Category Archives: evolution

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





Some philosophy of science behind all the geology

Are the principles of geology justified? Some think all claims of vast ages and geological time are speculaltive.


This blog by Paul Bratermann looks at the issues.

It is interesting he consulted three “God-botherer” geologists!!


Unconformity in the Grand Canyon

Source: 3quarksdaily: In praise of fallibility: why science needs philosophy

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

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

Southgate on The Groaning of Creation

In his blog Anthony Smith discusses Christopher Southgate’s book The Groaning of Creation and raises several questions.

Southgate like many Green Christians today puts much weight on Romans 8 vs19-22

The Groaning of Creation

Smith comments


The great turning point of history, for Southgate, between the evolutionary ‘groaning’ of creation and its eschatological hope, is the Cross of Christ. The Cross is ‘the moment of God’s taking ultimate responsibility for the pain of creation’ and, with the Resurrection, the Cross also serves ‘to inaugurate the transformation of creation’ (p. 16).

What, then, is the role of humanity? We are now able to participate with God, to a small extent, in the ‘healing of the evolutionary process’ (p. 16). God subjected the creation to the frustration of the evolutionary process, in hope that the creation’s groaning might bring humanity into existence, so that humanity, redeemed by Christ, might share with Christ in bringing about the liberation of the whole creation (see Romans 8:19-22). Considering the evolutionary process to have served its purpose, Southgate writes, ‘I regard this as the eschatological phase of history, in which humans should be looking to their own liberation and to the relief of creation’s groaning’ (p. 126).

What does this mean in practice? The example Southgate gives is the role humanity should seek to play in protecting species from extinction, whether that extinction would be through human actions, or by ‘natural’ causes. In this ‘penultimate’ phase of history, such actions would serve as a sign of the future hope for the whole creation.

This argument for the groaning of creation and its redemption in Romans 8 is commonly held today by Christians and may almost be the Green Orthodoxy.

Its validity turns on the translation from the Greek of Romans 8 vs 20 τῇ γὰρ ματαιότητι ἡ κτίσις ὑπετάγη, οὐχ ἑκοῦσα ἀλλὰ διὰ τὸν ὑποτάξαντα, ἐφ’ ἑλπίδι

and especially the first clause

τῇ γὰρ ματαιότητι ἡ κτίσις ὑπετάγη,

This is normally translated “For the creation was subject to vanity/futility”

Here lies the problem. The word for creation here is ktisis which can mean either the whole of the natural world or simply humanity.  The word translated vanity/futility is mataiotes, which, with cognates occurs 14 times in the New Testament and in every other instance refers to the flaws of humanity, with echoes back to the “vanity of vanities” of Ecclesiastes

now for Rom 8 vs22  οἴδαμεν γὰρ ὅτι πᾶσα ἡ κτίσις συστενάζει καὶ συνωδίνει ἄχρι τοῦ νῦν , which is in the NRSV “We know that the whole creation has bean groaning with labour pains until now” Now sustenazw means to groan together and sunwdinw normally means the suffering of childbirth. Again, the question is whether ktisis is humanity or the whole universe.

Almost all commentators today argue, or usually simply affirm without argument, that ktisis is the universe, but many scholars in the past argued that it was humanity, notably Lightfoot in the 1650s and William Buckland in 1838

Ulitmately translation of these verses turns on the meanings of ktisis, mataiotes and phthora (decay).

Southgates’s argument and possibly the whole book turns on ktisis being creation as universe. If this is not the case then his thesis fails. At best it is one of two possible translation, but it cannot be seen as THE ONLY translation. Thus we cannot say with him;

God subjected the creation to the frustration of the evolutionary process, in hope that the creation’s groaning might bring humanity into existence, so that humanity, redeemed by Christ, might share with Christ in bringing about the liberation of the whole creation (see Romans 8:19-22).

However much this reading of Romans 8 may chime in with environmental ideas today, it cannot be seen as an adequate dealing of the text and does not recognise the variety of ways in which key words in this passage are used.

Hence his book cannot be seen as an answer or solution to God, evolution and the problem of evil.

Here is my earlier blog which is being revised



The Groaning of Creation: God, Evolution, and the Problem of Evil | Anthony Smith

This is a blog by an ordinand at Cranmer Hall Durham, which exposes the issues of suffering , evolution and the Bible by considering Romans 8vs 19-22. This understanding is common among green Christians, but I have my reservations as in this older blog



I’m going to be engaging this term with Christopher Southgate’s wide-ranging book, The Groaning of Creation. Here I attempt to summarise the book.

Source: The Groaning of Creation: God, Evolution, and the Problem of Evil | Anthony Smith

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.



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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.