Category Archives: evolution

Why does Creation Groan? Or does it?

Recently the American Evangelical magazine, Christianity Today, led with an Article

Why does creation groan?

The author John Schneider was a professor at Calvin College in the USA but left because of his views of Adam and Eve. They are close to mine.

Over recent years John has aplied his mind to a vital, and often ignored, issue about living things. Why if God is so good is there animal suffering? On this he published a book Animal Suffering and the Darwinian Problem of Evil, (Cambridge University Press (26 Mar. 2020)

Animal Suffering and the Darwinian Problem of Evil eBook : Schneider, John  R.: Books

It deals with the nasty aspects of life not found in the hymn All things bright and beautiful  as this cartoon shows!


I am sure if John or I made up an additional verse it would cause more upset than the one about “the rich man in his castle”!!

The question partly  comes about due to the discoveries of science about the history of life in the last 350 years, as from 1660 to 1800 it became apparent from geological studies that the earth was ancient and many millions of years old. Before 1800 it was known that life also went back millions of years old but in the 1790s the fact of extinction became evident – that is some living forms existed millions of years ago but not today. Dinosaurs are the most well-known example. However the problem of suffering is still a serious problem for those who think the earth is only a few thousand years old – as it is for everyone.

John gives the example of predation and disease in Creataceous creatures of 100 million years ago, to which we can add 500 million year old trilobite fossils have been found with teeth marks from a predator. One life form usually feeds off another, though not all are as blatant as Darwin’s wasps – the ichneumon flies..

And so Tennyson gave us the expression”nature red in tooth and claw” but contrary to popular (and scholarly opinion) he was considering the works of William Buckland, the geologist, and not Charles Darwin. Yes, animals seem to spend their lives tearing each other to bits or being torn to bits. That’s when they are not having sex!

That creates a moral question and if God is the creator of all life (whether by fizz-bang creation or through a slow oozing evolution) there is a question about his moral rectitude for creating such a bloody universe. John is forcing the question of whether a God, supposed or otherwise, who created with such suffering among creatures can be considered to have any goodness. Many ask that question when suffering hits them, either for themselves or a loved one.

Some would say his ideas are flawed because he accepts the fact that the earth is ancient and that living forms have been living and dying on this planet for a few billion years. Neither he nor anyone else can do any other  because, despite the nay-saying of Creationists, the earth IS ancient. Even so, to claim that God put a Curse of suffering on all life because of Adam’s sin raises moral questions about the goodness of god.

All this raises the classic questions of theodicy, the goodness of God and why there is suffering

This question was less challenging in the 17th century when most thought the earth was young and chronologists like Scaliger and Ussher  thought that creation occured in about 3000 to 5000 BC and all was created in six 24 hour days, so death before the Fall was irrelevant, as Adam went scrumping a matter of hours after they were created. This is the “Traditional View” but I must give a caveat. A good number of scholars were more flexible, some allowing more time for Creation by God first creating “chaos” and then later re-ordering it some time later. This was common among many savants at the end of the 17th century: Thomas Burnett is just one example.

However the “trad view” was immortalised by John Milton and Paradise Lost became the default view of many in succeeding years. The opening words of Paradise Lost show how Adam’s sin caused suffering.

“Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit

Of that forbidden fruit, whose mortal taste

Brought death into the world, and all our woe“.

and later

Beast now with beast gan war, and fowl with fowl,

And fish with fish; to graze the herb all leaving,

Devoured each other. P.Lost X 710-12

This moulded the ideas of many, scholarly and non-scholarly for several centuries, so Bishop Colenso could say in 1863 “We groan under the burden of Milton’s mythology.” That was true then and is still true today.

The “trad” view began to be eroded a few years after Ussher published his Annales with creation is 4004BC, as geologists with their picks and hammers started studying the strata. This began in the 1660s with Nils Steno, titular bishop of Titopolis and then many others in the next centuries. By 1800 there was no doubt that the earth was ancient and most educated Christians, clergy or not, accepted geology. In the 1780s James Hutton knew that many clergy accepted geological time and that makes an interesting story. That meant that they implicitly accepted that there had been death, disease and suffering in the animal world long before humans walked this earth. More and more theologians considered the implications of geological time but others e.g. Thomas Scott and Charles Simeon, simply ignored geology! Many others were happy to accept geological time , even “stretching Genesis like an elastic band”  but didn’t consider suffering.

One who did was the geologist Rev William Buckland of Oxford who regarded predation as a good thing removing old and decrepit animals quickly. However he did not consider the predation of the young. He addressed the issue more theologically in a sermon given at St Mary’s Church, Oxford in 1839

As Buckland and others were not phased by anmal suffering another geologist was. Or at least he started as a geologist but illness confined him to home so turned to biology. This was the intended Anglican parson Charles Darwin. He was also affected over the death of his father and of his daughter, Annie, at eleven. Charles Darwin was concerned about animal suffering and his concern over the parasitic ichneumon fly is notorious asking how a beneficient God could make such a creature. Ichneumons are now named Darwin’s wasps in honour of him.  I think Darwin raised all the issues over suffering and it prevented full-blown theism for him. My own understanding of suffering has benefited from considering his concerns and my conclusion will be where I am now.

So soon after the publication of The Origin of Species in 1859, Darwin laid out the (his) problems of animal suffering in relation to God in a letter to the Christian botanist Asa Gray. However most Christians dealing with theodicy tend to sidestep the issue.

In his book The Problem of Pain C. S. Lewis tries to minimise the pain of animal suffering. Others have gone down the same route, but I wonder if they have witness an animal in pain. These are not only mammals as I found when I found an injured frog shrieking with pain. I cannot buy into this minimising of suffering. However I have to state that Lewis’s book Mere Christianity was instrumental in convincing me of the Christian Faith a few weeks before I obtained a degree in geology.

I find it significant that most leading Christians on science and faith are not geologists or biologists. A physical scientist does not deal with death and suffering in their work; no dead fossils, no earthquakes killing animals and people, no predation etc. Hence suffering is often sidestepped by Christians seeking to present their faith as reasonable for a scientist. One may say there is almost a conspiracy of silence.

One group take suffering head on and they are the Young Earth Creationists. To them creation took place a few thousand years ago and there was no death or suffering until the Fall of Adam and Eve, when God put a Curse on creation introducing death and suffering as a punishment. Its strength is that it seems very reasonable and true to Scripture, but it does make God seem a bit of an ogre and also means that one must reject all of science.

So now we come to John Schneider. No one can accuse him of not taking the issue head on!!!! He notes the ghastly reality of suffering whether for humans or animals. As he rightly wrote the death of an aged dog is awful. Death and suffering in the natural world seems so wrong. For us it is more so. Without saying so he dismisses the Creationist explanation, which is interesting in an evangelical publication. He totally accepts the scientific picture of an ancient earth with evolving life from soon afterwards. Not that any other position makes any sense. And, of course, he is a Christian and is trying to understand all suffering in the light of Jesus Christ. On this we  are totally at one and where we disagree it may be that we both are like blindfolded people trying to cross a mine field.

His Christianity Today article Why does Creation groan? raises many questions and, hopefully, will result in constructive discussion.

I want to consider three points;

  1. The idea of the Creator as a cosmic artist
  2. his use of Romans 9 and the potter
  3. the groaning of creation in Romans 8

Two biblical sources can help to resolve apparent conflict between the Christian story of redemption and the story of species. First, the apostle Paul’s famous discourse on divine election in Romans 9–11 is unexpectedly useful. Interpreters rarely notice that the discussion on election follows immediately after Paul’s imagery of the whole creation “groaning” in labor pains, longing to be rescued from evil (8:18–23). Surely violent predation, disorder, and death among animals are part of the picture Paul has in mind.


To justify God’s action morally, Paul adopts an aesthetic explanation. He presents God first as an artisan, a potter, fashioning an unusual vessel (9:21–23), and then as an arborist, who is pruning and grafting together a tree that will be greater in glory than any tree has ever been (11:11–24).

Paul implies that this strange messianic artistry reaches all the way back to God’s seemingly arbitrary election of Jacob and rejection of his older brother, Esau (9:6–13). The morally enigmatic style, then, according to Paul, is nothing new.

Paul explains further, however, that Israel’s “hardening” is temporary. After the Gentiles have been grafted onto the “tree” that God is cultivating, God will restore the original “root,” the Jews. Paul concludes this very long discourse with this rousing resolution: “God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone” (11:32, NLT). In that way, to paraphrase Chisholm, the evils of divine election are gloriously defeated for all concerned.

This is a stunning statement. It seems that Paul envisioned the entire history of creation and redemption as a work of art, in which God has deliberately included evils in order to defeat them by means of mercy that unifies and vindicates the finished messianic whole.

Further, it is a short step back to Paul’s earlier vision of the whole creation “groaning” in great pain, not hopelessly, but in the forward-looking way of a woman giving birth (Rom. 8:22). In this vision of the future for nature—and for animals—the evil is not just ended or outweighed by the outcome but is defeated in universal, cosmic fashion. In both outcomes together—redemption of the human and nonhuman realms—the great goodness of the outcome could not be as good, true, and beautiful as it is going to be without defeat of the apparent evils involved in its creation.

Before relating this point more directly to Christianity and Darwinism, let us consider a second canonical source of support for this distinctly Jewish and Christian aesthetic approach to evils.

So to consider John’s points;

  1. The Cosmic Artist.  In many ways this is a lovely antropomorphic picture and so much better than mechanistic creation beloved by Deists in the 18th century, whereby god sort of fiddled around with details like a mechanic rather than giving a broad brush approach which a Cosmic Artist does. But I am one who does not find visual ideas like that very helpful. For me I can see the wonder of creation but the creator seems to be hiding out of sight. But his results are fantastic – however He did it!  Here are some sundew and Snowdon in the early morning.                                                 


  2. The potter in Romans 9. I find this the most inscrutable part of Paul’s letter to the Romans. I probably see Paul’s picture of the potter as saying that there are many things we don’t understand and just have to accept them, just as a rejected pot might want to moan at the potter! John’s argument that  “God has deliberately included evils in order to defeat them by means of mercy that unifies and vindicates the finished messianic whole.” goes beyond what Paul is saying in Romans 9 vs 19ff, and I don’t think that it is a valid interpretation. Here John is being too fanciful and although it has an appeal to feelings I cannot accept it.
  3. Romans 8 and the Groaning of Creation. During this century this has become a popular interpretation of Romans 8 vs 19- 22 and is commonly used in eco-theology in all its forms. I have just discovered that a similar view was put forward by G D Yarnold, a priest-physicist in his book The moving Image (1965). Yarnold happens to be my uncle and studied physics alongside my mother in 1930. But I remember him telling me there was no need to learn Greek to be a vicar, but I ignored him!

Its appeal lies in the awareness of all the environmental degradation around us, from pollute air and water, loss of biodiversity, increased emissions. as we think of the extinction of soecies, grossly polluted rivers, choking smogs and lots of other nasties, it is a good anthropomorphism to say Creation is groaning. Further many do not see the seriousness of any aspect of environmental degradation, which is seen both in individual and corporate actions.

We should note this quotation from Aldo Leopold, the great environmentalist from Wisconsin. (if you haven’t read his a Sand County Almanac, then you must.) If you are not sure, just consider what replacing all your garden/yard with plastic grass and hard surfaces does to wildlife.


There is a major problem with this interpretation as, though “creation groaning” has a good feel about environmental degradation, it is rather forcing the words to say something Paul never said or meant. I am quite sure Paul never thought of environmental problems beyond stinking sewers in Rome. As well as that, we may sense that creation is groaning around us. I “groan” when I see another front garden/yard laid down to plastic grass or gravel when there were lawns, flowers shrubs and trees before. Or when road verges are mown removing all the wild flowers. Or when trees are cut down for no good reason. The list is endless. But then I ask, “How is Pluto or Sirius groaning?”

As with any biblical passage we need to ask what the author meant and not just put our own interpretation on it. Another verse which is now used to justify environmental action is John 3 vs 16  “God so loved the world”. From that some argue we too should love the world and care for creation. But, wait a minute! The word “world” – Greek kosmos is used by John in different ways. It CAN mean creation i.e. the created universe, but here and in many other places John does not use it that way, but to signify the human population opposerd to God. That is what we often find in John.

Thus we ought to consider the choice of words in Romans 8 vs 19-23 and what they mean in that context. First we need to asks what the word translated as creation – ktisis – actually means. The almost complete consensus of scholars today is that it means creation, as in the created cosmos, but very few consider that ktisis has multiple meanings. It can mean all creation, a new Christian  – new creation ” Cor 5 vs17, humanity as opposed to all creation as in Mark 16 vs15 and Colosians 1 vs23. With reference to Romans 8  Arndt and Gingrich (latest edition F W Danker)  in the standard lexicon emphasise “The meaning. of ktisis is in dispute inRo 8:19–22,” having mentioned that in col 1 vs 23 and Mark 16 vs15 ktisis means humankind. The word is used in various ways in both the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers.

Historically, at least since 1650 scholars have been divided over the meaning. However after 1860 most have favoured Creation, and very rarely explain why they chose that option. I don’t have space to give my historical survey. Just a s taster is how Luther and Calvin disagree. Of all the commentaries Luther’s is the most intriguing. He says for vs 19 ktisis is the cosmos, and then for verse 20 ktisis is man in his vanity “Most exegetes take the term “creature” in this passage to mean man, because he has a share in everything created. But it is better to understand man through the word “vanity,” as it says expressly and very rightly in Ps. 39:5: “Surely every man living is altogether vanity.” For it is certainly true that, if man, the old man, were not, there would be no vanity”. Thus instead of the cosmos being subjected to futility, humans are stuck in their “vanity” – see below on matiotes. Luther is not only the most intriguing, but also the most profound. However Calvin on Romans 8 uses ktisis to mean cosmos throughout.

Verse 22 says “all ktisis has been groaning in labor pains” and verse 20 says “the ktisis was subjected to futility, not of its own will but the one  (i.e. God) who subjected it..”

Many commentaries which opt for creation rather than humankind see in this a reference to the Fall and the Curse eg Sanday and Headlem’s classic commentary of 1900. (I doubt if these scholars believed in a Historical Fall and almost certainly accepted evolution). And in the more recent one of James Dunn among others. If that is correct then if we follow Paul we must hold that before Adam fell there was no death or suffering among re-human living forms.

N. T. Wright wrote more fully, and rather oddly, in Evil and the Justice of God. P116-7

Creation, writes Paul, has been subjected to futility (Romans 8.20). Don’t we know it: the tree reaches its full fruitfulness and then becomes bleak and bare. Summer reaches its height and at once the days begin to shorten. Human lives, full of promise and beauty, laughter and love, are cut short by illness and death. Creation as we know it bears witness to God’s power and glory (Romans 1:19-20) but also to the present state of futility to which it has been enslaved.

I love the seasons and their changes. These are photos of the Four Seasons taken close to where I live in Lancashire. The mountian for summer and winter is Ingleborough in the Yorkshire Dales. To me this is the joy of the Creator not futility.

DSCF8789 (1)DSCF3617


Wright uses the word “futility” or in Greek mataiotes as in Rom 8 vs 20. In every other occurence in the New Testament mataiotes and cognates is used to describe the human (fallen) condition as it is in the Greek Septuagint, par excellence in Ecclesiastes but also often in the Psalms and in the fourth commandment. If Wright is right then this is the only example that mataiotes is not used to describe human folly in both the New Testament and the Septuagint.

I question this interpretation of Romans 8 as it makes creation to be rotten to the core. Further what does it mean to say creation is groaning being subjected to futility by God? It may appeal to our feelings and emotions as we consider the destruction of the environment. In Britain I can cite the destruction of raptors on moorland, sewage-filled rivers, the removal of trees in the centre of Plymouth and many other examples. But what is the “groaning of creation” on the planet Neptune  or distant stars and galaxies, which humans have never visited?

It may be an appealing interpretation but it is not grounded in good biblical interpretation. Further it is not right to make a “big” theological argument or doctrine from one verse, especially where there are acknowledged questions of meaning.

I admit that most New Testament scholars since about 1850 say  (often without presenting any case – for or against) that ktisis throughout Romans 8 vs 18- 23 means the total creation. My own survey on the use of ktisis is that before 1860 a small majority favoured creation as the meaning, but some significant scholars did not starting with John Lightfoot in 1659. Lightfoot thought any idea of creation groaning was meaningless! With his date of Creation of 3929BC he makes Ussher seem like an old earther!

As one considers the New Testament Writings and the Apostolic Fathers one finds that ktisis has various meaning according to the context and can mean either Creation of everything of humanity. Thus Romans 1, it is used of the ACT of creation of the cosmos (vs 19) and the worship of a Creature (vs 25). Mark 16 vs 15 and Col 1 vs 23 ktisis means humanity – unless you preach to bugs and boulders! The use in Col 1 vs 15 could mean either humanity or creation. I am dealing with this in detail for a conference this year so this is a very brief summary. This five year old blog is an earlier attempt, which I have now improved and given a historical background.

John Schneider has given much to ponder and has faced up to the fact of an ancient earth with life, and thus death,disease and suffering, going back billions of years. Very often the issue of suffering is evaded but not by John! He has faced it head on. Any theological view which doesn’t accept suffering for billions of years is simply wrong, wrong, wrong. This cannot be said too strongly.

The challenge is to find a satisfactory explanation. I have never found one which satisfies me and flounder when I attempt to do so.

Ultimately I consider suffering as an unsolvable problem and one we can only feel towards in the light of the cross. Any understanding of suffering must accept that death and suffering have been part of the natural world for billions of years and are thus written into creation.

If, and that is a big if, creation is groaning and in labour pains (and perhaps the tectonically resless earth with all life facing death chimes in with this) (verse 22) then, according to Paul, that is becouse “creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it (verse 20) which if ktisis means the whole of creation points to the change at the Fall. This has the corollary that there was no death before this “subjection” – Fall and thus Young Earth Creationists are correct in their claims.

I freely admit that I cannot explain suffering. I accept it as a fact that suffering has been on this planet at long as life has existed and is written into creation. I feel like Job when God spoke to him out of the whirlwind (Job 38)

38 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Gird up your loins like a man;
I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone
when the morning stars sang together
and all the heavenly beings[a] shouted for joy?

“Or who shut in the sea with doors
when it burst out from the womb,
when I made the clouds its garment
and thick darkness its swaddling band,
10 and prescribed bounds for it,
and set bars and doors,
11 and said, ‘Thus far shall you come and no farther,
and here shall your proud waves be stopped’?

12 “Have you commanded the morning since your days began
and caused the dawn to know its place,

But we can go further than Job as we see the incarnate Son entered into suffering as I explore in this blog. It is all I have and know it goes beyond any evidence or good argument and can offer no more. As Butterfield famously said

Hold on to Christ and for the rest be uncommitted.

and even better

My God, my god, why have you forsaken me?

Now read this which goes from the ichneumon to the cross.

Darwin’s Dog-leg; The Last leg of his 1831 Welsh visit

At Capel Curig I left Sedgwick and went in a straight line by compass and map
across the mountains to Barmouth, never following any track unless it coincided with
my course. I thus came to some strange wild places and enjoyed much this manner of
travelling. I visited Barmouth to see more Cambridge friends who were reading there,
and thence returned to Shrewsbury and to Maer for shooting;” (Darwin and Huxley,
1983: 40).

So wrote Charles Darwin in his Autobiography which he wrote when he was nearly seventy, reminiscing about his geological tour of North Wales in which he joined Adam Sedgwick, geology professor at Cambridge in August 1831. This is repeated ad nauseam and often verbatim in biographies of Darwin as his pre-Beagle life is considered.

They only thing wrong with it is that it is simply not true and though Darwin did walk from Capel Curig to Barmouth, he had left Sedgwick a few days earlier in the vicinity of Bangor and he did not go “in a straight line by compass and map across the mountains to Barmouth, never following any track unless it coincided with my course.” If anyone does believe that Darwin did follow a compass bearing from Capel Curig to Barmouth I shall happily follow that direct route with him  (no woman would be so keen to get a Darwin award) and plod along until he gives up.

This account describes the work I did twenty five years ago while living in North Wales and link to the paper I wrote in Archive of Natural History


During the nineties I obtained copies of all Darwin’s geological notes of Shropshire and North Wales and slowly visited all the sites. I worked out his routes and compared his geological notes with modern understandings. Luckily I did not have time contraints as most researchers would have and combined it with my own exploration of the area. I had an excellent field assistant and companion, Topper, who always accompanied me. Here he is as the top of Cwm Cneifion in the Glyderau when he patiently waited for me to surmount a cornice which he found easy-peasy.


For the first part of his 1831 geological trip to Wales Darwin’s companion also had a dog-collar*, the Rev Prof Adam Sedgwick, one of the greatest geologists of his generation. Darwin was very lucky to be taught by him, even if he was more liable to snap than Topper. Sedgwick gave us the Cambrian and much of the Devonian too. As a devout Christian he had no time for the Creationists of his day and his spat with the creationist Dean Cockburn of York was little more than farce.

  • not actually true as dog-collars came in later in the 19th century!

Read here;


This map traces his route. From 4th  to 19th August Darwin was with Sedgwick, travelling from Shrewsbury and then round Anglesey after a quick visit to Dublin. Account here


The router superimposed on an old geological map


After leaving Sedgqwick near Bangor, Darwin travelled to Ogwen Cottage. I presume he took a coach as what is now Ogwen Cottage was a coaching inn, much needed to change exhausted horses after the pull-up from Bethesda. From there he went round Cwm Idwal on his own – contrary to his Autobiography – and made geological observations which are described in the second part of this paper;



I could go into raptures about Cwm Idwal which I first visited in 1963. I first climbed the peaks round about. It is the place of my first rock climb. Since then I have regularly been up the peaks in all weathers. This is the same view as the above!!


Darwin went round the lake but we may ask how did he get to Plas Y Brenin in Capel Curig. He could have walked along the old road, got a ride or went over the tops of the Glyderau, which are about 1000 metres. That would have been a nice stroll for Darwin!


Cwm Idwal is a great place for bog plants, especially sundew, butterwort and bog asphodel.


This is looking down to Llyn Idwal and Nant Francon from the Glyderau.  That day I was on a field trip with Harvard students. By the lake it was raining and when a speck of blue sky appear Andrew Berry suggested we walked over the tops to Plas y Brenin. The weather simply improved with my best views ever. As we walked over the tops one student told me I was very fast for my age. I was only 61 then! Cheeky blighter!

For comparison, the road walk from Idwal to Plas y Brenin is six miles and would have taken less than two hours. The mountain route is seven miles and would take at least three hours, except for mountain goats. It took us a good three hours, but I slowed the students down!

And so we sped over GlyderFawr and Glyder Fach and then down the ridge to Plas y Brenin. This was a coaching inn and both Darwin and Queen Victoria stayed and both scratched their names on a window!

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The ridge as we dropped down to Plas y Brenin and the lakes.


Plas y Brenin, a Victorian coaching inn


An early morning view of Snowdon from Plas y Brenin looking over the Llynau Mymbyr. As Darwin stayed here many times in the 1820s as well as 1831 and then in 1842, he would have known the view.

Darwin began his route to Barmouth from Plas y Brenin and I describe it in this paper 

Archives of Natural History (1998) 25 (1): 59-73
Darwin’s dog-leg: the last stage of Darwin’s Welsh field trip of 1831

PDF here; Darwinsdogleg1998

Darwin spent two nights at Plas y Brenin. On the first day he climbed Moel Siabod 872 metres and an easy climb from the inn. Then, having left Sedgwick a letter (missing from Cambrdiger University Library) describing his geological findings at Cwm idwal, walked to Barmouth.

Darwin claimed to have followed a compass bearing to Barmouth, which would give a route of 26 miles or 40 km. I think Darwin could have done it in a day but would have been totally knackered for the next few days. The compass route is horrific with very rough terrain and few paths. The first part to the Vale of Ffestiniog is bad enough but to continue over the Rhinogau would be ten times worse. It would involve wading through large heather covered boulders! I suppose it could be done. It is excess of anything I have done in Snowdonia, or anywhwere but then I am lazy. It makes my walk of 20 miles and 6000ft of climbing from Bethesda over all the Glyderau summits and then from Capel Curig to Dolwyddelan, or 18 miles and 6000ft of climbing over the Carneddau seem short strolls! (Both of these took me about ten hours. I was 41 for the Glyderau walk and 53 for the Carneddau.)  To my knowledge nobody has actually followed Darwin’s remembered route! To do so you would be given a Darwin award!!!!

A study of Darwin’s notes gives markers to the route, as he gives notes to various outcrops. Most significant was the outcrop at Carreg y Fran which he described in detail (see paper) and is locality no 7 on the map. It is 6km or 4 miles to the east of his compass route. As his notes are a fair description of the site it is beyond question. I slowly pieced together his route and walked most of it with my assistant, Topper. There was no following of a compass direction with a masochism worthy of Orde Wingate in Ethiopia, but Darwin followed clear tracks from Capel to Dolwyddelan then over the Sarn Helen, past Carreg y Fran to Ffestiniog where he spent the night on 22nd August.

The following day he followed the road south before taking a track over Bwlch Drws Ardudwy  and thence to Barmouth. It was two fairly easy days.


On page 61 of my paper I gave a timeline for August 1831, which I made in 1997 before I had realised than Darwin had accompanied Sedgwick around Anglesey. Hence I had Darwin staying in Barmouth for eleven nights. On realising he went round Anglesey I revised the dates with Darwin visiting Cwm Idwal on 20th August and leaving Capel Curig on the 22nd. Thus he would most likely have stayed in Ffestiniog on the 22nd. This is confirmed by Lucas in Archives of Natural History 29 (1) p1-26, 2002. Lucas looked more at documentary evidence rather than identifying geological localities.


Moel Siabod. Darwin  climbed from the RHS just out of view and descended the ridge facing the camera!

For the journey Darwin had a copy of Walker’s map which was published in 1824. It was a small scale and not always accurate. Those familiar with the area will acknowledge the difficulty of using this map, but Darwin was familiar with the area. However he knew the terrain in the Rhinogau from previous visits.

There is, and was, a good track from Capel Curig to Dolwyddelan and from there went south along the valley to the boggy moreland east of Moel Penamnen and joined the Sarn Helel.

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Moel Siabod from above Dolwyddelan.


Snowdon                               Glyderau                                               Moel Siabod

The boogy moor!


Carreg y Fran from the summit of Manod Mawr with Cwm Penmachno in the background. Sarn Helen is a matter of yards on the far side of Carreg y Fran.


A close-up of the crag, which Darwin described as conglomerate but today is agglomerate.


Carreg y Fran from B4391 to the west of Ffestiniog. This photo was taken on the return from climbing Snowdon by the Rhyd Ddu path which was my son’s 75th birthday present for me!


Manod Mawr with Carreg y Fran behind. During WWII art treasures from London were stored in the caverns in Manod Mawr.

Darwin continued to Ffestiniog and stayed at the Pengwern Arms.

Pengwern+Arms+bach (1)

Pengwern Arms.

Note Manod Mawr behind the inn on the right.

The next day he continued south joining the main Dolgellau road before turning off into the hills to Bwlch Drws Ardudwy.


Looking down on Bwlch Drws Ardudy from the slopes of Rhinog Fach. Boulders covered with heather does not make for easy walking! In the distance on RHS is Arenig Fawr with Migneint on LHS.

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Looking back at the Bwlch, with Rhinog Fach to the right. Well to the right below Diffws Darwin found a rock glacier and found similar in the Falklands.

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My field assistant examining one of Darwin’s outcrops.

Working out the last leg of this walk was tricky as from Darwin’s notes I could piece together several alternatives.

But he arrived in Barmouth in the evening of the 24th August and stayed there a few days.

He had no idea what was to befall him!


A view of Barmouth from the south. The mountain to the right is Diffws.


Cyfrwy from the summit of Cadair Idris with Barmouth in the background

No one knows what Darwin did with his mates at Barmouth. Perhaps he even went up his favourite mountain Cadair Idris. But he wanted to get home for the beginning of the shooting season. However when he got home there was a letter from John Henslow suggesting he joined the Beagle. He never went shooting at Maer.

And so ends his 1831 trip to North Wales, which ended in a bit of a climax!

Darwin’s geological evolution.

During the summer of 1831 Darwin spent much time geologising. This was in several stages;

  1. His vist to Llanymynech hill on the Welsh Border, when he used his newly-aqiured clinometer.
  2. His production of maps of Shropshire and Anglesey. He also marked in some geology i.e. New Red Sandstoone by Nesscliff, and made notes of several sites. This will appear soon as a blog
  3. accompanying Sedgwick around Shrewsbury on 4 th and 5th of August
  4. Accompanying Sedgwick from Shrewsbury through Llangollen to conwy and then Bethesda.
  5. After a weekend with Sedgwick they went round Anglesey using Henslow’s map as guide
  6. After leaving Sedgwick near Bangor, he went first to Cwm Idwal and then to Barmouth as described here.

He did no more geology until he landed at the Cape Verde islands. It is fascinating to read through his notes starting with the not-very-good ones at Llanymynech  and then on the main part of his trip with Sedgwick. As the two lots of notes are often similar it is clear that Sedgwick was tutoring him. Then lastly in Wales the notes he made at Cwm Idwal and then on the “dogleg”, which showed how he had improved since his visit to Llanymynech. and then lastly his notes at Cape Verde show more improvement and are perceptive.

It is interesting to compare with my own development in mapping. at Easter 1967 I was at the mapping course at Horton and made a pigs ear of mapping. In the July I was in Northern Canada mapping an intrusion at 64 degrees north. I was commended for my map. It was fun to discover a layered basic intrusion.

Darwin’s 1831 is both interesting in that it shows how Darwin learnt his science and was thus competent when he sailed on the Beagle and how a geologist develops in their field work with practice.

Did God subject Creation to pointless futility?

Now  that might seem a very odd question? Surely Creation i.e the nautral world – call it what you will, is wonderful and beautiful as these two photos show;


The first is of Llyn Idwal and the Glyderau behind. I have been visiting there in all weathers and seasons since 1963 and it’s always wonderful. On the right is a typical January scene on the river Wyre near me. Snowdrops never fail to enchant. There is nothing futile here.

Most people would agree that this planet and the rest of the universe is full of wonder and awe, and many would point to Attenborough documentaries. It is clearly beautiful, though at times very harsh, but I can’t see many looking for and finding futility.

Yes, our world is also full of suffering alongside the incredible beauty. There are those, following the poet John Milton, who think the suffering is the result of Adam and Eve’s misdemeanors when the ate the fruit (note that the latin word malus means both apple and sin). suffering and death is God’s punishment for that  and seems rather excessive. It is still widely held by Creationist Christians who won’t accept that the earth is billions of years old and suffering and death have been around as long as life. As all this was known over two hundred years ago it is surprising that some seem to think that the creation is subject to futility. Some even hold it along with an acceptance of evolution.

Let’s now consider a leading Anglican New Testament scholar who accepts evolution and that creation is subject to futility – N. T. Wright. With his vast output he needs little introduction and has probably written one of the best books on the resurrection, where he deftly avoids a simplistic physical resurrection and a non-bodily one. Theologically he is a leading representative of moderate evangelicalism, but some of his Perspectives on Paul are less appreciated by the more conservative and reformed Christians. That is another issue, but I side with Wright on these. But let’s first consider his understanding of Romans 8 in his series Paul for Everyone.

Here is his translation of Romans 8:19-21 New Testament for Everyone (NTE) (which is closer to the Greek than given by Sanday and Headlam in their commentary!)

19 Yes: creation itself is on tiptoe with expectation, eagerly awaiting the moment when God’s children will be revealed. 20 Creation, you see, was subjected to pointless futility, not of its own volition, but because of the one who placed it in this subjection, in the hope 21 that creation itself would be freed from its slavery to decay, to enjoy the freedom that comes when God’s children are glorified.

That is followed by a brief exposition beginning with taking a country walk. I was not happy that he normally walks to take exercise as to me walking is a multi-faceted activity as I enjoy the effort/exercise of climbing 3000ft up a Lakeland fell, as looking at the views, finding unusual flowers like sundews, spotting glacial features and looking for all things new! He had taken an overgrown path and found it led to fantastic view and then likens Rom 8 vs18-25 to a fantastic view of “the whole plan of salvation for all of God’s creation”. He criticises, rightfully, those who see Paul’s theology solely in terms of individual justification and salvation. But after that I depart with haste from his view.

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I was proud of this photo of a struggling rowan high up the Bowland fells. I see beauty and the tenacity of life but no futility. Also God must be a rum lad if he subjected creation to futility!

He then wrote; “The language of creation on tiptoe with expectation is not what they expect. The strange idea of God subjecting creation to futility and slavery, and of creation then being rescued, simply isn’t what people wanted to hear. …. So the path to the viewpoint has been covered over with thorns and thistles.” This made me blink. I am afraid that in the summer months my legs are covered in scratches. Once, in a desert, I walked past a bush and a venomous snake popped out and tried to nip my bare leg! There must be some theology in that. On another occasion I nearly trod on a sleeping Cape Cobra ……

He continues, “the present suffering, … will be far outweighed by ‘the glory that is going to be unveiled for us’. He’s spot on there, but not in his conclusion to the paragraph “then, at last, creation … will know that the time has come for it to be rescued from corruption.”

I want to ask, how is creation corrupted? Except where stupid humans have polluted it.

I am baffled in what way creation, like all the strata from the early Precambrian to the Ice Ages, needs to be rescued from corruption. I cannot see anything corrupt in the Precambrian Numees Tillite or recent Lower Dryas moraines, which I worked on. He continues:

“To understand this, we need to grasp the big biblical story of creation. … God has allowed creation to be subjected to its present round of summer and autumn, growth and decay, birth and death.”

He wrote more fully in Evil and the Justice of God. P116-7

Creation, writes Paul, has been subjected to futility (Romans 8.20). Don’t we know it: the tree reaches its full fruitfulness and then becomes bleak and bare. Summer reaches its height and at once the days begin to shorten. Human lives, full of promise and beauty, laughter and love, are cut short by illness and death. Creation as we know it bears witness to God’s power and glory (Romans 1:19-20) but also to the present state of futility to which it has been enslaved.

I question this interpretation, both of Romans and Genesis, as it makes creation to be rotten to the core. Romans does not say that and it is so contrary to experience – at least my experience. I cannot see futility in the shortening days after the summer solstice. Also the word futility (mataiotes in Greek is ONLY used of the human condition in both the Old and New Testaments, so it is odd to use here for the inorganic creation. I cannot see it in geological studies, which trace out a detailed history of the surface of a planet. I cannot see the Four Seasons as anything but wonderful in their variety and nothing futile.

The beauty of creation in the seasons- a random selection of my photos

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and the futility;


Where is the futility in a struggling moorland oak in autumn or a British mountain under snow. The mountain is Ingleborough which I had just climbed for the nth time!

(The word translated futility in mataiotes which in the Greek New Testament and the Septuagint is only used for human folly!)

Also I am one of those who cycles, walks and climbs mountains every month of the year and in all weathers. As I write this on St Nicholas’s day my last three months of walking during the autumn must have witnessed that annual subjection to futility. No way! I’ve had three glorious walks in the Lakes, three in the Yorkshire Dales and many more in the Forest of Bowland. Yes, I’ve experienced wind, rain, snow, cold and warmth and gone up to my thighs in a sphagnum bog! Now that was futile!! My feet were frozen.

Stinging nettles, thistles, thorns, midges and horseflies – and in the past, tsetse flies! I have watched autumn unfold and merge into winter, fungi helping the process of decay/recycling/upcycling in weird and wonderful ways, stands of bog asphodel after losing their fantastic yellow flowers and turning bronze before sinking into a peat bog, frozen pools and a little snow. Beauty, awe and wonder, but no futility. I now look forward to climbing in the snow, and then to the pastel greenness of spring with its flowers, on to the height of summer and back to autumn. At Christmas I am looking at the buds in my garden and daffs poking through. Come January I’ll be looking for snowdrops in the road verges. In all of it I echo G M Hopkins;

The world is charged with the glory of God

not to mention some of the  psalms like Psalm 8 and hymns like How great thou art on creator and  creation

Yes, this has been going on for 4 billion years and is the nature of creation which was written in at the beginning. But his representation of “corruption, futility and slavery” shows that he believes that the creation is not as God intended. He writes of “the sharp end of corruption of creation – on an earthquake fault line, for instance, or by an active volcano – you may sense the awe of that futile power.” Power, yes, but not futile. Often it may be tragic as with the recent eruption in New Zealand. Plate Tectonics, and the attendant quakes and volcanoes were there from the beginning. And that beginning predated humans by a few billion years.

Evidence of Plate Motions - Geology (U.S. National Park Service)

On Feb 6 2023 a massive Mag 7.8 hit Turkey and Syria along a major weakness, which contiues to the Himalaya and was the localituy of the Nepal quake and the 1950 Assam quake.

May be an image of map and text that says "50°N 60°N 70°N 80°N 80°N 70°N 60°N 50°N 600W Verkhoyansk Kolyma East European 3008 NoOp 30040 Siberian Stannovoy Bureya Pacific Plate uva .Mongolia ÛonLo o03 Arabian Tarim Karakum Hilmand 40°E North China 100N 150°E Indian South China Philippine Plate Indochina Borneo 100S 50°E 60°E 70°E 80°E Lakes and oceans 90°E 100°E Cratons Quaternary basin Paleo-Pacific suture 130°E 140° CQ Proto-Tethys suture Micro-continents Neo-Tethys Tethys suture Paleo-Asian suture Central Qilian Block NQ: North Qinling Block Phanerozoic Orogens Present subduction Paleo-Tethys suture SQ: South Qinling Block Strike-slip fault"

( I discuss the Assam quake which nearly knocked our house down and local tremors here

One of my great climbs was up Mt St Helens in 2009, which blew its top in 1980. It was totally awesome. Many years before I was scalded in Bumpas Hell just below Lassen Peak in California, while taking a photo of sulphur crystals. I was shirtless at the time when a gust blew steam over me. I squealed!


A view from the summit of Mt St Helens showing the devastation caused by the 1980 eruption. Is Mt Ranier is the distance next to go? The grey area was green forest.


I’ve experienced a few minor quakes in Britain and a massive Mag 8.6 as a child which I do not remember, and one about Mag 4.5 in the middle of a hymn during worship in Uganda. The organist missed a few notes and carried on as we did!

If Wright is correct then there should be something marking the introduction of quakes and volcanoes in the geological record, as that should have occurred when Adam and Eve went scrumping.

There are none.

If there were, I could not have found volcanic lavas in strata some 900 million years old in the Namib Desert nor glaciation in 650 million year old strata nearby, nor some big faults caused by tectonic shifts resulting in quakes some 600 million years ago. I could also mention all the other ancient volcanic rocks I’ve seen from the 2.2 billion year Scourie dykes in the Highlands, 450 million year old lavas in Snowdonia and the Lakes giving excellent rock-climbing, not to mention the mere 65 million year old rocks in Skye. In fact, volcanoes and igneous rock have been formed for a good 4 billion years.

In 2005 Wright gave a lecture God, 9/11, the Tsunami, and the New Problem of Evil (Transcript of one of N.T. Wright’s May 18-19, 2005, lectures at the Church Leaders’ Forum, Seattle Pacific University.

In the lecture he wrote;

What then about the tsunami? There is of course no straightforward answer. But there are small clues.

We are not to suppose that the world as it currently is, is the way God intends it to be at the last. Some serious thinkers, including some contemporary physicists, would actually link the convulsions which still happen in the world to evil perpetrated by humans; and it is indeed fair enough to probe for deeper connections than modernist science has imagined between human behaviour and the total environment of our world, including tectonic plates. But I find it somewhat easier to suppose that the project of creation, the good world which God made at the beginning, was supposed to go forward under the wise stewardship of the human race, God’s vice-gerents, God’s image-bearers; and that, when the human race turned to worship creation instead of God, the project could not proceed in the intended manner, but instead bore thorns and thistles, volcanoes and tsunamis, the terrifying wrath of the creation which we humans had treated as if it were divine.

I was simply stunned to read that and have long restrained from discussing it. I am well-aware of induced seismicity from hydropower, mining and fluid injection in wells, but this is another level or two up.

All these quotations could have come straight from a recent publication of Answers in Genesis and I find it difficult not to read it in the sense that the author believes that “thorns and thistles, volcanoes and tsunamis” are the result of human behaviour i.e. a Curse as the result of the Fall. That was dealt with by the assault of geological hammers and biological microscopes, if not by good exegesis. I am, of course, aware of induced seismicity, at times up to Magnitude 6, whether from mining, fracking, geothermal energy, or the unsettlement of strata from hydro-electric dams, but human activity cannot be the cause of tectonic movements before humans appeared on the scene and could not cause the massive earthquake which resulted in the 2004 boxing Day tsunami, or the eruption of Mt St Helens to give two examples.

The next paragraph makes his understanding clear;

“The human race was put in charge of creation (as so often Paul has Genesis 1-3 not far from his mind). When humans rebelled [in Garden of Eden] and worshipped parts of creation instead of God himself (Rom 1 21-23), creation fell into disrepair.”

How did creation fall into disrepair not so many thousands of years ago? How does the disrepair manifest itself? My bicycle takes a battering as I cycle over 4000 miles a year and continually edges towards disrepair necessitating repairs or replacement. Yes, it is continually falling into disrepair – particularly after winter cycling! But the creation? How?

I expect to read something like that on the website of a Young Earth Creationist group. What Wright is claiming is that when Adam and Eve fell in the Garden of Eden that affected the whole of the natural order, or creation, or cosmos, or universe and made it change from a good state to one of disrepair and had fallen into corruption, whereas it was uncorrupt before. Seriously, From my fieldwork, I cannot distinguish between the basic make-up of glacial material deposited 600 million years and those from 20,000 years ago, or alpine moraines today. I have studied all three in the field. We need more on how the creation is corrupt whereas previously it was incorrupt.

He concluded his lecture;

The Gospels thus tell the story of Jesus, and particularly of his death, as the story of how cosmic and global evil, in its suprapersonal as well as personal forms, are met by the sovereign, saving love of Israel’s God, YHWH, the creator of the world. They write intentionally to draw the whole Old Testament narrative to its climax, seeing that narrative precisely as the story of God’s strange and dark solution to the problem of evil from Genesis 3 onwards.

Here he first looks to a past event when “evil” was introduced to a pristine planet – including earthquakes – and also conflates natural with moral and spiritual evil. Wright seems to imply that natural events like volcanoes and earthquakes are not as God intended. On could add disease and death, but all these are part of the fabric of the natural world.  Leaving aside the issue of natural and moral evil, this whole discussion brings out the Achilles heel of many theological “reconciliations” of theology and evolution. Most are aware of the reality or brute fact of the vast age of the universe and evolution, but then approach their theology and biblical interpretation implicitly rejecting that reality and thus adopting a theology more amenable to young earth ideas. Most commentators on Romans 8 do this as do many other theologians.

If all these scholars are correct in taking ktisis as meaning the whole of creation , the cosmos, or the universe, then their theology and that of the apostle Paul is totally contrary to the physical realities we have in geology, biology and cosmology.

Is Paul simply wrong or have we got Paul wrong?

As Wright presents his understanding of the Fall in these three places he effectually adopts a Miltonic view of the Fall accepting that it had a serious and deleterious effect on ALL creation and that is how his epic poem Paradise Lost begins

“Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit

Of that forbidden fruit, whose mortal taste

Brought death into the world, and all our woe“.


Beast now with beast gan war, and fowl with fowl,

And fish with fish; to graze the herb all leaving,

Devoured each other. P.Lost X 710-12

We are too easily lulled by Milton, as the the geologist Rev Edward Hitchcock stressed in the 1850s, when he wrote, “we groan under the burden of Milton’s mythology.”.

Great though Paradise Lost is, it is putting the whole Genesis account as portraying a young earth and the dramatic change to the constitution of this planet caused by “man’s first disobedience.” Some New Testament scholars are saying that – at least implicitly. In other words, all of these are essentially saying Young earth Creationism is right, there was this CURSE and thus the earth is thousands of years old. That is simply untrue as the earth is billions of years old and life nearly as old, and thus death and earthquakes.

Creation is wonderful and not subjected to futility as these photos show;

An open letter to John Inge, bishop of Worcester, on sexuality and marriage | Psephizo

Recently John Inge, Bishop of Worcester, wrote an open letter why same-sex marriages should be conducted in church.

Here Ian Paul challenges his arguments, especially those from the Bible, and also his claims that it is the same as the church accepting that creation in genesis should not be taken literally and occurring a few thousand years ago, but rather millions of years ago. To support his claims he said his predecessor at Worcester, Charles Gore was lambasted for not accepting a literal Genesis in 1889. He was wrong there as Ian points out ..

Have a read to decide.

Source: An open letter to John Inge, bishop of Worcester, on sexuality and marriage | Psephizo

Could monkeys type the 23rd Psalm?

Come On Irritated GIF - Come On Irritated Mad GIFs

“There is no lie as good as the precise and well-detailed one.” Thus said Reijer Hooykaas over those who wished to portray Calvin as thick over astronomy. Often a quote by Calvin is cited – but it does not exist!! It is surprising how many well-detailed lies come out in the history of science and faith. These are largely due to the writer being convinced of conflict between science and faith.

Now here is a well-detailed lie about the Huxley-Wilberforce meeting in 1860 over Darwin’s theory of evolution. But before we consider this lie, here’s a summary of that meeting and its context;

In 1859 the response to Darwin was very varied. Some biologists were quickly convinced but not geologists and physicists. It is simplistic to see the controversy as one between scientists and Christians, as some Christians were able scientists as was the botanist Charles Babington of Cambridge, who was soon convinced. But the Revd Adam Sedgwick, who taught Darwin geology, totally rejected evolution as did Lord Kelvin. Virtually nobody, Christian or not, was against Darwin on the grounds of a literal Genesis as the astronomer the Rev Richard Main wrote in 1860, “No educated person today believes in creation in 4004BC”[5].

The problems Christians had with Darwin were not over the age of the earth, but over Design and a concern that the animal descent of humans destroyed any kind of morality, and weakened, if not destroyed, the doctrine of atonement. And now we consider the iconic Victorian “confrontation” of evolution and Christianity – the Huxley–Wilberforce debate at the British Association of the Advancement of Science meeting in Oxford in June 1860. This has been related many times often with non-historical embellishments. Bishop Samuel Wilberforce was well-informed scientifically and during the 1820s he attended Buckland’s geology lectures for three years[6]. Just before the BAAS meeting Wilberforce had written a long review of The Origin for the Quarterly Review[7], which gave the standard scientific objections to evolution concluding with a brief theological comment. This was to be expected partly due to his friendship with Sir Richard Owen, with whom he had probably discussed Darwin at length. Contemporary reports of the debate, which was the result of a paper by Draper, describe how Huxley responded to Wilberforce’s questioning of Darwin’s theory , but according to Hooker in a letter to Darwin[8], Huxley could not be heard and so Hooker felt obliged to speak. It seems that both gave a good showing and that Wilberforce was not humiliated by Huxley, but gave telling arguments against Darwin. It is reasonable to conclude that the Wilberforce affair was well known by leading scientists and others, including many clergy and an allusion to it even makes its way into the childrens’ novel The Water Babies, where the Rev Charles Kingsley mocks his friend Huxley by basing Prof Ptthmllnsprts on him. This is clear as Ptthmllnsprts told the British Association that apes had “hippopotamus majors” in their brains, alluding to Huxley’s demonstration that apes have hippocampus majors thus contradicting Richard Owen. In the story Ptthmllnsprts told the British Association at Melbourne in 1999 that “nymphs, satryrs, fauns, inui etc. etc. were nothing at all, and pure bosh and wind…..Whereupon a certain great divine …called him a regular Sadducee….Whereupon the professor, in return, called him a regular Pharisee…But they did not quarrel in the least…So the professor and the divine met at dinner that evening…and each vowed that the other was the best company he ever met in his life.”[9] This is probably a truer representation of the “Huxley-Wilberforce Confrontation” than any popular account! The sources for this may well be personal conversations as Kingsley had excellent relations with both Wilberforce and Huxley and had met both after 1860. Kingsley was an Anglican vicar who was an early convert to evolution and was quoted in the 6th edition


Figure 2. Caricature of Bishop Samuel Wilberforce from Vanity Fair


What is less well-known is that a few days earlier the Rev Frederick Temple (1821-1902), preached a sermon at the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Oxford showing his appreciation of The Origin of Species. He epitomised the learned and liberal Anglican and became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1896. He gave the Bampton Lectures on The Relations between Religion and Science in 1884. Temple had a good understanding of contemporary science and out of his eight lectures, two were affirmative of evolution. He discussed the creation accounts of Genesis which he saw as allegory and finished by writing, “To conclude, the doctrine of Evolution leaves the argument for an intelligent Creator and Governor of the world stronger than it was before.”[10] 122

Rather than give a catalogue of Christians and note their beliefs, these two leading churchmen personify how British Christians reacted to Darwinian evolution until about 1970.  Both Wilberforce and Temple were well-informed scientifically and had much in common. Neither held to a literal Bible with a creation in six days as both were convinced by geologists finding of the vast indefinable, age of the earth. The difference was over evolution, which Wilberforce thought had serious theological consequences, but Temple did not. Wilberforce opposed evolution for variety of reasons. Though of very conservative beliefs, Wilberforce did not take Genesis literally. This needs stressing as 21st Creationists take Genesis literally. Apart from following the scientific wisdom of his day, he also opposed evolution on religious grounds. First he thought that evolution undermined the moral uniqueness of humans in contrast to any animal, hence his possibly ahistorical quip when he asked Huxley if he was descended from an ape on his father’s or mother’s side. To him if human responsibility were undermined there could be no sin and then Jesus’s death as atonement was meaningless. Evolution thus destroyed Christianity. This was, and is, the chief religious objection to evolution. Though he allowed for geological time his interpretations of Genesis 2 and 3 on the Fall were still fairly literalist. Temple was more liberal than Wilberforce and thought Genesis 3 was an allegory so was not so concerned by such objections. In one sense the difference between Wilberforce and Temple has been played out by successive Christians during the last 150 years.

In 1860 most Christians agreed with Wilberforce rather than Temple. Before long most educated Christians concluded that some kind of evolution had occurred and that it did not challenge an orthodox Christian faith. Most did not follow Darwin on Natural Selection but adopted a teleological evolution which encouraged belief in a divine being guiding evolution. This was made easier as most scientists adopted a Lamarckism rather than Darwinian natural selection[11]. Further, most Christians, and also A. R Wallace insisted that God creatively intervened at three points in geological time, viz the creation of life, sentient creatures and, lastly, humans. This was a way of safeguarding God’s direct creative activity and effectively neutralised potential conflict, especially as it protected a non-animal origin of humans.

However Wilberforce and Temple represent the educated Christian and most of those who wrote on the subject had a university education at a time when few did. Short of giving a comprehensive list and discussion of the many writers on evolution and religion, it is best to summarise the situation by stating that most of the more liberal Anglicans and protestants followed Temple. As for the more conservative and evangelical, there was a diversity of opinion[12]. Some did accept evolution, but many did not, though they accepted geological time. Their publications would scarcely have been read by most of the population though some did write for popular church press. Thus when we look for actual examples in the latter decades of the 19th century we will find that this situation was found among the leaders of all British mainstream denominations, whether Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist or Congregational.

Despite the apparent dominance of Scientific Naturalists such as Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895) and Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817-1911), several leading scientists were devout Christians who wrote on the compatibility of Evolution and Christianity. Sir George Gabriel Stokes (1819-1903)  a mathematician and physicist and recently retired President of the Royal Society gave the influential Gifford Lectures (an annual series of lectures on Natural Theology) for 1891 and 1893 on Natural Theology and argued for an evolution in which God had intervened to create life and then man.[13].

Even those who opposed evolution still accepted geological time. It can also been seen in the nascent Fundamentalism, which was largely American, with some British involvement. To counter Modernism an American businessman paid for the publication of a series of small paperbacks known as The Fundamentals in 1910. Most articles were American, and showed an ambivalence to evolution. Even so two British articles by the Scot James Orr, show that to early Fundamentalists an acceptance of evolution was permissible.[14]

As well as the mainstream churches there were many independent chapels, which were very evangelical. As both the pastors and their flocks had little higher education, most had little interest in intellectual matters and focussed on the death of Christ and the need for personal faith rather than science and evolution.  One of the few who considered evolution was the Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon. He was pastor of a large church in London with thousands in his congregation, He had no formal education but was widely read and his sermons are still published today. He had a very strict view of the Bible and his few writings on the relation of Genesis to science are ambivalent. To consider two, one accepts geological findings and the other insists on a six day creation, but he totally rejected evolution. Spurgeon’s influence on evolution has not been researched[15]. Suffice it to say that there was an anti-evolutionism in Britain as well as the more conciliatory views of the mainstream churches.


This taken from by brief history, also published in Streitfall Evolution.

My lie comes from an article written by Russell Grigg for Creation Ministries International – a break-away movement from Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis.

Now here it is – neatly typed!!

Huxley then arose and is said to have put forward his now well-known argument that six eternal monkeys or apes2 typing on six eternal typewriters with unlimited amounts of paper and ink could, given enough time, produce a Psalm, a Shakespearean sonnet, or even a whole book, purely by chance that is, by random striking of the keys.

In the course of his presentation Huxley pretended to find the 23rd Psalm among the reams of written gibberish produced by his six imaginary apes at their typewriters. He went on to make his point that, in the same way, molecular movement, given enough time and matter, could produce Bishop Wilberforce himself, purely by chance and without the work of any Designer or Creator.

It seems, from the various accounts of what happened (mostly letters written by Darwin’s followers, as no report on the debate was published by the British Association), that the worthy Bishop did not have an answer to this line of reasoning. This is rather surprising in view of his erudition in the realm of Mathematics. So let us consider some answers to Huxley’s argument—an argument that is still advanced from time to time by modern-day evolutionists—that chance is a better explanation for origins than design.

It is hard not to giggle at this. Great apes have long been able to type, as I am now. But only one of the great apes – homo sapiens! But still it is funny to imagine gorillas or bonobos typing or even monkeys.

Come On Irritated GIF - Come On Irritated Mad GIFs

Despite the so-called Huxley-Wilberforce confrontation over Darwin in 1860 being so well-known no one really knows what happened. All we have a few reminisces which are often contradictory. Incidentally, Wilberforce was never a professor of mathematics as Grigg claims!

But one thing is absolutely clear.


Well! that finishes of that article and all the other ideas in it simply crumble to dust.

Huxley never put forward a typewriter analogy , hence Wilberforce, good mathematician he was, thus could not discuss it, let alone refute it.

Grigg then extends his argument to the usual dichotomy of Chance vs Design.

Chance vs. Design

Let us imagine a special typewriter, ‘user-friendly’ to apes, with 50 keys, comprised of 26 capital letters, 10 numbers, one space bar, and 13 symbols for punctuation, etc. For the sake of simplicity we shall disregard lower-case letters and settle for typing all to be in capitals, and we shall disregard leap years.

How long would it take an operator, on the average, to correctly type the 23rd Psalm, by randomly striking keys? To obtain the answer, let us first consider the first verse of the Psalm, which reads: ‘THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD, I SHALL NOT WANT.’

According to the Multiplication Rule of Probability (in simplified form)3 the chance of correctly typing the three designated letters ‘THE’ from possibilities is 1 in 50 x 50 x 50, which equals 125,000. At a rate of one strike per second, the average time taken to make 125,000 strikes is 34.72 hours.

The chance of randomly typing the eight keys (seven letters and one space) in the right sequence for the two words THE LORD is 1 in 50 x 50 … eight times (i.e. 508). This is 1 chance in 39,062 billion. There are 31,536,000 seconds in a year, so the average time taken in years to make 39,062 billion strikes at the rate of one strike per second would be 1,238,663.7 years.

The time taken on the average to correctly type the whole of verse 1 of the 23rd Psalm, which contains 42 letters, punctuation, and spaces, would be 5042 divided by 31,536,000 (seconds in a year), which is 7.2 x 1063 year.

What do we make of that? Not much – just special pleading from a false premise.
BUT it may convince some of CMI’s faithful


The theory that chance random combinations of living matter could produce the Bishop of Oxford, a living cell, or even a single functional protein molecule, whether in time or in eternity, therefore fails on all counts.

It falls down as Huxley never said what they claimed and the whole argument is a straw man. It may convince gullible followers of CMI but is devoid of sense of rationality.

I suppose this could convince some Creationists as they would be unaware of Grigg’s Conscious Bias. It is typical of bad creationist and bad evangelical apologetics.

You cannot make an argument based on a lie.

But we have seen that before,

Perhaps we should ask why Creationists do this!!

Evolution und Religion im Heimatland Darwins; An account of harmony and conflict 

Now this is for German readers.

In 2009 on the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth I went to a conference near Frankfurt.

The papers were collected in a book Streitfall Evolution ed Angela Schwarz (2017  Bohlau Verlag) and I contributed a chapter in English which was translated into German.

Below is the German version but here is the English one

I am afraid it had to be translated for me as my German has been totally lost!! In my chemistry course I had to sit an exam on German translation and passed. But that was the end of my German, I am afraid.


The War that never was. Evolution and Christian Theology

We are often told of the how the church opposed Galileo, Darwin, early geologists and almost every advance of science. There is a merest smidgeon of truth in it, but mostly they are stories invented to discredit Christianity. Much originated with Draper and White in the 19th century. Dawkins has fallen for it, among others. Over the lasty fifty years the idea of conflict between science and Christianity has been discredited.

World of Books - Science | A History of the Warfare of Science the Theology - War College Series By Andrew Dickson White

Recently there have been a spate of books on the conflict thesis of science and religion. Here is one coming to it from a catholic angle.

The War That Never Was: Evolution and Christian Theology Paperback – Illustrated, May 29, 2020

Kenneth W. Kemp is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is the co-translator of Archbishop Jozef Zycinski’s God and Evolution: Fundamental Questions of Christian Evolutionism.

The blurb

One of the prevailing myths of modern intellectual and cultural history is that there has been a long-running war between science and religion, particularly over evolution. This book argues that what is mistaken as a war between science and religion is actually a pair of wars between other belligerents—one between evolutionists and anti-evolutionists and another between atheists and Christians. In neither of those wars can one align science with one side and religion or theology with the other. This book includes a review of the encounter of Christian theology with the pre-Darwinian rise of historical geology, an account of the origins of the warfare myth, and a careful discussion of the salient historical events on which the myth-makers rely—the Huxley-Wilberforce exchange, the Scopes Trial and the larger anti-evolutionist campaign in which it was embedded, and the more recent curriculum wars precipitated by the proponents of Creation Science and of Intelligent-Design Theory.

My review

As I read this book, I kept thinking of the Second World War hoax made into the film The man who never was

The Man Who Never Was By Ewen Montagu

A convenient corpse with a briefcase attached was allowed to wash up in Spain so Germans would read the documents giving false information about allied plans. The argument of Kemp’s book is that there was no war between Christianity and Evolution. The conflict thesis of religion and science has taken a battering during the last fifty years but many still believe it. Much will be familiar to some, but Kemp has re-packaged it in a different way as he leads from the ‘War’ started by Draper and White, through the Scopes trial to the various Creationism and ID trials of the last 40 years.   His emphasis is transatlantic, but the issues are worldwide. With the author being a Catholic philosopher he gives a new perspective The author says the book is a partial account focussing on the paleaetiological sciences (2, 3) i.e geology, palaeontology and evolution.  . That would be fair enough but it omits so much of those sciences and does not put geology into a full perspective – which can be done briefly, though he claims to leave it for another book. It is an odd claim to say that Lyell was the founder of geology.

180px-charles_lyell anning

Llyell (left) and his geology teacher Buckland looking at glacial striae at Rhyd Ddu in North Wales, 1841

The heart of the book gives a historical account of particular conflicts of evolution and Christianity, mostly of the more extreme kind. There is little on more atheistic questions but almost only on Christian opposition to evolution of the more extreme kind.  More on genuine wrestling by Christian thinkers would have been helpful as for example Adam Sedgwick,


Princeton theologians and Bernard Ramm. The introduction is a philosophical reflection with a succinct discussion of theology and naturalism. He concludes with recommending a ‘modest methodological naturalism’ for our theology and science and criticises Johnson’s appeal to ‘immediate divine action’. A good and nuanced account of the conflict thesis as it began in the 19th century follows, concluding with ways of assessing the various arguments.

Despite many who claim there was conflict over Genesis and geology, the author is right to say there was none, beyond the peripheral early 19th century Scriptural geologists. A sharper trajectory on how geology developed from Steno in the 1660s, would have shown the gradual dawning of the realisation of Deep Time and its relation to Christianity over the next 150 years. The presentation, which tends to flip backwards and forwards, makes it difficult to follow, if one does not have familiarity with the subject matter.

Charles DarwinSH16DARWIN2
Darwin and how some see him (statue in Shrewsbury)

The chapter on the aftermath of 1859 devotes much space to the Huxley-Wilberforce episode but sheds little new light.


Wilberforce and Huxley, who got on quite well!!

It stresses its iconic position in the conflict thesis. Rather than consider the variety of Christian responses – Asa Gray is hardly mentioned, we are given four vignettes of evolutionists losing their university positions, hardly a large number

Chapter 5 is on the first Curriculum war of the Scopes era.


The author first gives an account of events, which almost seem farcical. This undoes some of the myths surrounding Scopes. More importantly the Scopes trial is not seen as purely an anti-evolution crusade but wider than that.


Andrea at the Dayton Courthouse and myself in the dock

There was a moral side and, in a sense, Bryan and others occupied the high moral ground despite their poor science. Part goes back to Kellogg’s visit to the German trenches in 1915, where German militarism was (wrongly?) traced back to Darwin. Bryan’s concern was more moral, which is why he could not accept evolution for humans. Kemp does not mention the anti-evolutionists opposition to eugenics in contrast to many biologists and modernist churchmen. Kemp regards the Scopes affair as not a battle between science and religion but rather between conservative Christians and also sees it as a three-way conflict between fundamentalism, modernism and scepticism (139). This spoils the cardboard cut-outs of Inherit the Wind, but brings out the complexities of Interwar American society. Anti-evolution was only part of it.

Chapter 6 deals with Creationism and ID in the last sixty years, termed the second curriculum war. Much is historical and familiar from Numbers The Creationists. Little is given on the renaissance of Creationism and more on legal aspects on the teaching of evolution as with the repeal of Scopes Laws and the Arkansas judgement of 1982.  The narrative moves on to Intelligent Design, which is wrongly seen as going back to Paley. The presentation is very last century with the focus on Johnson, Behe and Dembski. There’s a nod to the Dover trial of 2005, In a long section ofn the development of anti-evolutionist thought the difference between Creation ascience and ID is clarified but on ID focues on Johnson, Behe and Dembski in the 90s and omits later developments and thus gives little on how both Young Earth Creationism and Intelligent Design has evolved in the last fifteen years. Thus little is provided to understand anti-evolution in the twenties.

Image result for ken ham image

Ken Ham, possibly the most significant Creationist of the 2020s, gets no mention

In conclusion Kemp emphasises that Scopes was over human evolution, whereas both creationism and ID challenge almost all of evolution and geology as well. He rightly says that the (187) NABT and new Atheists add to confusion by not distinguishing between methodological and metaphysical naturalism. He concludes this ‘war’ is doing damage to religion, as many readers must have discovered

The conclusion begins with a quote from Pope John Paul II on the Galileo myth, which is almost as pervasive. As with Galileo the Warfare Thesis fails on three grounds; it presupposes a clear demarcation between science and religion, assumes that scientists and Christians are neatly arrayed on opposite sides and. Finally, theologians were always opposed to new ideas.


With such distortion the Warfare Thesis is not a good lens to understand the relation of science and religion. ‘The war that never was’ re-surfaces the whole time – whether  in churches or without. It thus needs wise engagement rather than dismissal.

As an Anglican priest I am frequently asked by those within and without the church how can I be a geologist and a Christian? Such is the indelibility of this myth.

This is not the easiest book to read, as rather than just give a narrative the author goes beyond a simple science versus religion explanation, and attempts to tease out various factors. As a result, this will help to give a better understanding of The War that never was and why there has been conflict over some aspects of science and some aspects of religion.


Bishop Spong meets Charles Darwin

On 12th September the controversial Bishop Spong died at the age of 89. I’d known of him for decades and in the 80s he helped at a wedding at a Welsh church where the vicar was a very conservative evangelical, which gave us a smile.

As someone who is fairly conservative and orthodox I have never been partial to Spong with his extreme liberal views almost throwing out every item of the Christian faith for a progressive faith. He is a person whom people either loved or loathed. Spong raises many issues and especially the absurdities of extreme fundamentalism, but throws the baby out with the bathwater. I will not give a general assessment of him but focus on one issue.

Bishop John Shelby Spong in an undated photo. He used a combination of celebrity and tireless writing and speaking to open up the Episcopal Church.

That issue is his understanding of Charles Darwin and the effect of his science on the Christian faith. Way back in the 1990s he explained some of the reasons why he rejected “orthodoxy” and much hinged on Darwin. He claimed that until 1859 all Christians believed in a literal Genesis and then with The Origin of Species Darwin torpedoed that making it totally untenable.

Probably most people would agree with Spong on that and it has been the received view among most who consider themselves educated. In his book and TV series of the 1980s The Sea of Faith Don Cupitt came out with same arguments. Many thought it wonderful, but his history had a bit to be desired! A similar view comes out in older church histories and among writers of popular science, including Richard Dawkins.

I never kept the article where I read Spong’s views on Darwin but at some lectures in 2018 he repeated the same line. These were lectures he gave at the Chautauqua Institution and reported in The Chautauquan Daily – their official newspaper.

“On Tuesday in the Hall of Philosophy, Spong explained how Darwinian and Christian values came to divide the Christian faith in his lecture titled, “The Assault of Charles Darwin and Why the Christian Church Retreated before Darwin.” Spong continued Week One’s interfaith theme, “Producing a Living Faith Today?”

Here is what the report said of his lecture, when he dealt with Darwin. It all sounds so familiar

One of the scientists who pushed the status quo was Charles Darwin, who Spong called the second “obsession of the church.”

Darwin began his work in 1831 when he got a job as a naturalist on a five-year survey voyage around the world on the HMS Beagle. It took him 25 years after the trip, but Darwin claimed his place in history when he released the Origin of Species.

The book sold out immediately and raised questions that had previously been debated, but were never analyzed from a perspective like Darwin’s. Christians did not welcome these findings with open arms, Spong said.

“The war was on,” Spong said. “Darwin was now an enemy to the Bible, as the Bible was interpreted literally, and he was an enemy to the church in the way (Darwinism was) interpreted theologically.”

In an attempt to set the record straight, a debate took place in 1860 between Thomas Huxley, a biologist and an avid defender of Darwin’s, and Samuel Wilberforce, the bishop of Oxford and an advocate of biblical literalism. Wilberforce resorted to ridicule and at one point asked Huxley which side of his family was descended from apes. Wilberforce won the debate, but Spong said it was not enough to earn him a lasting legacy.

“Sam Wilberforce was hailed as a hero, but what’s interesting is that heroes don’t last forever,” he said. “He was very popular in his lifetime, but his reputation has faded.”

After the debate, Darwin’s theories made their way into the bloodstream of western civilization. At first, evolution was taught in small, private settings, but as it began to gain momentum in 1910, the Christian Church decided to tackle the issue head on.

A group of Presbyterian divines proposed a series of pamphlets on the fundamentals of the Christian faith. Once the project received funding, more than 500,000 were sent out each week. As time went on, the pamphlets became more popular, and by the 1920s, every church in the world was divided over being classified as fundamental or modernist.

“You can’t force truth into popularity,” Spong said. “Darwin seemed to have the truth, and after a while, these fundamentals of the Christian faith did not seem fundamentalistic after all.”

The Presbyterian leaders published five fundamentals all Christians were required to believe in order to identify as Christian. Among them were the ideas that the Scriptures are the infallible word of God and human beings are created perfect but fell into sin. Spong said those fundamentals were too similar to the myths of the religion to survive.

“They were so absurd, no one in the academic world would give them credibility,” he said.

The problem facing modernists, on the other hand, was that they knew too much to be fundamentalists, but did not know how to be Christian, Spong said.

“That is reflected in the world today,” he said. “The major mainline Christian churches are all in a frantic of political decline. The fundamentalistic churches are strong, but they are also declining. The world is catching up, and fundamentalism is not a viable option any longer.”

The fall of these ideals caused a rise in Darwin’s ideals. At that time in history, there was no longer a medical school in the western world without a foundation built upon Darwinian principles, and hardly a science department in the United States that was not embracing evolution. That was until the public school system implemented “creation science,” Spong said, designed to be a fair alternative to Darwinism. Although creation science is not taught in public schools anymore, Spong reminded the audience it was not that long ago that former President George W. Bush endorsed it.

“Bush wanted people to be fair, to have a chance to voice an opinion,” Spong said. “He thought you could decide by majority vote what truth is. It doesn’t work that way.”

After Bush’s endorsement, the U.S. Supreme Court declared creation science unconstitutional.

“By virtue of its own strength and integrity, Darwin became stronger and stronger,” Spong said. “There is hardly an educated person in the western world who does not accept Darwin’s point of view as truth.”

Spong asked why Christians fought so hard when they knew they were wrong. The answer, once again, was Darwin.

“There was something about Darwin that challenged not just the Christian story, but the way in which we told that story,” he said. “Darwin said there was ‘no perfect creation,’ but the church said we were ‘created perfect and then all fell into sin.’ You can’t fall into sin if you are not perfect to start with.”

Spong acknowledged how difficult it can be to accept the similarities humans have with the apes, but in a time where millennials check “none” for their chosen denomination more than the rest of the other options combined, he believes the dialogue has to continue between Darwinism and Christianity in order for the faith to survive.

“I think we have a wonderful faith,” he said. “Not the only faith, but a wonderful faith. And we have to work hard to make it live in our generation, and I think we can.”

[Clearly this is an account of what Spong said and not his actual words. However from what I’d previously read what Spong himself wrote on Darwin, it seems to be an accurate and trustworthy account. Thus as I have no reason to doubt its authenticity I shall treat as Spong’s views of 2018, which are similar to those he held two decades earlier.]

On the surface this seems reasonable and historically accurate both with regards to Darwin’s life and work and the effect on the Christian church.

But it is not!

As he started in 1831 he could have mentioned that Darwin receieved the letter inviting him to join the Beagle after a few weeks geologising in Wales with the Reverend Professor Adam Sedgwick of Cambridge. BRESSAN_2013_Geologizing_-Darwin_Map1

Darwin’s Welsh visit of 1831 More here  


Rev Adam Sedgwick, father of the Cambrian system. Susan Darwin had a crush on him.

Sedgwick was one of the great Anglican clergy-geologists. He was one of the most significant geologists to elucidate the Lower Palaeozoic and Devonian from 1831-1845. But, horror of horrors, he was also an evangelical. Now what was an evangelical doing as a professor of geology and doing fundamental work. Like most evangelicals of his day i.e. before 1859, he had no problems with geological time and did not see it as destroying his faith. He was very scathing about those who rejected geology and tried to insist on a literal Genesis. Here deal with some of his spats, which are quite funny too.

It’s a pity Spong did not know about Sedgwick and his many Christian geologists! And so he dug a bigger hole;

“The war was on,” Spong said. “Darwin was now an enemy to the Bible, as the Bible was interpreted literally, and he was an enemy to the church in the way (Darwinism was) interpreted theologically.”

My question to Spong is simple. Who in the churches interpreted the Bible literally? For 40 years I have tried to find some examples and beyond slave-holders in the Southern States and other nuts, I am still wandering around in the wilderness looking for one.

Quite simply, virtually no Christians with a modicum of education in the 1860s took Genesis 1 literally and denied geological time. I think that is slam dunk against Spong. I’ll now go slam dunker and gently point out that Samuel Wilberforce was not a biblical literalist.


Bishop soapy Sam Wilberforce

He was a competent amateur scientist and while at Oriel College , Oxford in the 1820s he went to William Buckland’s geology lectures for three years running. (The attendance records are in the Oxford museum. From my brief study of it, he was the only one who went every year.)


Buckland checking out glacial Striae at Rhyd Ddu in Snowdonia 1842. Buckland introduced ideas of an Ice Age to Britain


Rev William Buckland giving a geological lecture at Oxford

His review of the Origin in the Quarterly Review is competent scientifically and is similar to what most scientists would have written in 1860. Wilberforce was no literalist and no fool, but was a rather soapy bishop! Spong could have mentioned Christians who accepted Darwin from 1859 including the evangelical Rev H B Tristram, Charles Kinsgley and others. Read this for the British scene from 1859

Spong next dealt with The Fundamentals of 1910 “At first, evolution was taught in small, private settings, but as it began to gain momentum in 1910, the Christian Church decided to tackle the issue head on. A group of Presbyterian divines proposed a series of pamphlets on the fundamentals of the Christian faith.” Really! Head on? Many may know the series of brown paperback booklets called The Fundamentals. So much for taking Darwin/Evolution head on. One or two articles did, but most which dealt with Darwin or Genesis at least accepted geological time and in the case of James Orr, evolution as well. Spong simply had not doen his homework and was woefully inaccurate. So much for saying, “They were so absurd, no one in the academic world would give them credibility,” In fact many had academic credibility from competent conservative scholars, but some were not. Spong cannot have studied the background or content of these leaflets. If anyone was absurd it was Spong!

He continued “Darwin said there was ‘no perfect creation,’ but the church said we were ‘created perfect and then all fell into sin.” When did the church say that? Some fundamentalists did, and still do, say that but they are not the church but just a small part!

He ought to have known that humans ARE apes, and thus have similarities with all the other apes. A lack of biological knowledge here.

So what should we say about Spong’s encounter with Darwin?

Most obvious is that he has adopted a popular and extreme form of the Conflict Thesis of science and religion and out- whites White. To claim that the church was literalist in 1859 is simply completely and utterly false. Just to take the Anglican church, the vast majority of clergy had accepted geological time, and thus a non-literal Genesis way before 1859. In fact a higher proportion of Church of England clergy in 2021 are literalist than in 1860.

The best that can be said is that his confirmation bias to buttress his understanding of Christianity is to assume what he claims. This is simply not scholarly and is a very shoddy way of presenting an argument. Sadly others like Don Cupitt have done the same but he did (mis)quite contemporary authors! I agree with Spong on how awful Young Earth Creationism is in every way, but we need to ensure that what he say about others is accurate. He does not.

In 1998 Spong nailed his 12 Theses to the internet and Rowan Williams dismembered the lot with simplicity and clarity.

Williams exposes the shoddiness and wrongness of all his arguments both theological and ethical. I don’t need to repeat Rowan’s arguments.

On the positive side Spong is good at raising questions and especially those which come as a result of being swept up in fundamentalism. But he is not so good at understanding and tilts at the non-existent strawmen of ultra-fundamentalism and includes all the mainline orthodox in his tilting. His dealings with Darwin are just that. His ideas may resonate with those escaping from fundamentalism, but for the rest of us (who often have serious questions about our faith) he provides nothing of merit and an easy target for a hatchet job.

What Bishop Spong gives is not a new and progressive Christianity for a the 21st Century but an incoherent and muddled rejection of the faith. Sadly some would disagree with me and Rowan Williams!!

Why creationism bears all the hallmarks of a conspiracy theory

A fine article by Paul Braterman on Creationism as a conspiracy theory.

My only caveat is that I don’t consider Creationism to stem from biblical infallibility or inerrancy

Otherwise great and reasoned rather than polemical

Primate's Progress

A friend asked me why I bother about creationism. This article spells out my reasons. It has had some 150,000 reads since first published in The Conversation in February, and has been featured in Snopes and Yahoo! News, and attacked by Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge of Answers in Genesis, Jake Hebert Ph.D [sic] at the Institute for Creation Research, and others.
A replica of Noah’s Ark from the biblical tale at the Ark Encounter theme park in Kentucky.Lindasj22/Shutterstock

Many people around the world looked on aghast as they witnessed the harm done by conspiracy theories such as QAnon and the myth of the stolen US election that led to the attack on the US Capitol Building on January 6. Yet while these ideas will no doubt fade in time, there is arguably a much more enduring conspiracy theory that also pervades America in the form…

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Young-Earth Creationism in 2021: The Dawn of The New Creationists, Part 1

This is a good account of a less strident alternative to Ken Ham’s pugnacious Answers in Genesis and Sarfarti’s acidity in Creation Ministries.

He deals with the second generation of “Is Genesis History” and focuses on the people rather than the content.

Sadly knowing the work of the creation scientists involved, I fear that it will not be even passable science.

I have found Joel Duff’s writings on creationism to be very good, as he started by describing not criticising!!

Will there be a rabbit in the Precambrian?

Naturalis Historia

In 2017 the film documentary Is Genesis History? marked a significant moment in the history of creationism evangelism.  A professional-quality production defending the young-earth interpretation of Scripture and overview of the state-of-the-art in creation science—the attempt to conform the physical evidence of creation into the Young-Earth biblical framework.

Upon its release, I wrote several reviews of this important film including my reflections on its significance to the Young-Earth community including A Landmark Film for the Young-Earth Community: Reflections on “Is Genesis History? and Mountains, Meadows and Marmots: Creation or Judgement?. In the first of those reviews I wrote the following:

“I expect this film to become one of the most effective apologetics tools the young-earth movement has ever produced both because of who produced it—a group outside of the major creationist organizations—but also because of who is not in the film—AiG president Ken Ham. Ken Ham has become such…

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