I am afraid it had to be translated for me as my German has been totally lost!! In my chemistry course I had to sit an exam on German translation and passed. But that was the end of my German, I am afraid.
We are often told of the how the church opposed Galileo, Darwin, early geologists and almost every advance of science. There is a merest smidgeon of truth in it, but mostly they are stories invented to discredit Christianity. Much originated with Draper and White in the 19th century. Dawkins has fallen for it, among others. Over the lasty fifty years the idea of conflict between science and Christianity has been discredited.
Recently there have been a spate of books on the conflict thesis of science and religion. Here is one coming to it from a catholic angle.
The War That Never Was: Evolution and Christian Theology Paperback – Illustrated, May 29, 2020
Kenneth W. Kemp is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is the co-translator of Archbishop Jozef Zycinski’s God and Evolution: Fundamental Questions of Christian Evolutionism.
One of the prevailing myths of modern intellectual and cultural history is that there has been a long-running war between science and religion, particularly over evolution. This book argues that what is mistaken as a war between science and religion is actually a pair of wars between other belligerents—one between evolutionists and anti-evolutionists and another between atheists and Christians. In neither of those wars can one align science with one side and religion or theology with the other. This book includes a review of the encounter of Christian theology with the pre-Darwinian rise of historical geology, an account of the origins of the warfare myth, and a careful discussion of the salient historical events on which the myth-makers rely—the Huxley-Wilberforce exchange, the Scopes Trial and the larger anti-evolutionist campaign in which it was embedded, and the more recent curriculum wars precipitated by the proponents of Creation Science and of Intelligent-Design Theory.
As I read this book, I kept thinking of the Second World War hoax made into the film The man who never was
A convenient corpse with a briefcase attached was allowed to wash up in Spain so Germans would read the documents giving false information about allied plans. The argument of Kemp’s book is that there was no war between Christianity and Evolution. The conflict thesis of religion and science has taken a battering during the last fifty years but many still believe it. Much will be familiar to some, but Kemp has re-packaged it in a different way as he leads from the ‘War’ started by Draper and White, through the Scopes trial to the various Creationism and ID trials of the last 40 years. His emphasis is transatlantic, but the issues are worldwide. With the author being a Catholic philosopher he gives a new perspective The author says the book is a partial account focussing on the paleaetiological sciences (2, 3) i.e geology, palaeontology and evolution. . That would be fair enough but it omits so much of those sciences and does not put geology into a full perspective – which can be done briefly, though he claims to leave it for another book. It is an odd claim to say that Lyell was the founder of geology.
Llyell (left) and his geology teacher Buckland looking at glacial striae at Rhyd Ddu in North Wales, 1841
The heart of the book gives a historical account of particular conflicts of evolution and Christianity, mostly of the more extreme kind. There is little on more atheistic questions but almost only on Christian opposition to evolution of the more extreme kind. More on genuine wrestling by Christian thinkers would have been helpful as for example Adam Sedgwick,
Princeton theologians and Bernard Ramm. The introduction is a philosophical reflection with a succinct discussion of theology and naturalism. He concludes with recommending a ‘modest methodological naturalism’ for our theology and science and criticises Johnson’s appeal to ‘immediate divine action’. A good and nuanced account of the conflict thesis as it began in the 19th century follows, concluding with ways of assessing the various arguments.
Despite many who claim there was conflict over Genesis and geology, the author is right to say there was none, beyond the peripheral early 19th century Scriptural geologists. A sharper trajectory on how geology developed from Steno in the 1660s, would have shown the gradual dawning of the realisation of Deep Time and its relation to Christianity over the next 150 years. The presentation, which tends to flip backwards and forwards, makes it difficult to follow, if one does not have familiarity with the subject matter.
Darwin and how some see him (statue in Shrewsbury)
The chapter on the aftermath of 1859 devotes much space to the Huxley-Wilberforce episode but sheds little new light.
Wilberforce and Huxley, who got on quite well!!
It stresses its iconic position in the conflict thesis. Rather than consider the variety of Christian responses – Asa Gray is hardly mentioned, we are given four vignettes of evolutionists losing their university positions, hardly a large number
Chapter 5 is on the first Curriculum war of the Scopes era.
The author first gives an account of events, which almost seem farcical. This undoes some of the myths surrounding Scopes. More importantly the Scopes trial is not seen as purely an anti-evolution crusade but wider than that.
Andrea at the Dayton Courthouse and myself in the dock
There was a moral side and, in a sense, Bryan and others occupied the high moral ground despite their poor science. Part goes back to Kellogg’s visit to the German trenches in 1915, where German militarism was (wrongly?) traced back to Darwin. Bryan’s concern was more moral, which is why he could not accept evolution for humans. Kemp does not mention the anti-evolutionists opposition to eugenics in contrast to many biologists and modernist churchmen. Kemp regards the Scopes affair as not a battle between science and religion but rather between conservative Christians and also sees it as a three-way conflict between fundamentalism, modernism and scepticism (139). This spoils the cardboard cut-outs of Inherit the Wind, but brings out the complexities of Interwar American society. Anti-evolution was only part of it.
Chapter 6 deals with Creationism and ID in the last sixty years, termed the second curriculum war. Much is historical and familiar from Numbers The Creationists. Little is given on the renaissance of Creationism and more on legal aspects on the teaching of evolution as with the repeal of Scopes Laws and the Arkansas judgement of 1982. The narrative moves on to Intelligent Design, which is wrongly seen as going back to Paley. The presentation is very last century with the focus on Johnson, Behe and Dembski. There’s a nod to the Dover trial of 2005, In a long section ofn the development of anti-evolutionist thought the difference between Creation ascience and ID is clarified but on ID focues on Johnson, Behe and Dembski in the 90s and omits later developments and thus gives little on how both Young Earth Creationism and Intelligent Design has evolved in the last fifteen years. Thus little is provided to understand anti-evolution in the twenties.
Ken Ham, possibly the most significant Creationist of the 2020s, gets no mention
In conclusion Kemp emphasises that Scopes was over human evolution, whereas both creationism and ID challenge almost all of evolution and geology as well. He rightly says that the (187) NABT and new Atheists add to confusion by not distinguishing between methodological and metaphysical naturalism. He concludes this ‘war’ is doing damage to religion, as many readers must have discovered
The conclusion begins with a quote from Pope John Paul II on the Galileo myth, which is almost as pervasive. As with Galileo the Warfare Thesis fails on three grounds; it presupposes a clear demarcation between science and religion, assumes that scientists and Christians are neatly arrayed on opposite sides and. Finally, theologians were always opposed to new ideas.
With such distortion the Warfare Thesis is not a good lens to understand the relation of science and religion. ‘The war that never was’ re-surfaces the whole time – whether in churches or without. It thus needs wise engagement rather than dismissal.
As an Anglican priest I am frequently asked by those within and without the church how can I be a geologist and a Christian? Such is the indelibility of this myth.
This is not the easiest book to read, as rather than just give a narrative the author goes beyond a simple science versus religion explanation, and attempts to tease out various factors. As a result, this will help to give a better understanding of The War that never was and why there has been conflict over some aspects of science and some aspects of religion.
On 12th September the controversial Bishop Spong died at the age of 89. I’d known of him for decades and in the 80s he helped at a wedding at a Welsh church where the vicar was a very conservative evangelical, which gave us a smile.
As someone who is fairly conservative and orthodox I have never been partial to Spong with his extreme liberal views almost throwing out every item of the Christian faith for a progressive faith. He is a person whom people either loved or loathed. Spong raises many issues and especially the absurdities of extreme fundamentalism, but throws the baby out with the bathwater. I will not give a general assessment of him but focus on one issue.
That issue is his understanding of Charles Darwin and the effect of his science on the Christian faith. Way back in the 1990s he explained some of the reasons why he rejected “orthodoxy” and much hinged on Darwin. He claimed that until 1859 all Christians believed in a literal Genesis and then with The Origin of Species Darwin torpedoed that making it totally untenable.
Probably most people would agree with Spong on that and it has been the received view among most who consider themselves educated. In his book and TV series of the 1980s The Sea of Faith Don Cupitt came out with same arguments. Many thought it wonderful, but his history had a bit to be desired! A similar view comes out in older church histories and among writers of popular science, including Richard Dawkins.
I never kept the article where I read Spong’s views on Darwin but at some lectures in 2018 he repeated the same line. These were lectures he gave at the Chautauqua Institution and reported in The Chautauquan Daily – their official newspaper.
“On Tuesday in the Hall of Philosophy, Spong explained how Darwinian and Christian values came to divide the Christian faith in his lecture titled, “The Assault of Charles Darwin and Why the Christian Church Retreated before Darwin.” Spong continued Week One’s interfaith theme, “Producing a Living Faith Today?”
Here is what the report said of his lecture, when he dealt with Darwin. It all sounds so familiar
One of the scientists who pushed the status quo was Charles Darwin, who Spong called the second “obsession of the church.”
Darwin began his work in 1831 when he got a job as a naturalist on a five-year survey voyage around the world on the HMS Beagle. It took him 25 years after the trip, but Darwin claimed his place in history when he released the Origin of Species.
The book sold out immediately and raised questions that had previously been debated, but were never analyzed from a perspective like Darwin’s. Christians did not welcome these findings with open arms, Spong said.
“The war was on,” Spong said. “Darwin was now an enemy to the Bible, as the Bible was interpreted literally, and he was an enemy to the church in the way (Darwinism was) interpreted theologically.”
In an attempt to set the record straight, a debate took place in 1860 between Thomas Huxley, a biologist and an avid defender of Darwin’s, and Samuel Wilberforce, the bishop of Oxford and an advocate of biblical literalism. Wilberforce resorted to ridicule and at one point asked Huxley which side of his family was descended from apes. Wilberforce won the debate, but Spong said it was not enough to earn him a lasting legacy.
“Sam Wilberforce was hailed as a hero, but what’s interesting is that heroes don’t last forever,” he said. “He was very popular in his lifetime, but his reputation has faded.”
After the debate, Darwin’s theories made their way into the bloodstream of western civilization. At first, evolution was taught in small, private settings, but as it began to gain momentum in 1910, the Christian Church decided to tackle the issue head on.
A group of Presbyterian divines proposed a series of pamphlets on the fundamentals of the Christian faith. Once the project received funding, more than 500,000 were sent out each week. As time went on, the pamphlets became more popular, and by the 1920s, every church in the world was divided over being classified as fundamental or modernist.
“You can’t force truth into popularity,” Spong said. “Darwin seemed to have the truth, and after a while, these fundamentals of the Christian faith did not seem fundamentalistic after all.”
The Presbyterian leaders published five fundamentals all Christians were required to believe in order to identify as Christian. Among them were the ideas that the Scriptures are the infallible word of God and human beings are created perfect but fell into sin. Spong said those fundamentals were too similar to the myths of the religion to survive.
“They were so absurd, no one in the academic world would give them credibility,” he said.
The problem facing modernists, on the other hand, was that they knew too much to be fundamentalists, but did not know how to be Christian, Spong said.
“That is reflected in the world today,” he said. “The major mainline Christian churches are all in a frantic of political decline. The fundamentalistic churches are strong, but they are also declining. The world is catching up, and fundamentalism is not a viable option any longer.”
The fall of these ideals caused a rise in Darwin’s ideals. At that time in history, there was no longer a medical school in the western world without a foundation built upon Darwinian principles, and hardly a science department in the United States that was not embracing evolution. That was until the public school system implemented “creation science,” Spong said, designed to be a fair alternative to Darwinism. Although creation science is not taught in public schools anymore, Spong reminded the audience it was not that long ago that former President George W. Bush endorsed it.
“Bush wanted people to be fair, to have a chance to voice an opinion,” Spong said. “He thought you could decide by majority vote what truth is. It doesn’t work that way.”
After Bush’s endorsement, the U.S. Supreme Court declared creation science unconstitutional.
“By virtue of its own strength and integrity, Darwin became stronger and stronger,” Spong said. “There is hardly an educated person in the western world who does not accept Darwin’s point of view as truth.”
Spong asked why Christians fought so hard when they knew they were wrong. The answer, once again, was Darwin.
“There was something about Darwin that challenged not just the Christian story, but the way in which we told that story,” he said. “Darwin said there was ‘no perfect creation,’ but the church said we were ‘created perfect and then all fell into sin.’ You can’t fall into sin if you are not perfect to start with.”
Spong acknowledged how difficult it can be to accept the similarities humans have with the apes, but in a time where millennials check “none” for their chosen denomination more than the rest of the other options combined, he believes the dialogue has to continue between Darwinism and Christianity in order for the faith to survive.
“I think we have a wonderful faith,” he said. “Not the only faith, but a wonderful faith. And we have to work hard to make it live in our generation, and I think we can.”
[Clearly this is an account of what Spong said and not his actual words. However from what I’d previously read what Spong himself wrote on Darwin, it seems to be an accurate and trustworthy account. Thus as I have no reason to doubt its authenticity I shall treat as Spong’s views of 2018, which are similar to those he held two decades earlier.]
On the surface this seems reasonable and historically accurate both with regards to Darwin’s life and work and the effect on the Christian church.
But it is not!
As he started in 1831 he could have mentioned that Darwin receieved the letter inviting him to join the Beagle after a few weeks geologising in Wales with the Reverend Professor Adam Sedgwick of Cambridge.
Rev Adam Sedgwick, father of the Cambrian system. Susan Darwin had a crush on him.
Sedgwick was one of the great Anglican clergy-geologists. He was one of the most significant geologists to elucidate the Lower Palaeozoic and Devonian from 1831-1845. But, horror of horrors, he was also an evangelical. Now what was an evangelical doing as a professor of geology and doing fundamental work. Like most evangelicals of his day i.e. before 1859, he had no problems with geological time and did not see it as destroying his faith. He was very scathing about those who rejected geology and tried to insist on a literal Genesis. Here deal with some of his spats, which are quite funny too.
It’s a pity Spong did not know about Sedgwick and his many Christian geologists! And so he dug a bigger hole;
“The war was on,” Spong said. “Darwin was now an enemy to the Bible, as the Bible was interpreted literally, and he was an enemy to the church in the way (Darwinism was) interpreted theologically.”
My question to Spong is simple. Who in the churches interpreted the Bible literally? For 40 years I have tried to find some examples and beyond slave-holders in the Southern States and other nuts, I am still wandering around in the wilderness looking for one.
Quite simply, virtually no Christians with a modicum of education in the 1860s took Genesis 1 literally and denied geological time. I think that is slam dunk against Spong. I’ll now go slam dunker and gently point out that Samuel Wilberforce was not a biblical literalist.
Bishop soapy Sam Wilberforce
He was a competent amateur scientist and while at Oriel College , Oxford in the 1820s he went to William Buckland’s geology lectures for three years running. (The attendance records are in the Oxford museum. From my brief study of it, he was the only one who went every year.)
Buckland checking out glacial Striae at Rhyd Ddu in Snowdonia 1842. Buckland introduced ideas of an Ice Age to Britain
Rev William Buckland giving a geological lecture at Oxford
His review of the Origin in the Quarterly Review is competent scientifically and is similar to what most scientists would have written in 1860. Wilberforce was no literalist and no fool, but was a rather soapy bishop! Spong could have mentioned Christians who accepted Darwin from 1859 including the evangelical Rev H B Tristram, Charles Kinsgley and others. Read this for the British scene from 1859
Spong next dealt with The Fundamentals of 1910 “At first, evolution was taught in small, private settings, but as it began to gain momentum in 1910, the Christian Church decided to tackle the issue head on. A group of Presbyterian divines proposed a series of pamphlets on the fundamentals of the Christian faith.” Really! Head on? Many may know the series of brown paperback booklets called The Fundamentals. So much for taking Darwin/Evolution head on. One or two articles did, but most which dealt with Darwin or Genesis at least accepted geological time and in the case of James Orr, evolution as well. Spong simply had not doen his homework and was woefully inaccurate. So much for saying, “They were so absurd, no one in the academic world would give them credibility,” In fact many had academic credibility from competent conservative scholars, but some were not. Spong cannot have studied the background or content of these leaflets. If anyone was absurd it was Spong!
He continued “Darwin said there was ‘no perfect creation,’ but the church said we were ‘created perfect and then all fell into sin.” When did the church say that? Some fundamentalists did, and still do, say that but they are not the church but just a small part!
He ought to have known that humans ARE apes, and thus have similarities with all the other apes. A lack of biological knowledge here.
So what should we say about Spong’s encounter with Darwin?
Most obvious is that he has adopted a popular and extreme form of the Conflict Thesis of science and religion and out- whites White. To claim that the church was literalist in 1859 is simply completely and utterly false. Just to take the Anglican church, the vast majority of clergy had accepted geological time, and thus a non-literal Genesis way before 1859. In fact a higher proportion of Church of England clergy in 2021 are literalist than in 1860.
The best that can be said is that his confirmation bias to buttress his understanding of Christianity is to assume what he claims. This is simply not scholarly and is a very shoddy way of presenting an argument. Sadly others like Don Cupitt have done the same but he did (mis)quite contemporary authors! I agree with Spong on how awful Young Earth Creationism is in every way, but we need to ensure that what he say about others is accurate. He does not.
In 1998 Spong nailed his 12 Theses to the internet and Rowan Williams dismembered the lot with simplicity and clarity.
Williams exposes the shoddiness and wrongness of all his arguments both theological and ethical. I don’t need to repeat Rowan’s arguments.
On the positive side Spong is good at raising questions and especially those which come as a result of being swept up in fundamentalism. But he is not so good at understanding and tilts at the non-existent strawmen of ultra-fundamentalism and includes all the mainline orthodox in his tilting. His dealings with Darwin are just that. His ideas may resonate with those escaping from fundamentalism, but for the rest of us (who often have serious questions about our faith) he provides nothing of merit and an easy target for a hatchet job.
What Bishop Spong gives is not a new and progressive Christianity for a the 21st Century but an incoherent and muddled rejection of the faith. Sadly some would disagree with me and Rowan Williams!!
Many people around the world looked on aghast as they witnessed the harm done by conspiracy theories such as QAnon and the myth of the stolen US election that led to the attack on the US Capitol Building on January 6. Yet while these ideas will no doubt fade in time, there is arguably a much more enduring conspiracy theory that also pervades America in the form…
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