Category Archives: Darwin et al

Darwin, especially his geology and implications for faith

Evangelicals and Science; The Rise of Creationism 1961 -2007, Chapter 7

By 1961 the issue of anti-evolution had apparently receded and left in the wilds of Dayton, Tennessee

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but then came back with a vengeance with the publication of The Genesis Flood by Henry Morris and John Whitcomb.

And so we have all animals on the ark, including (baby) dinosaurs.

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Slowly and surely like a heavily laden WWII bomber it took off and created havoc among evangelicals, first in the USA and then around the world.

Ken Ham is now the leader with his Creation Museum which has cameos of humans living with dinosaurs!!

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The core work is The Genesis Flood published in 1961, written by Morris, a hydraulic engineer and Whitcomb an Old Testament bible college teacher.

Image result for henry morrisImage result for j c whitcomb

Evangelicals were slow to review it but here is the best of the critical reviews

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2020/01/03/the-genesis-flood-a-revue-in-1969of-the-creationist-pot-boiler/

I attempt to give a history, an exposition and criticism of the content of YEC and then a bit on Intelligent Design. Here is a blog on the Church of England and Creationism.

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2014/02/27/the-church-of-england-and-creationism/

However it is not the only evangelical understanding of science as chapter 8 will show. But now open this link for a brief account of Creationism from 1961

Chapter 7; The Rise of Creationism

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Evangelicals and Science – post-Darwinian evangelicals – part 6 of 12

Well, moving on in time.

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Darwin’s statue in Shrewsbury, blessed by Bishop of Shrewsbury in 1896

Here we have Evangelicals and science after Darwin published The Origin of species.

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Soapy Sam on the right

I’m sure many will expect a whole of crypto-creationists but there were none – except in the wastes of the Mid-West.

The concerns are less evolution than biblical criticism, human antiquity and loss of faith.

At the time no one thought Ellen White was significant, but she gave birth to Young Earth Creationism.

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This little critter is a serious theological problem!!

Now read the chapter!!

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Darwin’s doubts about design and his retriever, Asa Gray

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.

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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.

Charles Darwin, tree-of-Life sketch from notebook B, 1837. Reproduced... |  Download Scientific Diagram

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.

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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

William Paley - Wikipedia

http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?itemID=A142&pageseq=1&viewtype=text

He began with a rhetorical argument for design;

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.

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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!

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2016/03/18/4239/

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

Asa Gray: American Botanist, Friend of Darwin: Amazon.co.uk: Dupree, A.  Hunter: 9780801837418: Books

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

Abstract

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

Charles Hodge: Guardian of American Orthodoxy: Amazon.co.uk: Gutjahr, Paul  C.: 9780199895526: Books

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.

That’s enough, so try my paper.

Click to access serve_pdf_free.php

Link to paper

https://www.scienceandchristianbelief.org/serve_pdf_free.php?filename=SCB+9-2+Roberts.pdf

Darwin’s first attempt at geology – Llanymynech

After leaving Cambridge in early 1831 Charles Darwin returned to his home – The Mount – in Shrewsbury

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 

http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?pageseq=1&itemID=CUL-DAR5.B1-B4&viewtype=side

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.

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View looking ovber Breiden Hills

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viewpoint with details for trail and on Darwin

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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To read more, open up for my paper in the Brit Jour of the History of Science

Darwin at Llanymynech

Peter Worsley has corrected some of my conclusions on the mudcracks!

http://www.emgs.org.uk/files/publications/19(3)_contents.pdf

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

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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 

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2020/07/03/just-before-the-beagle-darwin-in-wales-1831/

 

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Darwin on Design, Doubt and suffering

Darwin is reckoned to have killed design ,

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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.

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Last autumn I found that Tortoiseshell butterflies were being caihght in spiders’ webs and then packaged to be eaten later.

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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

 

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Just before the Beagle, Darwin in Wales, 1831

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.

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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,

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which I describe in this paper along with Cwm Idwal

Darwin at Llanymynech

Darwin at Llanym

Also that July he took some local maps of Shropshire by John Baugh, traced then tried to make a geological map.

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Both south of Shrewsbury and at Ness he found New Red Sandstone – Permotrias.

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I ..coloured a map 

A paper on Darwin’s attempts of geological mapping around Shrewsbury, published in Archives of natural History  1999

Coloured a map

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.

Open and read

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Darwin wanted to get home for some shooting and left Sedgwick near Bangor.After Darwin left Sedgwick he went to Cwm Idwal ,

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And Sedgwick’s sketch of Devil’s Kitchen drawn a few weeks later.

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then onto Plas y Brenin at Capel Curig, climbed Moel siabod and walked south to Barmouth

Darwin’s route as a mountain expedition, written for a mountain magazine

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And now more scholarly!!

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.

Darwin’s Dogleg

This from Archives of Natural History describes the route Darwin took from Capel Curig to Barmouth

Darwin’s dog-leg

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And so after a few days with his mates he went home and found the famous letter!

Six months later he carried out his first geology on the voyage at Cape Verde and here I refer to Paul Pearson.

‘Marks of extreme violence’: Charles Darwin’s geological observations at St Jago (São Tiago), Cape Verde islands

P. N. Pearson and C. J. Nicholas

Abstract

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.

https://sp.lyellcollection.org/content/287/1/239/tab-figures-data

And so Darwin went round the world studying the geology.

His last geological trip was to look for glaciation in Shropshire and Wales culminating in Snowdonia in 1842 as this paper on William buckland in 1841 and Darwin in 1842 shows.

BucklandDarwinWalesIce

Lying for Jesus by lying about Darwin on slavery and racism

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.

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https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/what-your-biology-teacher-didnt-tell-you-about-charles-darwin/

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.

Devaluation of Humans

Darwin didn’t hide his view that his evolutionary thinking applied to human races as well as to animal species. The full title of his seminal 1859 book was On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life. He followed up more explicitly in The Descent of Man, where he spelled out his racial theory:

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.

Enabling Genocide

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.

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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.

https://biologos.org/articles/did-darwin-promote-genocide

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.

[A review of a book on Darwin and slavery http://friendsofdarwin.com/reviews/desmond-moore-sacred/  }

But was Darwin a racist?

YES, YES, YES according to all woke anti-racists. He was a typically evil Victorian full of white privilege and a condescending attitudes to the poorer classes and inferior races.

NO, NO, NO, when judged fairly by moral standards and the standards of his day.

no, no, no when judged by the standards of today.

I am amused by this comment from Moore ;

The full title of his seminal 1859 book was On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life.

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

COVID-19,Good Friday and the Death of Christ.

Why did a loving God allow the Coronavirus?

Is this actually true?

The Christian story is of a broken and rebellious creation that is awaiting the renewal of all things.

 

cor1

 

Little did we think when we heard the reports from China in January 2020 that within two months virtually the whole world would be in lock-down. I shall not deal with all the medical and scientific issues. But what about issues raised for Christians?

How should a Christian think about such a pandemic? Yes, there have been many in the course of history and the worst in Britain and other countries was the Black Death in the 14th century.

A pandemic raises such questions like;

Why did God allow it?

How can God be good?

Which are all variants trying to understand the WHY of suffering.

Most attempts consider what is called Natural Evil and for long I have wondered whether that is both a misnomer and misunderstands the nature of the universe, or the way the world is. One who has taken it head on is Justin Brierly of Premier Christian Radio in a recent blog. I think his alternative understandings are most unsatisfactory.

https://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/Why-doesn-t-God-stop-Coronavirus-and-mend-the-world?fbclid=IwAR3GbGZtQthH_e0F9pbOlvXgojbbrE3h-W8lXRb7TP6BJWRVk0MuR5r3tQ8

The question of God and suffering is one of the oldest questions ever asked and there are no easy answers. Most often the response needed for those who are walking through suffering is our love and care, not our clever theology and philosophy. However, when the time comes for intellectual answers, I believe there are some helpful way to make sense of suffering.

Justin is right on here. There are no easy answers and I wonder if there is ananswer. He is right to say those suffering need love not theology, clever or not. Some are most unclever. As he continues Justin offers some theology, which is focussed on Romans 8 vs 19ff.

The Groaning of Creation

But when it comes to Coronavirus we may be tempted to ask: Why has God allowed death, disease and natural disaster to exist at all? We may be able to understand the existence of evil caused by our own free will, but what about the ‘natural evil’ that exists in the world? This question can only be answered by a Christian from within his or her own worldview, and means we must expand our perspective to a cosmic scale.

This is the Fundamental question which is almost impossible to answer – I keep failing on it.

 

Out of Kilter?

The apostle Paul states that “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:22). The Christian story is that the whole created order is in some sense ‘out of kilter’ at a cosmic level. Some theologians trace this to human rebellion – an outworking of ‘the fall’ which acts both forwards and backwards in time. Others point to the existence of an earlier rebellion in the angelic realm that sparked a ‘cosmic fall’ (hinted at in Revelation 12:9).

This is dangerous pinning a certain idea on a few verses, especially as they have long been open to different understandings. There are questions on the translation here, but I’ll leave that. What does it means for the whole creation to be groaning?

Is Creation out of kilter?

Is it actually true that creation is ‘out of kilter’ at a cosmic level.”? Here he seeks to answer

Why has God allowed death, disease and natural disaster to exist at all? We may be able to understand the existence of evil caused by our own free will, but what about the ‘natural evil’ that exists in the world?

Justin does not consider that fact that death and natural disaster i.e volcanoes, earthquakes and floods, were there from the beginning of this planet’s history. Further, if he is right that the creation is “out of kilter”, when was the creation knocked out of kilter? We need to ask

 “When?”

“in what ways “

 “and in what ways was it out of kilter a billion years ago, when there were no humans?”

I never had a sense the created order is “out of kilter” whether in my geological work or as I look around me or when I cycle or walk in the countryside. That is not to say humans are not trying to put creation out of kilter, but that is totally different

What Justin is claiming that a Fall, whether of humans in the Garden of Eden or of an angelic Fall, has put the whole cosmos out of kilter. This is not what either Genesis 3 or Rev 12 vs9 state. It is reading into it. It probably has more to do with Milton’s Paradise Lost than the Bible.

I am fully aware that many theologians have argued for one or the other to get God off the hook for suffering, but succeed in attaching God more firmly to the hook, and making Him an ogre. To afflict the cosmos with a Curse because of the misdemeanours of Adam and Eve seems cruel to everyone and everything else.

He claims; “Whatever the origin, the result is a world that is not as it should be.” I have to ask in what ways is the world not as it should be.

If you mean the physical world, nothing has changed in geological time. The physical laws have not changed. Volcanoes are still erupting four billion years on. Yes, I’ve looked at volcanic rocks one or two billion years old. Viruses also keep attaching themselves to other living things as they did billions of years ago, and at times kill their hosts.

However human behaviour is totally out of kilter and often damages the natural world. I suspect the Coronavirus would have stayed in bats if humans had not mistreated them.

 Yet Paul includes the promise that one day “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).

What does Justin glean from this?

Everybody has experienced living in the tension of this broken world. The groaning of creation brings both good and bad across our path. The natural laws that operate are both a blessing and a curse. Tectonic plate activity renews the surface of the earth with minerals, yet wreaks havoc when humans build cities on the fault lines. Cell replication allows our bodies to grow and develop, yet can result in cancer when natural processes misfire. Death is a necessary part of the cycle of life, yet still remains our “last enemy” (1 Corinthians 15:26).

Who says this is a broken world? It is as it has always been. The movement of tectonic plates is just normal and has been going on for billions of years, causing earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis.

Why does Justin not accept this?

The Coronavirus is just one more example of the broken world we live in. Life is a God-given miracle of extraordinary engineering and complexity. Yet the physical process of life itself are subject to viruses, parasites, and disease. The “bondage to decay” that St Paul speaks of reverberates through the cosmos.

This is rather high-flown with an appeal to the bondage of decay from Paul. It sounds impressive but what does it mean?

By creating a world of free creatures – both physical and spiritual – God has granted a level of freedom to the whole of the created order. That means that God won’t simply step in and wave a magic wand to take away the suffering in the world. We are part of the problem of evil, and God has chosen us to be part of the solution too.

Where does Justin think the other part of the problem of evil comes from?

Throughout the New Testament we are presented with a worldview of spiritual warfare in which God has chosen his people to be fellow combatants waging a war, not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual “principalities [and] powers” (Ephesians 6:12) through our prayer, love and action.

How on earth (literally) does Justin see spiritual warfare in plate tectonics?

God hates Coronavirus

I have increasingly seen that this ‘warfare’ view of reality may help those who have experienced great suffering to understand that God is not the author of their pain. One such person is Jessica Kelley, whom I interviewed about the loss of her four-year-old son Henry to brain cancer as related in her book Lord Willing?.  …….Jessica had come to reject what she terms the ‘blueprint’ view of a God who creates pain and suffering as part of his sovereign plan. Instead she embraced the warfare view, that we live in a world where natural disasters, disease and evil are tied up not only with the choices of human beings but with the freedom exercised by spiritual forces in rebellion against God. Although the war was decisively turned towards victory through the death and resurrection of Jesus, there still remains a world of running spiritual battles.  …….. Henry was a casualty in the ongoing battle to redeem a fallen and broken world:……………..

Jessica’s perspective can equally be turned to this present Coronavirus pandemic. God did not will this crisis. Let’s not lay the blame at his door. But he is working through the actions and prayers of those who are seeking to see his Kingdom come on earth.

It is hard to comment on this owing to Jessica’s tragic loss of a child, which I have not had to go through, but to argue “Instead she embraced the warfare view, that we live in a world where natural disasters, disease and evil are tied up not only with the choices of human beings but with the freedom exercised by spiritual forces in rebellion against God.” It is very dubious to tie up what he calls natural disasters i.e. volcanoes etc with spiritual warfare..

Are volcanoes, earthquakes, floods caused by spiritual forces in rebellion against God” There is nothing in the bible to support that and is very Manichaean.

Alternative views

Nevertheless, Jessica’s view is controversial to some. Many would object that a God who isn’t in control of the whole show isn’t the God of the Bible.

Why should we ever believe that God is control down to the last detail? It sounds great but it is not true to experience, though many of us experience a general guidance at times, but not at others. Did God really was in control when you twisted your ankle while out on a walk?

Some e.g. Thomas Oard rightly argue that God does not “interfere with and control” his creation, as in his book The Uncontrolling love of God. He extends the idea from Phillipians 2 of Jesus Christ emptying himself to God emptying himself in creation and often letting things be.

 Calvinist theologians believe that God is the author of both joy and sorrow and, even though we may struggle to see it, works through both for his ultimate purposes and glory. They say the warfare view contains too much of the same sort of randomness in suffering that the atheist must contend with. 

For me, I end up with a certain agnosticism in respect of God’s control but the warfare view is both Manichean and tries to divide creation into good (flowers etc) and evil (volcanoes) and makes Christians see everything as warfare and conflict.

Inevitably, different Christians will come to different understandings of how to reconcile God and suffering. What we can agree on is that God is good, suffering is bad, but that his love and purposes will win out in the end.

Yes, but that does not mean we should tolerate what can only be called extreme views – as is the warfare view, or that popular view of the Curse. What we need to agree on is that God is good, even when things are going badly and don’t make sense. That is found in Romans 8 especially the conclusion

Justin states;

The Christian story is of a broken and rebellious creation that is awaiting the renewal of all things.

This is simply not biblical. Just considering the Bible, there is nothing to support “a broken and rebellious Creation”. It is a variation of the Curse mythology which reckons God screwed up a supposedly “perfect “ creation because of Adam and Eve. The Christian Story IS of a broken humanity who are also stuffing up the rest of creation, but only on this planet but not beyond the Solar System, if that. In what ways are meteors, distant stars and planets “broken and rebellious”? Or even birds and bees and even bats and pangolins? Or, dare I say, viruses? The story starts there with humans stuffing up the earth and culminates with Jesus Christ who “unscrews” humanity and reconciles them (2 Cor 5)

If, and a big if, Justin’s is the Christian story then I wholeheartedly reject it as fanciful and absurd. Further it is not the Christian story held by all Christians over the last 2000 years.

The Christian story in its basics is that humans screwed things up and Jesus thorugh his death and resurrection has shown the way to unscrew it. Forget about warfare with volcanoes, or animal predation.

 How should we see God in the light of the coronavirus?

Above all it is wrong to focus on death and suffering as due to Adam’s misdeeds, and neither of Justin’s alternatives make sense. This is the danger of a self-contained biblical argument and not looking at what we know of the world. Any world view which disregards the science is worthless. If we applied that principle to astronomy we would believe in a flat earth and that seeds actually die before they germinate (1 Cor 15). We need to take note of science and especially the history of the earth and the life therein. Here it is in outline

The Universe was formed 13.4 by years ago with the big Bang (which was put forward by a Christian cosmologist Fr G Le Maitre)

The Earth was formed 4.6 billion years ago and since then its surface has been sundered by plate tectonics. There seemed to be no involvement by naughty angels and it was too early for Adam to cause the eruptions.

Life first formed between 3 and 4 billion years ago. The earliest forms were like bacteria with viruses going piggy-back. Thus from then on bacteria were dying and being infected by viruses. We then have the sequence of life and so to vertebrates, dinosaurs, mammals and lastly humans.

This makes it clear that death disease and suffering were there from the beginning and along with volcanoes. The earth is IN kilter.

So it continues today with volcanoes, earthquakes, animals and people dying.

Every so often the earth is hit with something like the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, which some implied had a human origin, rather than being natural. Some want to regard the bits which are painful as Natural Evil. That is a wrong term as those things are simply – – – NATURAL.

Can you call this evil – natural or not? It is simply life and the way the world is .Any belief system or worldview which does not accept this is flying in the face of facts.

Here we come face to face with problem of suffering, which comes out so starkly in Covid-19. All living things die, often after getting a disease. Even the fossil record shows that. At times it is accompanied with great pain. It is a problem because it is downright ghastly and we feel it should not be that way We try to rationalise it and often by one of the three put forward by Justin. We are unwilling to say it’s purely natural and believers don’t want to say God did it.

It is a dilemma, which we all seek to resolve. Not all find a resolution which supports faith and many conclude that God cannot allow the suffering and if He did then He must be the Devil. This alone should stop us from coming out with slick answers, which may help us but repel others.

Suffering was a great problem for Charles Darwin as I discuss here

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2015/05/06/parasitic-wasps-and-the-death-of-jesus-with-hat-tip-to-darwin/

What should we say as Christians?

Here we turn to the Christian story – the four gospels, which are odd as they give so much on Jesus’s last week on earth, describing in his public execution in gruesome detail.

As Jesus he died, he shrieked;

Eloi eloi, lama sabachthani!

My God. My God, why have you forsaken me?

There was Jesus, the Son of God, suffering an excruciating death. Imagine those fat, rusty nails hammered through your wrist and ankles. Then being suspended making it almost impossible to breath along with the nails tearing your flesh and broken bone.

The centre of the Christian Faith is on the ghastly death of Jesus and his surprising resurrection. Traditionally Christian have viewed the death of Jesus being purely an atonement without considering that in death Jesus shared human suffering.

Is this an answer?

Yes and no

It is not a simplistic answer.

The Old Testament doesn’t give an answer, but a poem/saga about suffering – the book of Job. Job had suffered badly and all his advisors were useless and then he met God, who asked him if he was present at creation (Job 38 -41). Job realised he did not understand and then trusted God. We can do no more, as we don’t understand as suffering gives no logical explanation and there is no logical explanation for suffering. The message was “trust God”.

This where Moltmann’s insights in The Crucified God are so helpful, as we see that the cross is not only forgiveness and reconciliation but also God in Christ entering into all suffering and shrieking “My God, My God. Why have you forsaken me?” That is what we often do when suffering hits us. Suffering points to the cross.

That is as far as we can go. There is nothing wrong in saying our understanding is partial, but it is very wrong to think we have understood suffering.

This raises the question whether suffering can be called Natural Evil as it is not Evil but just Natural. Volcanoes are just the normal activity in the earth’s crust. OK, some suffering is caused by the evil of others, but that should never be called Natural Evil, but just Evil. It’s a bit tough if you are being eaten by lion, drowned in a tsunami, or suffering a disease, but this is the fabric of creation. For the record I put my foot four inches from a sleeping Cape Cobra!

Many Christians are unwilling to accept that suffering and “natural disaster” is written into the structure of the earth, and thus what some call “Natural Evil” is simply natural. Many perform theological contortions and bad exegesis to explain evil and suffering. The temptation is to explain it away by an appeal that suffering came in at the Curse when Adam fell, or some angelic fall, or spiritual warfare. I would argue that not only are they bad/heretical/false theology but are liable to have very bad pastoral effects.

First, it results in a Manichean dualism, where everything natural is split into good and bad. An amusing example of this is that when we were in Yellowstone National Park, some visitors asked Rangers why they didn’t remove the bad animals – presumably grizzlies and wolves!! It is unfortunate if your hiker’s bear bell is found in grizzly scat, but that is not because that grizzly is bad. It is unnerving to hike in Yellowstone. This negativity spreads to those who want to kill every “bad critter”, especially insects. So the insect spray is always handy. Why zap every wasp and squish every beetle?

Secondly, this can have disastrous results on the environment as we purge it of everything bad from dandelions (weeds) to daddy long legs.

Thirdly, it can easily create a judgmentalism with a tendency to regard suffering and illness as the penalty of sin. An example is a minister I knew telling the parents of a boy suffering from cancer, that someone had sinned in the family. And then most clergy often heard people who are ill or suffering asking, “Why is God punishing me?”

It is understandable why some may think these things, but that does not make them right. Just think that menstruation was once called the Curse.

What about the Coronavirus?

As said earlier, viruses are part of the natural order and have existed as long as life itself. They cause a vast number of serious diseases in plants, animals and humans. Though they are not evil in a moral sense, they cause disease to all forms of life. Simply considering humans they cause an immense amount of suffering and death.

However the damage viruses cause is often made worse by human behaviour whether innocent, reckless or due to a lack of care for the natural world. It seems likely this coronavirus entered humans from a bat in a live animal market in China. That trade is perverse and criminally evil to animals. It also provides the right conditions for viruses to jump species.

cor2

 

Thus, we can say that the coronavirus is a mixture of the natural and human evil. Were it not for the latter – both the live animal market and the cover –up – we may never have heard of it.

The wildlife trade is repulsive. Ultimately we have say that it and other ways of trashing the environment are immor and evil.  The coronavirus is just one of many examples. If we hold to an Adamic or Angelic Fall, or “spiritual Warfare” we are in danger of not recognising the human sin behind it. It removes the responsibility away from those who caused it – and that includes all of us who mistreat God’s creation in any way.

Now my answer is not definite or clear-cut as it starts from the fact that volcanoes, suffering and death are totally natural and written into all creation, without a malevolent being, human or spiritual, causing them. And most definitely not a God after the Fall.

This, and the need to look after the environment in myriad ways, deals with the more general aspects, but suffering is on a personal level we must go beyond that. We need effective action not explanations. To do this involves risk and sacrifice, which we see in those who are on the frontline in the health services and other vital services today. We have seen some of them die of Covid-19.

No appeal to spiritual warfare or the Fall of Adam or angels is of any value here – except to give an attitude of spirituality superiority, which is neither Christian nor humanitarian. If Christianity is not humanitarian it is not Christian.

Suffering reduces us to a position of weakness and humility. This is a major theme of both the Old and New Testament, even though it is often sidelined in Christendom and revivalism, which prefers Christ as Lord and King rather than servant. It can be argued that the New Testament refers to Jesus as Lord and Saviour  to subvert the demand in the Roman Empire to see Caesar as Lord. How could an executed felon be Lord and Saviour?

So consider this felon. His teaching was a development of the prophetic side of the Old Testament Law with the emphasis on love of neighbour.  Apart from their worship of a different god to most Romans, this became their mark along with their keenness to care for the less fortunate. This put most expressively in the Letter to Diognetus (late 2nd cent?), “They share their food, but not their wives.” Holland discusses it in his chapter (V) on Charity in his book Dominion.

This love and service to others is self-emptying, or kenotic. It is hinted at in Isaiah with his suffering servant; Chap 42 vs 1-9, and Chap 52 vs13 to53 vs12, which forms the backcloth of the accounts of Jesus’ death.

Suffering is emptying. Paul develops that in his appeal to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ in Philippians 2.vs5-8

4Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.

Yes, I know I left out the resurrection, but my emphasis is on self-emptying love in action here.

His self-emptying is seen finally in the cross and comes out in his putting down of power hungry disciple Mark 10 vs 43-5

43But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

As a result when early Christians after Constantine were not involved in politicking and re-inventing the trappings of the Roman Empire, were in the forefront of caring for those in need. This was manifest during the intermittent plagues and more continually in the foundations of hospices and places to care for the sick.

This is probably where the only “answer” to suffering can be found.

Eloi, eloi, lama sabacthani.

Geologists going round in circles!

It’s fairly common to be out travelling to realise you have gone in a complete circle and ended up where you started. Here are two examples of mine. One evening in the Namib desert I needed to get to the main coast road, which lay due west, as quickly as possible. So I left the road and followed tracks. I used the evening star Jupiter to guide me. However I ended up looping the loop, but finally got to the mainroad – in pitch dark of course. Another was hill-walking in the Great Welsh Desert near Rhayader. There the hills go up to 2000ft and are flatish moorland. Up I went and got into thick mist. I was too lazy or daft to use my compass and suddenly realised I’d looped the loop. Out came the compass and soon I was at the summit of Gorllyn, which few ever climb.

It is a favourite argument of creationists that geologists are going round in circles on their principles of dating

Image result for index fossils circular reasoning

That would mean all the stuff about Cambrian or Eocene and all those telephone number ages are utterly, utterly wrong!

If this be true, then Darwin needs the hat in this photo

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I came across this claim of the geological circular argument when I went to L’Abri. Francis Schaeffer’s son-in-law told me as I was a geologist I should read creationist books starting with The Genesis Flood by Whitcomb and Morris. As I had heard of it , I said it was nonsense which did not go down well!! Well, I read and lots of others and have an excellent library of creationist books.

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Reluctantly, as I was stuck high on a Swiss Alp, I sat down and read The Genesis Flood. It was a hard and frustrating read and at first I found it difficult to contradict. I was angry, as if it were true , then all my geological education and work in the field was based on falsehood.

I wasn’t happy with his discussion on uniformitarianism and catastrophism, but my history of geology  was almost non-existent then. I ground my way through the book and getting crosser and crosser. Then I got to the bottom of p134, where he argued that relative geological age dating was a circular argument assuming the truth of evolution.

He cited a long gone geologist R H Rastall

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I thought , What the…? as I knew neither Morris’ or Rastall’s claims were true.

My reason for that, was that I had worked in a large area of Pre-cambrian sediments in the Richtersveld of South Africa. It was unknown territory as the only previous geologists were Rodgers who went there on a horse in about 1914 and De Villiers and Sohnge who spent several seasons there  in the 40s. (Sohnge was lucky not to meet his end in 1970 when he was a passenger in my LandRover. I was pointing out some geology and drove off the road and down a bank!!)

The Richtersveld was a fantastic remote mountainous desert and hardly anyone lived there. I was out in this every day looking at rocks with temperatures up to 100. The cacti were incredible and snakes were common.

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To over -simplify the geology of the Richersveld was thus;

The oldest rocks, the Kheis, were ancient metamorphic rocks, gneiss etc

Above them the Stinkfontein, a succession of conglomerates and sandstone, with a few lava bands

and at the top was the Numees Tillite, which was a bit below the Nama and other strata which were known to be Cambrian.

Last of all were some plutons, which cut the older rocks and if memory serves me right were dated at about 470-500 my.

Apart from one stromatolite I found there were absolutely no fossils. Since then I found out that a sequence of Ediacara suite of fossils were discovered close by. I often wonder if I walked over them as that would have been life-changing – finding the first Precambrian fossils in Africa!

I ended up  mapping about 1,000 sq mls at 1 in to 1 mile scale and superficially looked at an area three times that size. With some other geologists we popped over north of the Orange River into the Sperrgebiet, which was verboten and carried a heavy fine if caught!

Back to the geology. I had to work out the order of deposition i.e. construct my own geological column of the area. De Villiers and Sohnge reckoned the Stinkfontein were equivalent to quartzitic rocks in the Witwatersrand and thus 2 to 2 1/2 billion years old. I  promptly rejected that and reckoned the Stinkfontein were much younger and akin in age to the Torridonian sandstone of the Northern Highlands , thus reducing their age by a mere 1,500,000,000 years.  Over a year or so I worked out this Pre-cambrian geological column from the basal conglomerate of the Stinkfontein up to the glacial Numees Tillite

Image result for numees tillite

Image result for stinkfontein formation richtersveld

 

and loads of stuff in between. I worked out most of the order but had many gaps. I was pleased that a young German geologist, Kroner, who came to the area at the same time, came to the same conclusion after his geological blitzkreig, as opposed to my Tommy-like slow infantry slog!! Essentially my column is roughly what is the accepted one for the Richtersveld today, but foolishly I never wrote it up for publication.

Most days I went up one valley  and over the top and returned down another valley. Often there was the same succession in both valleys. I slowly pieced the geology together. By the end of the day I’d usually run out of water and got thirsty. Often I saw a bright green patch in the dry valley. I knew it was water, but half the time it was brackish! When I got back I drank a glass of water supersaturated in salt!

In all I was there a bit over a year.

Here is a recent column from 2011, some 40 years later. Like me, they had no fossils to help them but they never went round in a circle.In fact it shows that both Kroner and I got some things wrong – and Kroner and I disagreed in 1970! I’ve only just found this and it was fascinating to see what I got right and what I didn’t.

Image result for precambrian strata richtersveld

As I looked at some of the recent papers I could see how the whole understanding of the geology and especially the historical order of strata i.e. a Geological Column of the Richtersveld had been developed in the last 100 years.

I wonder how many Creationists can explain that diagram. It obviously needs to be read with whole chapter!

The developing story is rather like the working out of the Welsh Cambrian  Ordovician and Silurian and the Devonian of Devon and Cornwall from 1831 to 1850.

So with my Richtersveld experience in mind I knew Morris was utterly wrong.

I had devised a Geological Column of a vast thickness of strata covering a few thousand square miles and two billion years.

So without a fossil, how did I do it.

It was essentially the Principle of superposition , where in a heap the stuff at the bottom got there first i.e. the oldest, and the stuff on top the last, i.e the newest. This principle was put forward by Steno (later a Bishop)  in the 1660s and is as obvious (from gravity) as it is essential in geology. Bricklayers don’t start with bricks at roof level but at the bottom!  You are right to say they start at the bottom , unless there clues they did not.

To understand how it worked out, take this Cross-section and put the numbered rocks (either strata or igneous 2,3) in order of emplacement

 

Now do it if all were laid down in the Flood.

 

There was a lot of geological work all over Europe in the 18th century with glimmerings of putting strata in historical order  and we got the terms of Primary  (oldest) Secondary and Tertiary. They also realised that the earth was ancient – whether they were Christian, desit or indifferent.

In about 1780 Rev Prof John Michell* of Cambridge, who did pioneering work on earthquakes wrote a friend, but did not publish, an order of strata. Here it is with modern names on the RHS ;

Chalk                                                                                          Cretacaeous

Golt (Gault)

Sand of Bedfordshire

Northampton and Portland Lime                                        Jurassic

Lyas (Lias)strata

Sand Newark                                                                            Triassic

Red Clay of Tuxford

Sherwood forest  pebbles and Gravel                               Permian

White sand

Roche Abbey and Brotherton limes

Coal strata of Yorks                                                               Carboniferous

Michell had got it essentially right. It was based on a coach trip from Cambridge to Yorkshire. You could probably retrace his route today within a mile or two.

Then in the 1790s William Smith around Bath and Cuvier around Paris did careful work and often used fossils as markers as some fossils are only found in certain strata. Cuvier was a superb anatomist so had a great understanding of what creature the fossil was from. Smith was a canal engineer and no anatomist and identified fossils from memory rather than anatomy.

This shows how index fossil are used. The trilobite in A is good as it is not found elsewhere, so if strata have that trilobite , you know its age. The spiral shell – turritella – is less useful as it’s found all over the place. Using fossils like this was and is empirical and not from “theory” as you need to know what layers a fossil is found in so you can use it.

Image result for index fossils

In the 1790s as he began his work Smith thought the earth was 6000 years old, but his mentors – local vicars Richardson* and Townsend *- persuaded him the earth was ancient!! However questions of the age did not affect Smith’s order of strata which he worked out as he travelled England and Wales. He seems to have used a mixture of Steno’s superposition and index fossils .

However evolution was anathema to both Cuvier and Smith.

and so Smith worked out the order of English strata, which si essentially the same as today’s understanding

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Smith  drew a cross section from Snowdon in Wales right across to London, with the oldest on the left (He called what is now Cambrian and Ordovician Killas). Anyone familiar with British geology will identify the various coloured “bands” and give them a modern name. BTW in 1963 after climbing Snowdon I cycled home to just south of London and followed almost the route of the cross-section. It took about 5 days and was 300 miles but I climbed Cadair Idris en route. In the middle is a hill by Cheltenham (yellow – Jurassic), which is Birdlip Hill and very steep!!

 

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Image result for william smith strata

And so in 1815 Smith produced his maps and knew nothing about evolution. I have a copy of it – but a reprint. Its accuracy amazes me.

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Sadly publishing the map bankrupt poor Smith and he ended up in a debtor’s jail.

Here is a more recent one from the British Geological Survey.

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There was much to do after Smith’s map! Briefly; from 1831 Sedgwick* and Murchison (who pinched Tom Lewis*’s ideas) sorted out the killas i.e. the Cambrian to Silurian, first in Wales and later further north. Sedgwick and Murchison fell out big way! Sedgwick was the good guy!

In the early 1840s several geologists sorted out the complex Devonian in Devon and Cornwall.

From 1830 Lyell worked out the Tertiary strata which he called Eocene, Miocene and Pliocene at the suggestion of Whewell*.

Mortenson and AIG allege that Deep Time is atheistic. In the paragraphs above all Anglican Clergy are marked with  * – several were Evangelical. So much for there atheism.

Thus well before Darwin published The Origin of species  in 1859 the Geological Column was elucidated without even a whiff of EVOLUTION. Creationists often call it the Evolutionary Uniformitarian Column, but as Sedgwick et all were old earth creationists and catastrophists it should be called the Catastrophic , Creationist Column!

In 1860 Richard Owen, who opposed Darwin included this geological column in a book. All done with no evolution and this no circular argument.

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This shows how geological dating was worked out without evolution.

Here’s a modern column with humour.

(Michell’s column went from 66my to 323my.)

column+temp

Henry Morris was just plain wrong.

His weakness was a very poor grasp of both the history of geology and geological methods. Sadly some practising geologists, like Rastall, were also confused! Many scientists are good at their science but not at explaining their methods.

 

Perhaps I didn’t fall for Morris’s inexactitudes as I had worked in the Precambrian, dating rocks without any fossils. I never liked fossils at university so that is why I chose mining rather than oil!

Henry Morris’s misrepresentation has been refuted many times but is usually ignored

Here is one by Prof Van der Fliert in 1969

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2020/01/03/the-genesis-flood-a-revue-in-1969of-the-creationist-pot-boiler/

And it’s still put about as by his son John, who has a Ph.D. in engineering geology

The son won’t correct it

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Lesser creationists like Kent Hovind spits it out in his lecture and then his acolytes think it’s true.

This comes from one of his standard lectures

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Even today people fall for and use the meme incessantly on social media.

One would have thought that after 60 years of being corrected this whopper would be dropped , but it is still going strong

I am often told I should believe Exodus 20 vs11, but my response is that Creationists  should obey Exod 20 vs 16.

Below are some photos of Carboniferous Bowland Shales

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Two superb unconformities, one in the Black Hills and the other unknown!

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Darwin’s geology; An Ordovician syncline in wales

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Dipping Silurian shales/slates with an arkosic band

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What do interlocking ‘coincidences’ say about the reliability of the NT? | Psephizo

I get fed up with those who say the Bible has no historical reliability.  I am not one who says it is an infallible source of history, especially the Old Testament.

Here Lydia McGrew is interviewed about her arguments for the reliability of the Gospels (and I’d add Acts) from the “coincidences” or minor details which are almost asides. This is discussed in her book Hidden in Plain View. and  The Mirror or the Mask. (available Amazon)

 

I was intrigued to see that some ideas came from William Paley’s Horae Paulinae, which Darwin read while at Cambridge. (He did not read Natural Theology (my copy is 1804 so is 5 years older than Darwin) for many years but that is another story.) Darwin was very taken with Paley’s  Evidences of Christianity, which I have in a battered copy from 1841, by which time Darwin had moved from the Christian Faith. Darwin even wondered about discovering more little evidences to support the reliability of the NT while at Cambridge, but that faded from his view!.

That’s enough from me , so read the interview.

I probably need to read the book, and to my list of unread books!!

On a personal note I met both Lydia and Tim McGrew in Wisconsin at an Intelligent Design conference, when I gave a paper considering ideas from Paley’s Natural Theology  in relation to geology.

Perhaps there is more to pursue on Paley and the New Testament.

 

 

Source: What do interlocking ‘coincidences’ say about the reliability of the NT? | Psephizo