organism in a way reminiscent of Paley and Buckland.
And so the Origin was published in 1859. Asa Gray, the great Harvard botanist and a Christian got it published in the USA
and the correspondence between Gray and Darwin in 1860 is illuminating. It forms the heart of my paper in Science and Christian Belief in 1997;
Darwin’s Doubts About Design—the Darwin-Gray Correspondence of 1860
Michael B. Roberts; S & CB 9 (2); October 1997
Darwin is credited with overturning Paley’s ideas of design. However, Darwin’s prob!ems with design are more complex, and are often misunderstood by neither grasping Paley’s ideas of design, nor those of his successors, who were beginning to replace arguments leading from design to God by arguments to design from God. Darwin’s doubts about design arose from three main sources: first, he used the argument from design, in contrast to Gray’s argument to design; second, the issue of chance and determinism; and, third, his doubts that a ‘Beneficent God’ could design a world with so much pain. The correspondence between Darwin and Gray and Gray’s articles on Darwin show how Gray sought to be Darwin’s retriever. Hodge’s challenge in What is Darwinism? was centred on chance, and as natural selection depended on chance Darwinism had to be atheistic, even if Darwin himself was not. In conclusion Darwin’s doubts about design stemmed directly from his doubts about God, and especially suffering.
The letters are fascinating and raise issues of suffering as well.
For good measure I discussed the theologian Charles Hodge’s
What is Darwinism of 1874 , which must be the best book against Darwin and evolution ever written. He showed the draft to Gray who disagreed but could find no “errors”. Hodge was pleased. Like Gray I disagree with Hodge but cannot fault his scholarly approach. I cannot say that about any Creationist of ID proponent today.
Evangelicals and Science (pub 2008) Foreword and Introduction
In 2008 my Evangelicals and Science was published as part of the Greenwood series. On the same day Peter Hess produced Catholics and Science.
My aim was to give an overview considered historically. I confess I was not an outside, impartial observer as my roots are evangelical and moved away, more from evangelical behaviour than theology. I became a Christian through the Christian Union at Oxford, so began with an excellent pedigree. Soon after I was in Uganda as an exploration and mining geologist, where I was baffled meeting a 300lb missionary from the southern States, who lent me creationist literature. I thought it bunk and that no one could believe it. In 1971 I went to L’Abri and was told to study books like The Genesis Flood. I soon found how flawed they were. No one was bothered in Britain until the Arkansas trial of 1981.
I studied the whole evangelical relationship with science mostly from a historical point of view, with an emphasis on geology. That comes out in the book and no apologies. I went historical as I felt that would clarify many issues and I found it did and that I was echoing the work of many historians of science like Ron Numbers and David Livingstone.
I could go on but in the successive blogs I’ll present another chapter, which you can read by opening the link beginning GNWD018
Chapter 1 What Are Evangelicals? 7
Chapter 2 Evangelicals, the Bible, and Science 33
Chapter 3 Eighteenth-Century Evangelicals and Science: From
Jonathan Edwards to John Wesley 59
Chapter 4 Evangelicals and Science in the Age of Revolution 83
Chapter 5 Post-Darwinian Evangelicals 113
Chapter 6 Evangelicals in the Shadow of Scopes 139
Chapter 7 The Rise of Creationism: Young Earth Creationism
and Intelligent Design, 1961–2007 165
Chapter 8 Evangelicals and Science Today 201
Chapter 9 Evangelicals, the Environment, and Bioethics 225
Primary Sources 249
Chronology of Events
1720s Cotton Mather supports smallpox inoculation.
1730s Beginning of Evangelical Revival in Massachusetts (Edwards)
and England (Whitfield).
1738 Conversion of John Wesley.
1758 Death of Jonathan Edwards from smallpox vaccination.
1771 Francis Asbury goes to the American colonies and starts the
1795 Death of John Wesley.
1790s Evangelicals blossom in Britain and America.
1790–1820s Series of evangelical science professors at Cambridge.
1817 Rev. Adam Sedgwick elected Professor of Geology at Cambridge
1812–1867 Michael Faraday at the Royal Institution, London, much experimental
work and lectures.
1820s–1840s Height of “evangelical” geologists
—Sedgwick,Lewis, Miller in Britain and Hitchcock and Silliman in United States.
1859 Publication of Darwin’s The Origin of Species.
1860s Correspondence of Asa Gray and Darwin on design and
1880s Height of “rapprochement” with B. B. Warfield and G. F.
1910 Publication of The Fundamentals.
1920s Rise of anti-evolution, and splits over modernism.
1925 The Scopes Trial, Dayton, Tennessee.
1930s Heyday of Harry Rimmer and George McCready Price.
1941 Formation of the American Scientific Affiliation in United
1944 Formation of what became Research Scientists Christian Fellowship
(later Christians in Science) in London.
1949 First Billy Graham Crusade at Los Angeles.
1954 Publication of Ramm’s The Christian Vew of Science and Scripture.
1961 Publication The Genesis Flood.
1962 Formation of Creation Research Society.
1972 Founding of Institute of Creation Research at San Diego.
1981 Trial at Arkansas.
1992 Formation of Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN).
1994 Formation of Answers in Genesis at Florence, Kentucky (with
2000 Cornwall Declaration opposing the EEN.
2005 Charles Townes, Nobel Laureate for MASER and LASER
awarded Templeton Prize.
2006 American evangelicals divided over global warming.
2007 Opening of Creation Museum in Kentucky
And then my introduction, which gives an outline of each chapter and acknowledgments. Many will be familiar to those who follow the issue and I leave it to members of HOGG to identify the one who called me “bloody clergyman” and gave me immense help in my related interest on the history of geology.
One of the most famous of geological sites is the unconformity at Siccar Point in Scotland. James Hutton went there in 1788 with his friend Rev John Playfair. Near the sea they found an interesting feature. Some rocks dipping steeply were overlain by almost horizontal strata. Sir John Hall later made a sketch
The rocks at 65 deg are Silurian and the flatter ones are Devonian. It represents a gap of 60 million years or so. This is elementary geology to but Hutton was the first to realise the incredible time gap. Since then many more have been found all over the world.
A fine one is the Steamboat Unconformity in the Blackhills with a gap of a billion years between mid Precambrian and Cambrian.
Unconformities demonstrate a considerable lapse of time, something Young Earth Creationists do not like. Hence Siccar Point is a good target to eviscerate as “creationist geologist” like Tas Walker tries, flashing his doctorate from the Dunning-Kruger University, in this article.
“The heritage trail at Siccar Point, Scotland
Commemorating an idea that did not work”
Doesn’t it work? Let’s see!
Before going through his blog I’ll make some historical and geological comments about the background of Hutton at Siccar Point. This CMI blog seems to imply that Hutton pulled his ideas out of thin air when visiting, but a consideration of the previous 120 years of geologising all over Europe contradicts that.
What Tas does is to re-iterate the creationist version of the Hutton-Lyell myth. The creationist version is that Hutton and Lyell were the naughty boys who invented Uniformitarianism out of thin air to attack the bible. Unconformities were part of that attack along with Deep Time, which nobody had thought about before.
The myth has a secular form in an old-style bad history of science , which is hopelessly Brito-centric just focussing on two geologists as if they were the only ones. Creationists took this and gave it a demonic twist.
Thus we have two main issues – Deep Time and Uniformitarianism
Deep Time is simply vast geological time. In 1650 most educated and uneducated people in Europe thought the earth was about 6000 years old. There was no geological evidence to guide them, so that cannot be held against them. For the last 70 years geologists have argued that the earth is 4.56 billion years old. In the 1780s Hutton and others knew the earth was very old but not how old.
We usually think of Ussher’s date of 4004BC which is similar to John Lightfoot’s of 50 years less. Both wrote in the 1650s and were excellent scholars.
The journey began in the 1660s, when Nils Steno (later a Catholic bishop who got beatified) was studying fossils and strata in Italy and worked out the Principle of Superposition. He was rather undecided on the age of the strata. But he had made a vital breakthrough.
Twenty years later Edward Lhwyd and Rev John Ray spent much time botanising in Snowdonia. Lhwyd was struck by the number of boulders in Nant Peris. As only one had fallen in living memory, he tentatively concluded that the hundreds of boulders must have fallen at intervals of several decades, meaning that Ussher’s age of 4004BC needed to be revised upwards. After all 500×50 =25,000. A wee advance on Ussher! In fact, they were glacial erratics dumped almost together some 20,000 years ago, so Lhwyd was wrong! Even so, it was an interesting idea showing a questioning mind.
Others reckoned the earth must be older too as did Hooke and Hobbes (see my Genesis and Geological time p41)
Going into the 18th century more and more studied the rocks throughout Europe and almost all concluded that the earth was old. Less geological was Buffon who in his Epoques of 1778 argued from cooling globes the earth had to be at least 74,000 years old, but privately argued for millions. If you want more read Martin Rudwick’s Earth’s Deep History or Gabriel Gohau Les sciences de la terre aux XVII et XXVIII siecles.
Few continued with a young earth after Scheuzer, apart from the English Hutchinsonians, followers of John Hutchinson (1674-1737). One was Alexander Catcott whose Treatise of the Deluge (1768) is the oldest book I own. It’s a mix of biblical theology, speculations about the ark ( which included 2 camelopards and quoting Bishop Willkins “1825 sheep… for the rapacious beasts” ) and some good geomorphological observations.
By the end of the 18th century few scientists/savants did not accept Deep Time and the Irishman Richard Kirwan was one of the handful who didn’t. Even J.A. de Luc, who is often presented as a young earther, believed in an ancient earth, but not as ancient as Hutton’s!
In the last decades of the 18th century Hutton just took the standard view of an ancient earth along with a galaxy of workers all round Europe –Rev J Michell, Fr. Soulavie, de Saussure (of Mt Blanc fame), De Luc, Werner an others in almost every country, but an Anglocentric approach, which only considers Hutton and Lyell, misses that.
Hutton is NOT the father of Deep Time, but one of many very able scientists, who worked on deep time.
We also need to note that from 1660 Christians, especially clergy, were involved in the discovery of geological time. In 1785 the Rev William Robertson, Moderator of the Scottish Kirk, was totally supportive of Hutton and reckoned that nothing in Hutton’s work was “in any respect repugnant to the Mosaic account of creation.” And for the last 135 years most Christian ministers, evangelical or not, have agreed with Robertson, from Billy Graham to John Stott, loads of Popes and Archbishops and those in local churches.
This is used as a bogey term. In one sense Uniformitarianism in the sense of “the present is the key to the past” is both widely used and has to be used and basic to any historical study. In its minimal sense it means that the physical processes today occurred in the past – e.g. water flows downhill, and the physics and chemistry is the same. In the maximal sense it insists that rates of processes were identical in the past. At times both Hutton and Lyell tended toward that view, though Lyell in his Principles of Geology looked to more “catastrophic” processes to explain how erratics were moved from the central alps to the Jura Mountains, as in the case of the Pierre a bot – but that was before the concept of Ice Ages.
Continental geologists use the term “Actualism” to show how present geological processes relate to past geological time and events. It is a better term as the word itself allows more variation of “rate” as “uniformitarianism” as a word does.
After Lyell published in 1831 most British geologists ditched the older ideas of catastrophism and those who did not, like de la Beche and William Buckland, found themselves left behind both geologically and in time as they got older and younger geologists took their place. For 150 years a weakness in geology was that geologists tended to think all processes had always been slow and gradual, but that was slowly overturned in the 20th century as Ager made very clear, Ager may not have been a Uniformitarian but he was a strict Actualist.
Volcanic rocks. Travellers around Europe would see active volcanoes at Vesuvius and Etna. One who studied Vesuvius was Lord Hamilton, cuckolded by Lord Nelson. From Italy some found the hills in Auvergne looked like and had similar rocks to Italian volcanoes, pointing to them being volcanoes. Similar hard rocks were found in Britain and Hutton studied the Salisbury Crags. The similarities – the present is the key to the past – demonstrated these were volcanic. Repeat a thousand times!
Ripple marks. Those who play by rivers and the shore will find many ripple marks in places and often see them being formed by a river or the see. At times exposed rocks have marks which look identical and comparison – the present is the key to the past – points to them being laid down by water. When working in Precambrian strata in South Africa, I found that the Stinkfontein sandstones (900my) often had ripple marks, which I duly measured and recorded, helping me work out the direction of the ancient rivers. One day it rained hard – a downpour in a desert – resulting in flash floods. These produced ripple marks in places so I measured and compared them.
These are two simple examples and there are many more. Needless to say, working it out in practice is often difficult
This is Uniformitarianism proper rather than an idea plucked out of thin air.
The worst example of mis-applying Uniformitarianism is the argument from the rapid formation of a gorge at Mt St. Helens to an alleged rapid formation of the Grand Canyon. Now that takes the biscuit! The volcanic ash was deposited rapidly during the eruption and then eroded before they could consolidate. Even in 2009 I found that applying a small jet of water from a masculine source caused rapid erosion!
The Grand Canyon was cut into hardened sediments, from Precambrian to Mesozoic, exposing the unconformity between the Precambrian and Cambrian. On my ascent and descent I was unable to erode anything!!
High above the cliffs on the Scottish coast—60 km east of Edinburgh—is an interpretive billboard that overlooks a rocky point.1 It is part of a heritage trail opened in 2006, celebrating the life of James Hutton, a local farmer and physician
. This is a silly putdown as Hutton was these, but far more. He was part of the Scottish Enlightenment, which involved the Kirk, an a pioneer geologist.
who became known as the ‘father of modern geology’.2
. He often shares this title with William Smith of England. I prefer to see him as one of many key figures from Steno in the 1660s onwards.
He proposed the geological philosophy of uniformitarianism—that present geological processes are the key to understanding the rocks.
This is a cardboard cut-out history of geology. “the geological philosophy of uniformitarianism” sounds impressive but is nonsense. All geologists, then and now, sort of accept uniformitarianism, with the present as the key to the past, but Hutton almost over-played the rate of rock formation and the sameness of processes. It was a difference of degree, not kind, to Catastrophists.
Hutton assumed Noah’s Flood never happened.
He avoided the question but was long convinced of the vast age of the earth as were the vast majority of geologists of his day. Hence he was always looking at rocks so much older than the flood.
He did not appreciate the enormity of that global catastrophe, which involved faulting, folding, and immense deposition and erosion.
Hehe. Nor did any other geologist from the 18th century!!
The locals are keen to capitalize on Siccar Point, claiming it is the most important geological site in the world.2
Not all would agree, but Siccar Point is very important – Vallorcine nr Chamonix, Old canals near Bath (Smith), Auvergne volcanoes, Jurassic Coast, Steno’s Tuscany come to mind.
The story goes that these rocks led Hutton to conclude the earth was not made in six days.
That is simply not so. He was already of that opinion as were the vast majority of geologists from 1700 whether Christian or not. It was the same in England and the European mainland
Rather, faulting and folding were important processes in the evolution of the landscape.3 The sign at the site says the rocks proved geological time was virtually unlimited,
No, just very long as Hutton et al could not pin down a time except in words of de Saussure of Mt Blanc fame “tres vieux”.
contrary to the few thousand years, which most people believed at that time.1
That is very misleading. Most people at that time could not read and as all they heard came from simple preaching they probably thought the earth was young. As for those with education many agreed with Hutton, or rather the scientific savants throughout Europe, and by 1800 the vast majority of educated, Christian or not, accepted an ancient earth
But Hutton did not discover deep time, he assumed it.
Nonsense. Deep time was coming in from the time of Steno in Italy in the 1660s. Right from the 1660s there was an increasing awareness that the earth was more than a few thousand years old. Thus Lhwyd and John Ray tentatively argued for an older earth in the 1680s. Throughout the 18th century researchers found evidence that the age of the earth was immense but could not put a date on it. Hutton was one of those
That was partly because Hutton’s knowledge of geology in the late 1700s was seriously limited.
Pathetic comment. Yes, Hutton’s knowledge of geology was limited compared to 1850,1900, 1950 or today, but he knew a lot.
He did not know that the lower Silurian rocks were turbidite beds, deposited rapidly from underwater density currents that sped across the ocean floor as fast as 100 km (60 miles) per hour.4 Neither did he know the upper strata were of a terrestrial origin, deposited from a vast expanse of fast flowing water that covered a large part of the continent, depositing thick, cross-bedded strata.5,6
This comment is plain silly. Turbidites were discovered between 1925 and 1950. It is like criticising Isaac Newton for not knowing Relativity
But most significantly, Hutton assumed Noah’s Flood never happened.
He did not appreciate the enormity of that global catastrophe, which involved faulting, folding, and immense deposition and erosion.
During the Flood, the rocks at Siccar Point were eroded in days or weeks, not over millions of years.
The notice board at Siccar Point, which needs a little improvement
As John McEnroe said on the tennis courts “Are you serious?” The “What really happened” is pure bunkum.
Hutton is hailed as a father of modern geology for his philosophy of uniformitarianism, but ironically geologists now acknowledge that uniformitarianism does not work.
A veritable half truth
Toward the end of his career, Derek Ager, professor of geology at Swansea, Wales, said of uniformitarianism, “We have allowed ourselves to be brain-washed into avoiding any interpretation of the past that involves extreme and what might be termed ‘catastrophic’ processes.”7
See above on Uniformitarianism. Ager wrote to me in a letter complaining how creationists twisted his work.
Hutton’s friend (and popularizer) John Playfair, who accompanied him by boat to Siccar Point in 1788, is famous for his impressions of that trip. He is quoted on the sign. “The mind seemed to grow giddy by looking so far into the abyss of time.”
However, as the son of a Presbyterian minister, it is unfortunate that Playfair did not connect his Bible with the world around him
Thus in one sentence Tas walker condemns the vast majority of Christians to perdition
. A better response would have been, “The mind was sobered to look upon the enormity of God’s judgment at the time of Noah.”
Mine is to study Exodus 20 vs 16!!!
I cannot see how anyone can write such an article as it is so inaccurate. I am sure it is not pleasing to God.
references and notes
Interpretation board, Siccar Point; geograph.org.uk/photo/2143249. Return to text.
International interest in new James Hutton trail, Berwickshire News, 21 June 2006; berwickshirenews.co.uk/news/local-headlines/international-interest-in-new-james-hutton-trail-1-237894. Return to text.
Siccar Point, Gazetteer for Scotland, 2011; scottish-places.info/features/featurefirst5590.html. Return to text.
Fine, I.V. et al., The Grand Banks landslide-generated tsunami of November 18, 1929: preliminary analysis and numerical modelling, Marine Geology215:45–57, 2005. Return to text.
Browne, M., et al., Stratigraphical Framework for the Devonian (Old Red Sandstone) Rocks of Scotland south of a line from Fort William to Aberdeen, British Geological Survey, Research Report RR 01 04, p. 50, 2002; nora.nerc.ac.uk/3231/1/Devonian.pdf. Return to text.
For a detailed geological analysis of Siccar Point see: Walker, T., Unmasking a long-age icon, Creation27(1):50–55, 2004; creation.com/siccarpoint. Return to text.
Ager, D., The Nature of the Stratigraphical Record, Macmillan, London, p. 70, 1993. Return to text.
After this the landscape was eroded by ice sheets in the post-Flood Ice Age. Return to text.
That begs a lot of questions as the Ice Ages began 2 million years ago. Which Ice Age does he mean? Was it the upper or Lower Dryas or an earlier one?
After leaving Cambridge in early 1831 Charles Darwin returned to his home – The Mount – in Shrewsbury
and decided to learn some geology in preparation for a trip to Tenerife, which never came off. At that time geology was not well-developed and all the strata belowed the Carboniferous (U.S.A Mississippian) was unknown. Sedgwick and Muchison began to unravel later that year, with Darwin in tow with Sedgwick.
a superb presentation of the Geological Column by Ray Troll, accurate and witty.
By early July Darwin had obtained his geological equipment and was especially proud of his compass-cum-clinometer. Here is his actual field bag and actual equipment, which is stuill the basis for field work today.
He also needed maps and he used Robert Baugh’s topographic map of Shropshire (wait for my next blog) and Greenough’s geological map of England and Wales. This is a photo of Darwin’s actual copy in Cambridge Univ Library.
After leanig how to use his clinometer on furniture he went into the filed to try his hand at field work. His destination was Llanymynech Hill some 15 miles west of Shrewsbury. I presume he travelled on one of the horses. His notes, transcribed below say NE, but that is typical of Darwin’s compass inversion, which he did both at Llanymynech and Cwm Idwal. If you don’t visit the sites and sit in stuffy libraries just reading his notes you’d never see this. You cannot do the history of geology without fieldwork, getting soaked, chased by irate cows and twisting ankles.
TRANSCRIPTION OF THE LLANYMYNECH NOTES,g Llanymynech 16 miles NE [sic] of Shrewsbury; to the north of the village about ] of mile in an extensive quarry of Limestone. On the road to it, passed over a hillock of a soft slaty rock. some of the Strata were crumblingaway by exposure to the air. Strata very distinctly defined inclined at 78″. Direction ESE 6a 1i7N!7. The quarry is worked in the escarpment of a range of Carboniferous Limestone facing S by ]if. On the Eastern side & high in the hill where the stratification is better marked the rock more compact & of a redder colour. the seneral D is NE b N 14′. To the Westward & lower down D of st.ata is more NW 6< the angle lessl In centre there of quarry are several great cracks passing strait thrugh the rock now filled with clay. To this line the strata on each side are inclined on each side from [E crossed out] tOf 10″ & from [W crossed out] E 15o. It gives to the strata the appearance ofcurves. The stratification of the whole Western side appears to be less regular than that of the East. At one place I observed a series of strata having D ENE 10″ – The lowest Strata of Limestone that are worked consist of rocks of a softer texture, marked in patches by a brightish red, called by the’Workmen’bloody veined’Beneath there is the Delve consisting of avery argillaceous Limestone, soft & wastingaway on exposure to the air. it is not worth being burnt for Lime – The Workmen have never gone beneath this.
This has recently been put on the extensive website Darwin on line
Llanymynech Hill bounds the west of the Shropshire plain and his an extensively quarried limestone hill of 226 metres. The carboniferous limes lies on top of silurian slate (hill of slaty rock) There is a golf course on top for those who like to spoil a good walk and ther is a heitage trail. It is a hill I know very well as I have walked all over it and also done several of the rock climbs. On the visit I made all my measuresments i’d cycled the 11 miles from Chirk.
View looking ovber Breiden Hills
viewpoint with details for trail and on Darwin
Information board gleaned from my work
From Darwin’s notes it seems he came up from Llanymynech village and truned off on a lane at the bend GR266212.
The exposures are at the bend just up the hill. Continuing up you see the quarry cliffs and then need to find the paths onto them.
As you go up the lane you find the “slaty rock” with some obvious bedding. That was infuriating to measure as I found they dipped to the NW. It seems he was dyslexic – like the best of us. The strata were later seen to be Silurian.
Following up from those slaty rocks a path leads you into a quarry. This not as Darwin saw it as further quarrying took place for about a century. It is now abandoned and a haven for wild flowers and rock climbing. Some of the hardest routes are here, which I had to second rather than lead.
The limestne is well-stratified, with some interspersed muddy beds. Worsely is valuable on this. (The mud made for hairy rock-climbing in the rain.)
To read more, open up for my paper in the Brit Jour of the History of Science
Darwin was baffled by the Bellstone in Shrewsbury, but in 1831 nop one knew that it had trundled down from Scotland on an ice sheet
After his next work on maps (my next blog) Adam Sedgwick arrived on the scene at the Mount. Big sis Susan took a shine to the reverend geological bachelor and his sister Caroline wrote to Darwin on the Beagle to say they expected Susan to become Mrs Sedgwick!! That would have been fun for historians.
So in August Sedgwick arrived and took Charles around North Wales in a gig and taught him a litte geology
At present there is much interest in understanding suffering ,due to the coronavirus.
some have written books on it, and then by default look to the Fall to explain suffering . Or else reckon that yonks ago the Devil introduced it when he mucked up creation.
Odd readings of Romans 8 are used to support this.
we cannot get away from suffering and ultimately we have to admit that it is written into the fabric of life and not malevolence nor a punishment for sin.
Here I deal with Darwin, first on design and then his problems with suffering, which we must all identify with but what is more interesting are his problems with doubt and suffering which I expound at the end of the referenced paper at the end.
He was greatly concerned by suffering , whether Annie’s death, the treatment of slaves or even the behaviour of the ichneumon fly.
Last autumn I found that Tortoiseshell butterflies were being caihght in spiders’ webs and then packaged to be eaten later.
Today when cycling on the Lune eastuary I found a tortoiseshell struggling in a web with a spider bearing down on it. I decided to let Incy-wincy have his dinner . I didn’t get a good photo.
Darwin felt the problem of suffering but there seems to be no answer, except that suffering has been around as long as life and is not something introduced into the natural world, wither by the devil, or god gatting annoyed with scrumping!!
Here is my rather old paper published in Science and Christian Belief in 1997 , for which I received a $2000 prize from the Templeton Foundation
For 40 years Creationists have told us about how the explosvie beetle – Bombardier – would have exploded if it evolved. It was always a bad argument, but those bad ideas never die.
It was a favourite with Gish in his gallops, but here it is exploded by Joel Duff
Young-earth creationists in the twenty-first century take a broadly inclusive view of the relationship of existing and extinct species as they relate to the kinds of organisms that God created one days four, five, and six of the creation week. For example, the image below is from a new display of the origin of the great apes at the Creation Museum and is representative of Answers in Genesis’ understanding of origin and diversification of kinds. (see also: Chimps, Orangutans, and Gorillas Evolved from a Common Ancestor on Noah’s Arkt)
1831 was an eventful year for Charles Darwin. In the first half of the year he graduated from Cambridge with an adequate degree. He had plans for the future; first an expedition to Teneriffe and then a life as a clergyman, when he’d have time for plenty of natural history. Had this happened he would have been one of the last of people without much Christian conviction to be ordained. Even Darwin noticed that clergy were more devout when he returned from the Beagle voyage in 1835.
Many make much of the fact that his degree was in theology and philosophy rather than science. But then you couldn’t do a degree in science, but Darwin did the next best thing, or was it the best thing. For much of his time at Cambridge he attached himself to Rev John Henslow, who was then prfessor of Botany. He had been professor of mineralogy and in the early 1820s produced memoirs on the geology of the Isle of Man and Anglesey. Have been round Anglesey with Henslow’s map and memoir I found found it an incredible piece of geology.
The second half of the year was so different. He had returned to Shrewsbury and tried to teach himself geology with limited success. For the most of August he was in North Wales with Adam Sedgwick as be begand his pioneering work on the Cambrian. After trekking from Capel Curig to Barmouth, he went home to find a letter inviting him on the Beagle. He managed to get his uncle – a Wedgwood – to persiade his father and on 27th December set sail from Plymouth.
Things were never the same again.
As you read this you will see how well qualified Darwin was to go on the Beagle. He was already recognised as one of the best of the young naturalists.
For the future Dawin the scientist, or rather Darwin the geologist, July and August were the most crucial. During July he tried to carry on the geology he’d learnt from Henslow and Sedgwick with limited success. He visted Llanymynech quarry and tried to produced a geological map of his home ares.
Then Sedgwick arrived in early August to stay at the Mount. From there Darwin joined Sedgwick on two day trips from Shrewsbury and on 6th August the set of for Llangollen in Sedgwick’s gig. Sedgwick was trying to work out the strata below the Old Red Sandstone (Devonian) and thus gradually sorting it out going down the succession. Ironically he got within 2 miles of this on Long Mountain near Shrewsbury, but turned back – possibly because the horse was knackered! It is a long pull-up and one many cyclists today would avoind or regard it as a hard climb.
As there is no Devonian in North Wales from Llangollen to the Great Orme, Sedgwick got nowhere, beyond teaching Darwin geology. A trip to Anglesey didn’t help and so Darwin left him to travel home to go shooting. As it was Sedgwick started to work around Llanberis and he had not stratigraphic markers to work on. But that is another story.
To go back to early July, Darwin received a parcel of a clinometer, and hammer and so started measuring angles all round the house. To test out his skills he rode the 15 miles to Llanymynech Hill,
which I describe in this paper along with Cwm Idwal
These are two papers one co-authored with Sandra Herbert.
and so we come to the main partof his geological journeys, this time with Sedgwick.
On 2nd August 1831 Sedgwick arrived at the mount in his gig. Dr Darwin thought him a hypochondriac. The next two days were spent looking for Old Red sandstone to the east of Shrewsbury and on the 6th Sedgwick and Darwin set off to north wales as described in this paper published in Endeavour in 2000.
Darwin never took a compass bearing from Capel Curig to Barmouth. I don’t recommend you try it!! It would cross incredibly rough pathless ground. However I am willing to follow anyone who wishes to try it – especially if they are not used to british hills. My sadism is coming out here.
As it was he went in a roundabout route and you can visit the localities he described.
This from Archives of Natural History describes the route Darwin took from Capel Curig to Barmouth
The first stop on Charles Darwin’s famous voyage around the world in HMS Beagle was at Porto Praya (Praia), the principal town on the island of St Jago (São Tiago) in the Cape Verde archipelago. From 16 January to 8 February 1832, Darwin enjoyed his first substantive opportunity to study the natural history of an exotic place. Darwin himself regarded this occasion as a significant turning point in his life because, according to his autobiography, it was here that he decided to research and publish a book on the geology of the places visited on the voyage. He also recalled that it was here, the very first port call, that convinced him of the ‘wonderful superiority’ of Charles Lyell’s uniformitarian geology over the doctrine of successive cataclysms that he had been taught in England. Later commentators have generally accepted this account, which is significant for understanding the intellectual background to the Origin of Species, at face value. In this paper we reconstruct some of Darwin’s observations at St Jago based on his contemporaneous notes and diary, and in the light of our own visit made in January 2002. We find little evidence to substantiate the claim that he interpreted the geology in Lyellian terms at the time. Instead, he formulated a theory involving a great cataclysm to explain the dramatic scenery in the island’s interior. He speculated that a torrent of water had carved the main valleys of the island, leaving deposits of diluvium in their beds. It is indisputable that Darwin came to embrace gradualist thinking enthusiastically during the voyage. Some of his observations made on St Jago, especially relating to uplift of the coast, were instrumental in this change of view, but the conversion was gradual, not sudden. His later published works make no mention of his original catastrophist interpretations.
An article about Darwin and race has been recirculating. It was written back in 2013 by Phil Moore of the Everyday Church, London . It is on The Gospel coalition website and was originally in ThinkTheology. Depsite its title it is really a claim than Darwin was an out and out racist and supported genocide.
What Your Biology Teacher Didn’t Tell You About Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin is a great British hero. That’s hardly surprising, since he was one of the most influential thinkers of the past 200 years. I happened to live opposite Darwin’s former lodgings when I was a student at Cambridge University, so I looked out each morning on a blue plaque hailing him as one of the greatest Britons who ever lived. I’m not saying he didn’t deserve that commemorative plaque, but I should point out that he wasn’t a British hero but a British villain. You don’t need to be a Bible-thumping evangelical to question whether Darwin’s thinking deserves to be given a bit more thought.
Whatever your views on origins and evolution, we can hopefully all agree that, at present, we give far too much honor to the British thinker who justified genocide.
The Western nations of Europe . . . now so immeasurably surpass their former savage progenitors [that they] stand at the summit of civilization. . . . The civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace the savage races through the world.
Thankfully, most British people today are embarrassed by the racist rhetoric that undergirded the late-Victorian British Empire. What’s astonishing is how little they understand that Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution provided the doctrine behind its white supremacism. Whereas the British Empire of the early 19th century had been dominated by Christian reformers such as William Wilberforce, who sold slave badges that proclaimed, “Am I not a man and a brother?”,
Darwin’s writings converted an empire with a conscience into an empire with a scientific philosophy. Four years after Darwin published The Origin of Species, James Hunt turned it into a justification for slavery. In his 1863 paper, “On the Negro’s Place in Nature,” he asserted: “Our Bristol and Liverpool merchants, perhaps, helped to benefit the race when they transported some of them to America.”
Christian reformers had spent decades in the early 19th century teaching Britain to view non-European races as their equals before God.
In a matter of years, Darwin swept not only God off the table, but also the value of people of every race with him.
Victorian Britain was too willing to accept Darwinian evolution as its gospel of overseas expansion. Darwin is still celebrated on the back of the British £10 note for his discovery of many new species on his visit to Australia; what’s been forgotten, though, is his contemptible attitude—due to his beliefs about natural selection—toward the Aborigines he found there. When The Melbourne Review used Darwin’s teachings to justify the genocide of indigenous Australians in 1876, he didn’t try and stop them. When the Australian newspaper argued that “the inexorable law of natural selection [justifies] exterminating the inferior Australian and Maori races”—that “the world is better for it” since failure to do so would be “promoting the non-survival of the fittest, protecting the propagation of the imprudent, the diseased, the defective, and the criminal”—it was Christian missionaries who raised an outcry on behalf of this forgotten genocide. Darwin simply commented, “I do not know of a more striking instance of the comparative rate of increase of a civilized over a savage race.”
Meanwhile, several thousand miles away, Cecil Rhodes was gleefully embracing Darwin’s thinking as justification for white expansion across southern Africa. He was so inspired by Darwinian evolutionist Winwood Reade’s The Martyrdom of Man that he later confessed, “That book has made me what I am.”
What it made him was the architect of one of the most brutal and immoral acts of European expansion and genocide in history. Rhodes wrote in 1877:
I contend that we are the finest race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race. . . . It is our duty to seize every opportunity of acquiring more territory and we should keep this one idea steadily before our eyes that more territory simply means more of the Anglo-Saxon race, more of the best, the most human, most honorable race the world possesses.
If what Rhodes believed sounds shocking to you—and I hope it does—then understand that he was simply stating what he drew from the works of both Darwin and Francis Galton, Charles Darwin’s cousin, who extrapolated his cousin’s thinking to pioneer racial eugenics.
Select Your Choice
I’ve used British examples because I’m British, and it seems more polite to point out the errors in my own national worldview than in that of other nations. I could’ve pointed out how Darwin’s thinking was used by late 19th-century Americans to justify acts of genocide against Native Americans. I could’ve pointed out how Hitler and his Nazi philosophers used it to justify wars of expansion and horrific holocaust. I could’ve pointed out how Communist Russia used Darwinian evolution to justify its liquidation of non-Russian people groups within the Soviet empire. I could’ve pointed out how it was used by Serbs to justify their genocide against Croatians and Kosovans.
But I don’t have to. The British example is enough to make us question whether Charles Darwin was truly a British hero at all. At least we should strip him of his place on our £10 banknote and stop protecting his thinking from the scrutiny it deserves in school classrooms, in TV documentaries, and in the corridors of power.
Because whether or not you agree with his thoughts on evolution, you should at the very least want to discover he was wrong.
Whom would you rather discover was right all along? The Christian reformers of the early 19th century, like William Wilberforce and the Earl of Shaftesbury, who argued from belief in divine creation that slaves should be freed and that children shouldn’t be forced to work themselves to death in factories for having been born to the wrong parents? Or Charles Darwin, who argued from belief in a godless beginning to the universe that natural selection is a virtue and that, consequently, acts of genocide are part and parcel of the way the world was always supposed to be?
In the words of Jesus himself, “By their fruits you will be able to judge their teaching.”
Phil Moore leads Everyday Church in London. He also serves as a Bible teacher and evangelist within the Newfrontiers family of churches. He is the author of the Straight to the Heart series of devotional commentaries. Phil is married to Ruth, and they have four young children. Together, they love eating strange and exotic food, watching movies with lots of popcorn, and reading books by Roald Dahl. You can follow him on Twitter.
Here’s an excellent reply by the Christian historian of science Ted Davies . He’s saved me the bother of doing all the fact checking. Moore is a disgrace.
I was about to respond to the essay but felt Ted had given a good response pointing out the many errors and misquotes etc. But there are a few things I’d like to add. I ought to say I’ve been researching aspects of Darwin’s geology and religious views for 30 years and have published academic papers on his geology. I have all his publications and his correspondence going up to 1862, when the money ran out! It’s all online now anyway..
First to consider are Darwin’s views on slavery. His family of Darwins and Wedgwoods had been abolitionists for 3 generations . Josiah Wedgwood, his grandfather, designed and made the medallion;
Am I not a man and a brother
It is almost daft that Moore referred to Wilberfoce giving out these medallions, designed by Darwin’s grandfather.
Darwin’s parents were very involved in abolition, which was not surpising as his mother was a Wedgwood. For several generations the Darwins and Wedgwoods were the radical, Unitarian side to abolition in contrast to the evangelicalism of Wilberforce and others. In fact the Abolitionist movement was a coalition of Evangelicals, Quakers and Unitarians.
The first volume of Darwin’s Correspondence often refers to slavery and how his family were involved with the local archdeacon in abolition.
And so at the end of 1831 Charles set sail on The Beagle and was appalled by slavery in Latin America. He rejoiced when he read of the probable coming of abolition in 1833 in a letter to his sister, Catherine; (Correspondence May 22 1833)
. How famously the Ministers appear to be going on; I always much enjoy political gossip, & what you at home think will etc etc take place. I steadily read up the weekly Paper; but it is not sufficient to guide one’s opinion: and I find it a very painful state not to be as obstinate as a pig in politicks. I have watched how steadily the general feeling, as shown at elections, has been rising against Slavery.—What a proud thing for England, if she is the first Europæan Nation which utterly abolishes it. I was told before leaving England, that after living in Slave countries, all my opinions would be altered; the only alteration I am aware of is forming a much higher estimate of the Negro character. It is impossible to see a Negro, and not feel kindly towards him; such cheerful, open, honest expressions & such fine muscular bodies. I never saw any of the diminutive Portuguese, with their murderous countenances, without almost wishing for Brazil to follow the example of Hayti; and considering the enormous healthy looking population, it will be wonderful if at some future day it does not take place. There is at Rio a man (I know not his titles) who has large salary to prevent (I believe) the landing of slaves: he lives at Botofogo, & yet that was the bay, where during my residence, the greater number of smuggled slaves were landed. Some of the Anti-slavery people ought to question about his office; it was the subject of conversation at Rio amongst some of the Lower English.
Of course, some would see white privilege here, but it was written in 1833
His main recorded argument with Capt Fitzroy was over slavery, which Fitzroy supported.
Reading his correspondence it is clear that Darwin was easily triggered over slavery and responded to attack its cruelty.
Slavery contnued to trigger Darwin as it did when he read Lyell’s Travels in north America (1845), in which Lyell criticised American racial attitudes, but disapproved of the Abolitionist movement. That was too much for Darwin. There seems to be a missing letter of August 1845 where Lyell toned down his views. Even so Darwin was so triggered that he revised his conclusion with all guns blazing with this superb piece of morally-charged writing on the horrors of slavery, which he inserted into the second edition of The Voyage of the Beagle (1845).
I don’t know how anyone can say Darwin was a racist after reading it. Here Darwin had gone into a strident autoethographic mode!
“On the 19th of August we finally left the shores of Brazil. I thank God, I shall never again visit a slave-country. To this day, if I hear a distant scream, it recalls with painful vividness my feelings, when passing a house near Pernambuco, I heard the most pitiable moans, and could not but suspect that some poor slave was being tortured, yet knew that I was as powerless as a child even to remonstrate. I suspected that these moans were from a tortured slave, for I was told that this was the case in another instance. Near Rio de Janeiro I lived opposite to an old lady, who kept screws to crush the fingers of her female slaves. I have stayed in a house where a young household mulatto, daily and hourly, was reviled, beaten, and persecuted enough to break the spirit of the lowest animal. I have seen a little boy, six or seven years old, struck thrice with a horse-whip (before I could interfere) on his naked head, for having handed me a glass of water not quite clean; I saw his father tremble at a mere glance from his master’s eye. These latter cruelties were witnessed by me in a Spanish colony, in which it has always been said, that slaves are better treated than by the Portuguese, English, or other European nations. I have seen at Rio de Janeiro a powerful negro afraid to ward off a blow directed, as he thought, at his face. I was present when a kind-hearted man was on the point of separating forever the men, women, and little children of a large number of families who had long lived together. I will not even allude to the many heart-sickening atrocities which I authentically heard of;—nor would I have mentioned the above revolting details, had I not met with several people, so blinded by the constitutional gaiety of the negro as to speak of slavery as a tolerable evil. Such people have generally visited at the houses of the upper classes, where the domestic slaves are usually well treated, and they have not, like myself, lived amongst the lower classes. Such inquirers will ask slaves about their condition; they forget that the slave must indeed be dull, who does not calculate on the chance of his answer reaching his master’s ears.
It is argued that self-interest will prevent excessive cruelty; as if self-interest protected our domestic animals, which are far less likely than degraded slaves, to stir up the rage of their savage masters. It is an argument long since protested against with noble feeling, and strikingly exemplified, by the ever-illustrious Humboldt. It is often attempted to palliate slavery by comparing the state of slaves with our poorer countrymen: if the misery of our poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin; but how this bears on slavery, I cannot see; as well might the use of the thumb-screw be defended in one land, by showing that men in another land suffered from some dreadful disease. Those who look tenderly at the slave owner, and with a cold heart at the slave, never seem to put themselves into the position of the latter; what a cheerless prospect, with not even a hope of change! picture to yourself the chance, ever hanging over you, of your wife and your little children—those objects which nature urges even the slave to call his own—being torn from you and sold like beasts to the first bidder! And these deeds are done and palliated by men, who profess to love their neighbours as themselves, who believe in God, and pray that his Will be done on earth! It makes one’s blood boil, yet heart tremble, to think that we Englishmen and our American descendants, with their boastful cry of liberty, have been and are so guilty: but it is a consolation to reflect, that we at least have made a greater sacrifice, than ever made by any nation, to expiate our sin. “
Well, it is absolutely clear that Darwin loathed slavery and his faimilies had done their part for abolition.
If Moore had read The Origin he would know that, apart from a cryptic sentence
“light will be thrown on the origins of man and his history.”
Darwin did not mention humans at all and thus even less than zero on races! In the title Darwin was referring to different races, or groups, or families of plants and animals. It was a vague and general term. From reading much Creationst stuff on Darwin and race, I reckon this was just lifted from an article on Darwin’s alleged racism!! I often come across it and facepalm when I do. I also doubt the integrity of the writer.
The long quotation I gave from The Voyage of the Beagle should suffice for most people as it shows deep compassion and concern for those who suffer. In The Diary he makes a few comments about slavery , which though critical seem dispassionate. I get the impression he was a strong decoupler so did not feel he always had to make strong moral judgements. However this quote on leaving Brazil was most passionate and should be required reading for all on matters of slavery and race. It is haunting writing.
His writings and especially his letters often bring out his compassion, as he was not constrained by “academic” impartiality. He supported a charity for chimney sweep boys and, to the surprise of many, supported the South American Missionary Society which worked in Patagonia. SAMS was and is a very evangelical Anglican missionary society. I’ve never found out why he supported it beyond geographical links. I suggest he was more concerned by the physical welfare of Jeremy Button’s compatriots.
As Ted Davis points out , some of his comments in books, especially The Descent of Man can, at a push, be taken as racist, but as I said above he was a strong decoupler. Often his descriptive statements are seen as prescriptive. Note he knew how original inhabitants of Americas died of disease when the Spanish and Portugese came. Disease enabled the conquest more than guns. Further he had witnessed how indigenous peoples were losing out to settlers, not so much as by war, or even genocide, but by disease and their inability to compete.
Against this, if you read more about Darwin – and for me it is the first 11 volumes of his Correspondence and his son’s Life and Letters, reams of semi-legible notes, transcribed notebooks, his various writings and much about him, like me, you will have to conclude he was a compassionate and moral person, with severe questions about God, an abhorrence of slavery, and a concern for those in need. However he had the assurance of a successful and wealthy Victorian that his style of life was somewhat better than anyone else. I suppose to those who protest below the statue of his “follower” (?????) Cecil Rhodes at the front of Oriel College might make him guilty of valuing his “white privilege” – and that would make him a racist of the vilest kind.
As Moore concluded his article;
In the words of Jesus himself, “By their fruits you will be able to judge their teaching.”
I think that Darwin’s fruits and teaching on race were quite good and for the 19th century and excellent example