Category Archives: Darwin et al

Darwin, especially his geology and implications for faith

Darwin’s 1831 geology trip to Wales

Immediately before sailing on the Beagle in 1831, Charles Darwin went on a geological fieldtrip to North Wales with Adam Sedgwick


Here is David Bressan’s rendering of my map on a victorian geological map


And here is my article on the trip





Charles Darwin birthday weekend 2018

The flags were out for Charles Darwin this weekend as it was his 209th birthday.f


I was lucky to be there and went to some old haunts.

My first call where Darwin was baptised soon after he was born. This was not the font, fossiliferous though it is.




Next stop was the Unitarian Church where his family often worshipped






It goes back to 1662 when it was a Presbyterian church, which went ~Unitarian. Coleridge preached there as a brass below the hatchment records. Howver later, he became an Anglican and described Unitarianism as ” a feather bed to catch a falling Christian.” I agree!!


There several plaques, one to Darwin and another to a Unitarian businessman and amateur geologist, John Eddowes Bowman, who visited Snowdonia in June 1842 to see whether there was glaciation. He said no but soon both Rev William buckland and Charles Darwin said there was.




One minister was George Case ,who ran a school. Darwin went there before going to shrewsbury School


Dr Case’s school.


Inbetween studying at Edinburgh and Cambridge, Darwin got friendly with FannY Mostyn Owen and they sent letters signed “housemaid” or “postilion”. Fanny married Robert Myddelton biddulph of Chirk Castle in early 1831, and lived in the castle.


In the 1840s Pugin was hired to improve the castle. Among other things he designed at least two fireplaces.


One on side is FMB – Fanny Myddleton Biddulph


And the other RMB – Robert Myddleton Biddulph




Just after Darwin sailed on the Beagle, Fanny and Robert met at the Queen’s Head (where we had lunch today) and then rode to Woodhouse where Robert asked William Mostyn Own for fanny’s hand in marriage. William grudgingly gave it.

Back to science. I July 1831 Darwin tried to teach himself geology, before Sedgwick came to take him round Wales.

He went to an old quarry in Shrewsbury, where there is a recently planted wood.  There he found a volute shell and showed it to Sedgwick a few weeks later. Sedgwick dismissed it by saying it had been “thrown away by someone”. Actually after Darwin returned there in 1838 he realised it was glacial drift and thus the “someone2 who threw away the shell was an ice sheet who picked up the shell way up in the desolate north – probably the North Sea and dumped it there as he got too hot!




There’s an erratic – the Bellstone – at the Morris Hall which baffled all in the 1820s until glaciation explained all.



In July 1831 Darwin tried to make a geological map and coloured it in a bit and marked 4 sites ABCD . Here is one of New Red Sandstone (Permo-triass) just by Nobold! Nearby,he recorded Coal Measures as there were a series of bell pits.




and so to Wenlock Edge which Darwin visited in 1838 after returning from Glen Roy , where he made his biggest geological blunder on the Parallel Roads

He visited a quarry of Ordovician limestone. It survives though overgrown with at least one limekiln.


Much is bedded limestone








But there is some reef limestone as in this photo.


Having visited so many coral reefs in the Indian Ocean  – the subject of his first book – he planned to make an extensive study of all the fossil coral reefs in Britain. He had his eye on many from the Carboniferous.

However illness soon put paid to energetic field geology and so he pottered around Downe House, first with his barnacles and then wrote “The Origin of species”

That is another story

Creationist Ken Ham accused of child abuse

Poor Ken. He gets his own medicine and is accused of child abuse.

Image result for ken ham image

Fair enough. He deceives so many with his creationist falsehoods and tries to convince Christians young and old, they can’t be proper Christians if they don’t beleive god created the world 6000 years ago.

I heard him once and he shouted done any who dared question him.

Not a nice guy

Answers magazine, Oct-Dec 2014 issue

via Creationist Ken Ham Freaks Out After Being Called Out For Child Abuse

How to deal with (Victorian) Creationists and win!

For the last fifty years Young Earth Creationism has been thriving and growing , first in the USA and then throughout the world. It has been opposed by many scientists and the wiser of Christians. At times some Christians have been too reticent.

And so the likes of Henry Morris and Ken Ham have called too many shots over recent years.

Image result for ken ham image

I wonder if Christians today shouldn’t have been as forthright as Sedgwick and Buckland.

During the early 19th century a handful in Britain argued against the geologists with their vastly extended timescales. There has been no full-scale treatment of them , though the Answers in Genesis resident “Historian of Geology” did a Ph D on the “scriptural geologists” and published a eulogy – sorry book – on them The Great Turning Point. He seems to think they were wonderful scientists!

I have only managed to find forty to fifty who went into print and they all tried to rubbish the geologists and insist the earth was young.  Many were Anglican clergy, most notably the Dean of York , William Cockburn , whose activities you can read in my link at he end. As the early 19th century was the time of the Reverend Geologists like Rev. William Buckland from Oxford and


Rev. Adam Sedgwick from Cambridge,


who took it upon themselves to take on these scriptural geologists.

Both Buckland and Sedgwick were brilliant geologists, who made great geological contributions. Buckland was the first to describe a Jurassic mammal and introduced notions of the Ice Age to Britain. Sedgwick made a massive , if not leading contribution to the works out of the Cambrian, Ordovician Silurian and Devonian periods. Sedgwick also taught Darwin geology and took him on a Welsh field trip in 1831.



I have researched Buckland on the Ice Age and Sedgwick in Wales and never fail to be amazed their geological skill. This resulted in much walking over the Welsh mountains in all weather conditions. My most energetic day was a trek over the Carneddau covering 18 miles and over 6,000ft of climbing.

Sedgwick wrote A discourse on the studies of the university in 1833 in the middle of his Welsh explorations. An Anglican cleric Henry Cole took Sedgwick to task, but Sedgwick rightfully shredded him. Then in 1844 he got the same treatment from Dean Cockburn of York Minster. I think Cockburn gets the prize for being the stupidest dean ever, though there are some competitors! I won’t say whom.

Here’s the memorial plaque to Sedgwick in Dent Church


And now read the paper to see how silly Cole and Cockburn were!!


From:K O ¨ LBL-EBERT, M. (ed.) Geology and Religion: A History of Harmony and Hostility. The Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 310, 155–170. DOI: 10.1144/SP310.18 0305-8719/09/$15.00 # The Geological Society of London 2009.

Follow this link


A Short History of Design


In the last quarter of a century Design has come back into vogue with Intelligent Design, following the work of Dembski, Behe and others . Intelligent Design has failed to gain many followers but some conservative Christians still think it a better alternative than either Young Earth Creationism or Theistic Evolution.

Rather than focus on the oft-repeated and valid criticisms I shall consider the history of design since about 1660 and show that Intelligent Design has no roots in William Paley and his classic argument of two hundred years ago.

This is a paper I gave in 2006 to a Christians in Science conference


Above is the Megatherium which Buckland thought exemplified design in 1832


History of design1

God’s Creation and the Environment

Why Belief in Creation is important

Not many decades ago the doctrine of creation was almost ignored within the churches , but today things have changed and creation is to the fore.
The first chapter of Genesis speaks of creation in six days. Some get bogged down and think that is what Christians actually believe.


But 1600 years ago St Augustine had got it right!


Then in the Nicene Creed we say, “We believe in one God, …,maker of heaven and earth”. After four hundred years of modern science we need to accept the vast age of the earth and evolution.

Anything else is “alternative fact”.


Our Christian faith does not tell us what our science should be, but rather how we should see the natural world, how to use it and recognise its originator.
So how should we treat the natural world? There has often been careless exploitation, resulting in gross pollution. At the other extreme some want hug every tree and view nature so mystically that they can scarcely use it. (But they do!)
Let’s put it under three heads;

1.Worship God as Creator.

We must always see that God is creator and that his Glory is seen in nature. Now we see it in frosts and bursting snowdrops. We need to develop this so we see the Creator both in the smallest things, like dew on a spider’s web, and in the awesome like mountains in snow. It is something we can do daily.



024DSCF8789 (1)

These photos show some of the beauty of the British countryside and the ones below are from my garden and a churchyard



There is always something to find, if you look

O all ye green things of the earth, bless ye the Lord

2 Use creation, i.e. the earth’s resources, wisely.

To live, we need food, materials whether grown or extracted, and, unless we wish to return to poverty, we use a lot. Our energy is from fossil fuels and will be for decades despite some claims. The metals we use are dug out of the ground, smelted and cause pollution. Farming takes over tracts of land thus reducing wilderness. Without these we would either starve or die young. This is something some Greens do not want to grasp.

However human activity does cause environmental dame as with this opencast coal mine and drainage of peat in the Pennines for grouse shooting which allows 10ft of peat to blow away and be a factor in floods. This old trig pillar was on a level with the peat 100 yrs ago but erosion meant it was 10 ft in the air. It was knocked over for safety



I could discuss this at length, but we need to find a way of enabling all people to live comfortably, control pollution and environmental damage and , above all, find ways of restoring areas damaged by mining, industry or land usage. Today we can see the effects with loss of wildlife and biodiversity, increased flooding (in the river Wyre basin where I live, it may well be due to peat damage and tree loss rather than climate change), pollution from all sources and climate change.
The solution is global, governmental and personal. Personal actions are vital whether turning lights off, growing plants to attract wildlife and many other things.

3. Think of others.

We may live in a comfortable environment with greenspaces, wildlife and creature comforts, but many in our world do not. Parts of our cities lack green spaces and suffer from air pollution. Many parts of the world have dirty water, limited food and energy and are grossly polluted. The pollution of the Ganges is our concern as well. Do we care? and why should we care?

Part of this we see in the mandate of Genesis 1 vs 28, but this does not take environmental issues into consideration as that was not an issue in 1000BC. It is often interpreted so we should EXPLOIT, rather than CARE, for the earth. It is only in the last 30 years that churches have shown concern for the environment. Before that a minority of individuals did.

We need to start from the Creator and his Creation, and think of the first great commandment “You shall love the Lord your God…” Simplistically that means if we love God we will love what he has made, i.e. the whole of his creation.

And the Second is like”You shall love your neighbour as yourself” and that means we will want others to have their share of creation and not wreck it. Thus environmental concerns also stem from the second commandment.

Taking the two commandments together, we are obliged to love and care for the creation
To sum up, if we love God our Creator and love our neighbour we will also love God’s creation.

The third great commandment should be
“Thou shalt love God’s creation, because…….


I have deliberately left out dealing with particular green issues as my focus is on a Christian understanding of the creation and thus the environment. As soon as we get to specifics there is controversy. Part of that can be selective or biased information, a practice carried out both by environmentalists and others, epitomised by the tobacco lobby.

This is a very simple Christian case for environmentalism and will not please sophisticats, but I suggest it is better for most as a starting point.

Finally, no environmental understanding can be had without taking all scientific issues into consideration and so St Augustine’s strictures from 400AD still apply to us as we want to clean up and nurture our planet.


Cursed Christmas Carols; Mohler’s moanings



One of my favourite Christmas Carols or hymns is Joy to the World, with words by Isaac Watts and a tune by the heavyweight composer G F Handel.
In fact it is hardly a Christmas Carol and is based on Psalm 98

O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.
2 The Lord has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.
4 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
5 Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody.
6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.
7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it.
8 Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy
9 at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.

When you compare the hymn with the psalm, it is clear that Watts dealt with the words very freely, but has made the psalm into a superb creation hymn with an implicit, but no more than implicit, reference to Jesus Christ. I wonder whether it is more suitable for the Creation Season than Christmas, but I will still use it for Christmas!!

Verse 1
Joy to the world! The Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.
Verse 2
Joy to the earth! The Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

Verse 4
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Recently I read an interesting blog by Albert Mohler on the hymn. Mohler is a Southern Baptist who has shoved the Southern Baptists in a more reactionary direction in the last decade. I am no fan of his, but follow him as he is significant in the USA. He is also a young earther, which does not draw me to him. His recent blog on 8/12/17 caught my attention as he discusses the much-omitted third verse of this hymn. Here it is;

Verse 3
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

I winced as I read this, with its way of reading Genesis 3 with a CURSE afflicting the whole of Creation. I’ve written on this before and especially the influence of John Milton from Paradise Lost;


Mohler is very much in the tradition of Milton! His blog is found here and included at the end
Mohler takes the typical 6-day creationist view of the Fall as historical, with Adam’s fruit-eating resulting in god cursing the whole of creation, causing thistles and predation! He then stresses that Jesus’s death on the cross not only gives redemption to humans but also reverses the effects of the curse. (not that I can see that when the local cats eat our birds or I struggle with thistles.) Many YECs use their belief in a CURSE as why they must reject all science which demonstrates an ancient earth and evolution. After all, there can be no curse if T Rex munched other dinosaurs.

There are many problems with the so-called CURSE. Why would a loving god inflict all this “suffering” on animals who had never met humans, like Smilodon or even canivorous dinosaurs and trilobites?

Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis would totally agree over the CURSE

Of course, Mohler would collapse 4,560,000, 000 years into Ussher’s 2021 years, with creation in a mere 144 hours. More than that, however “literally” we read Genesis 3 it does not actually teach a CURSE as the language of Genesis 3 vs 14-18 is to elusive and poetical to conclude such a firm and harsh conclusion. I also reckon that it is a totally unsuitable reading for the first lesson of the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols. I would replace it with Ecclesiastes 4 vs 1-6.
Mohler then writes,

“Where is the curse found? Everywhere we look, we see the curse and its malignant effects. How far does it extend? To every atom and molecule of creation — from coast to coast, shore to shore, sky to sky, and to every square inch of the planet. That’s how far the curse is found.”

I am trying to visualise how all chemical reactions are CURSED and wonder how the CURSE afflicts the outermost reaches of the universe.
All in all, by emphasising a CURSE Mohler makes everything about Jesus Christ more incredible and rather bizarre, where Jesus seems to have been born in Bethlehem to correct the naughtiness of a pair of prehistoric scrumpers, rather than sorting out the folly and moral stupidity of the human race giving both a new and living hope and a guide for life, far better than any other way. Thus we think of Jesus Christ when we sing;

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

But I couldn’t possibly sing verse 3.

Think with me about verse three of the hymn, in which we read,
“No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground. He comes to make his blessings flow, far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found.”
The reversal of the curse is promised in the coming of the Messiah and the fulfillment of his atoning work. Implicit in this third verse is the promise of the new creation. We live in light of that promise, even as we look back to Bethlehem and as we celebrate Christmas.
But look carefully at the reference to the curse. Christ’s victory over sin is declared to extend “far as the curse is found.” What curse? How far does it extend? Where is it found?
We find the curse in Genesis, chapter 3. After Eve has eaten of the forbidden tree, and then Adam also ate, and after they found themselves facing God in the reality of their sin, God first cursed the serpent:
The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Then, God cursed the woman:
To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.”
Then came to curse to Adam, and through Adam to all humanity:
And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
By Adam, our federal head, the curse of sin came upon all humanity. We are dust, who must return to the dust, for the wages of sin is death. All creation is under the effects of the curse. “Cursed is the ground because of you,” Adam is told.
The curse is God’s righteous judgment of sin, and the effect of the curse is death. The curse has fallen upon all human beings, first because of Adam’s sin and then because of our own. In Adam, we all sinned. In Adam, we all died.
Where is the curse found? Everywhere we look, we see the curse and its malignant effects. How far does it extend? To every atom and molecule of creation — from coast to coast, shore to shore, sky to sky, and to every square inch of the planet. That’s how far the curse is found.
Most importantly, every single human being is found under this curse. “For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
So, how can we sing about joy to the world?
Look with me to Galatians 3:10-14:
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
Here is the gospel of Christ, the good news. But first, the bad news. All who rely on works of the law are under a curse. All humanity is born under this curse, and under the law. The congregation that originally received Paul’s letter would have understood immediately where Paul grounded his argument, in Deuteronomy 27 and 28. At the end of the series of curses God delivered from Mount Nebo, we find the most comprehensive of all: “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” [Paul in Galatians 3:10, citing Deuteronomy 27:26]
We are born under the curse, we are cursed by the curse, and the law offers no escape. We cannot work our way from under the curse.
So where is the good news? Where is joy to the world? Look at verses 13 and 14.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. What we sinners could not and cannot do for ourselves, Christ has done for us. He removes the curse and the power of the law to condemn us.
How? He redeemed us from the curse by becoming a curse for us. The sinless Son of God became incarnate as the Word became flesh and dwelled among us. That sinless Son of God became sin for us, in order that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). He became a curse for us, by hanging on a tree, in fulfillment of Scripture.