Chapter 1

“Can I Believe in God and Evolution at the Same Time?”
Evolution, the Means of Evolution, and the God Question

A question I’m sometimes asked after lectures: “Can I believe in God and evolution at the same time?” Let’s do a brief review of modern evolutionary science, and then I think the answer to your question should be very clear…. Who is the inventor of modern evolutionary theory? Most people would say, “Charles Darwin.” Wrong. Sorry, Charlie. The inventor of both biology and modern evolutionary science was the French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. In his Philosophie Zoologique (1809), Lamarck presented humanity, or at least that part of humanity able to read French, with the main idea on which evolutionary science is based: New species arise from precursor species. “So what’s the big deal?” you ask. “New species come from existing species. Sounds reasonable to me.” The big deal was this: At the time Lamarck presented his theory, the beliefs of most naturalists were governed by the doctrines of orthodox religion, which declared with absolute certainty, “All species were created by God in the beginning.” In the history of ideas, this belief is called as the fixity of species doctrine. Block Fixity of species: In the mid-eighteenth century, the fixity doctrine of the theologians became a general academic doctrine after Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), the great Swedish botanist, expressed the opinion that “no new species” had appeared on Earth since the Creation. Linnaeus later had second thoughts about his “no new species” proposal, but they came too late. His speculation had already become the official Word of Science in theological and academic circles. Not all religious thinkers were orthodox in their beliefs, however. Among these was the Swiss naturalist and “religious cosmologist” Charles Bonnet (1720-1793). Bonnet took the old Chain of Being concept and gave it a vitalist spin….

Bonnet saw the Great Chain not as some unchangeable. Bonnet tells us.e. but alive. ether is regarded as the “fifth element. invented by the philosopher Aristotle. Etheric machines: Bonnet coined this phrase. but only halfway up the Great Chain of Being--between the tiny creatures at the bottom and the angels at the top.Block Vitalism: The theory that a “vital entity” animates all organisms. When the environment is stable.” Man’s at the top of the food chain.” the first four being earth.” Block Ether: The idea of “ether” originated with the ancient Greeks. In the nineteenth century. The machines live forever.. . to generate up-chain versions of the same-olds. those of the dust in streets and of the air also bear witness to the microzymas which functioned as anatomical elements in the tissues of organisms of geological epochs [past] even as they function in those of present time. This rarified air was thought to be alive and divine and to have the nature of fire. Bonnet. Lower-link organisms could actually move up the chain! What’s a good word for up-chain movement? Evolution.” right? The precursor metaphor. then the machines get the chance to be creative. In Aristotle. it is capable of existing apart from the organism it animates. fixed-forever thing. You’re familiar with the “food chain. Most vitalist theories maintain that the vital entity possesses degree of autonomy. fire and water. i. same-old organisms. but not etheric machines. the e-machines cause the generation of same-old. 226] Are microenzymes describable as ‘etheric machines’? Physical organisms are destructible. Bechamp’s theory gives new meaning to the biblical adage that “From dust we come and to dust return”: “The geological microzymas [microenzymes] of certain calcareous rocks and of chalk. However. when a catastrophe hits and the same-old organisms are all destroyed.” [Bechamp. all organisms are products of “etheric machines. the French scientist Antoine Bechamp found a third anatomical element in the blood— microenzymes. was the “Great Chain of Being. who considered ether a kind of rarefied air. What’s the means by which this spectacular process of evolution occurs? According to Mr. air.

after-catastrophe creatures wind up a link above their precursors. Lamarck called his theory “Transformism. a catastrophe—a really big one—will occur on Earth. How would Charles Bonnet have responded to the question “Can I believe in God and evolution at the same time?” “Of course. That was because modern evolutionary science emerged out of opposition to vitalism. and second. Bonnet prophesied.” “After a long succession of generations. Lamarck’s early work on the flora of France brought him considerable fame and election to the Academy of Sciences.” [Mayr.” What would he have said about the current “global warming crisis”? “Why worry? If it ends in a great catastrophe. the apes will be morphed into something like humans and the humans will be transformed into angels.” He’s not. “the individuals belonging to one species. both the vitalism of the religions (the “soul” concept. Between 1783 and 1793. One day. In 1801. An important conclusion Lamarck had reached in the course of his research was that. . which was reorganized at Lamarck’s suggestion to include a museum of natural history and twelve professorial chairs. Bonnet. including one for himself (of course). the equivalent of England’s Royal Society. he held a post at the Jardin du Roi. over extended periods of time. The coveted title of father of modern evolutionary science went instead to the French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829).” The Father of Modern Evolutionary Science You might suppose that Charles Bonnet would be considered the “father of modern evolutionary theory. It involves. the heritance (passing along to offspring) of acquired characteristics. He didn’t even get a nomination. great … all life forms on Earth will be given an opportunity to evolve.” he wrote. Bonnet declared. for instance) and the sort of vitalism advocated by Mr. The new. the development by individuals of new characteristics in response to significant environmental changes. he published a seven-volume study of invertebrates. “Evolution is simply a scientific-sounding word we give to God’s Plan. first. Evolution is the unfolding of God’s Plan for cosmic progress. become at length transformed into a new species distinct from the first.The process of evolution is progressive. As to the means by which this transformational process is accomplished. Lamarck had this to say: Speciation (the formation of new species) is a two-part process. animal species are transmuted—not by means of divine intervention but by natural processes. and as a result. 226] This species from species concept is the foundational idea underlying modern evolutionary science.” he would have said.

After the great Newton. Block Mechanicalism. Lamarck viewed the evolutionary process as progressive. If you had asked Lamarck “Can I believe in God and evolution at the same time?” he probably would have wondered what planet you were from. evolution. the rather awkward term mechanicalism was replaced by the term materialism. What was “New Wave”? Mechanicalism. 3&4. beginning with the most imperfect or simplest. Wallace & Darwin A friend who greatly admires the French once said to me. “Nature had produced all the species of animals in succession. Modern Western science is founded on the doctrine that the only true science is science based on the observable/measurable. He believed that the history of living things on Earth shows a steady increase in complexity of organization.e. i. “The French come up with excellent scientific theories. Vol. inventor of classical physics. the British pervert the theories.How do individuals develop “new characteristics”? … Block Doctrine of Use: [to be written] Like Bonnet. p. The New Wave in science was very pleased. for the simple reason that the Author had been very clever in building into the creation the power of self-revision.” Lamarck’s view of God? Lamarck believed that the Book of Nature had been written by a “Supreme Author” and that Nature was not a book that required continuous revision by the Author. and the Americans and Germans apply them.. Thus was born the school of “scientific materialism. Lamarck regarded the mechanism of evolution as strictly physical. In time. and ending her work with the most pefect.” There’s more than a bit of truth to this.” known to us today as “mainstream science. This doctrine was established by Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727). mechanics came to be regarded as the ultimate explanatory science. but what my friend didn’t . 376] Unlike Bonnet.” [Eof P.

the father of paleontology (study of bones). He received a manuscript from the naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace that identified the means of evolution as simply “natural selection. In June of 1858. The Baron Cuvier. the Darwin-Wallace theory. the winning characteristics of the advantaged become. some of which are more advantaged than others. Darwin embraced the heritance of acquired characteristics. the position of Grand Master of Evolutionary Science was re-opened. along with all the rest. we don’t need a doctrine of heritance of acquired characteristics. In later works. the Darwin theory) is that nature produces a whole lot of “varieties” (individuals). over time. he had a break-through. maliciously misrepresented Transformism. For instance…. but Darwin questioned it not. In the great struggle for survival in what is called Life. A questionable argument. Lyell arranged for a presentation of the Wallace manuscript and various Darwin notes at a scientific society. We’ll simply argue that advantageous characteristics. and still later. We may imagine what went though his mind as he read the Wallace manuscript: “Brilliant! We don’t really need a doctrine of use. making a fool out of Lamarck. he had to avoid both doctrines—or suffer the same fate as Lamarck. who is today regarded by many as the greatest scientist of the early nineteenth century. Nature produces innumerable varieties. he learned that he had become famous … as the junior discoverer of the theory of species evolution by means of natural selection. Individual characteristics are passed along to the kids by means of ordinary sexuality.” The gist of the Wallace theory (later. Lamarck’s theory was viciously attacked by a fellow French scientist. i.. Ingenious! O my God!—I must write to Lyell…. and as Darwin received top billing at the presentation. Georges Cuvier. his mentor. The man who eventually filled the position was. or rather.” Wallace was out of the country at the time. Cuvier’s attack. on an expedition.” Darwin wrote an anguished letter to Charles Lyell. All we need do is point out a lot of varieties exist. and as winners tend to breed more than losers. No one can argue against that! And wow. . Charles Darwin. are passed on to offspring—by means of ordinary sexual intercoursing. he was handed a break-through on a silver platter. A great problem facing Darwin the theory-makers was that the attack on Lamarck had poisoned the doctrinal waters. Upon his return.e. of course.choose to observe is that the French seem to have a habit of sabotaging themselves. he received primary credit for the “Darwin-Wallace theory. the advantaged ones generally win out. explaining that he was in danger of being scooped by Wallace. but in working up the Origin of Species. the Lamarckian doctrines of use and of heritance of acquired characteristics had fallen into disrepute. coupled with an attack by the English geologist Charles Lyell. As a result. destroyed Lamarck’s reputability as a scientist. more and more prevalent in the species. an explanation of how it is that certain varieties become advantaged.

dogmatize with utmost confidence.” [McGrath. Back to God … What were the views of Darwin and Wallace on God? Mr. the exact location of which is unknown. Darwin acknowledged a “sublime Creator. aka “Darwin’s Bulldog. A case can be made for the view that classical Darwinism (vintage 1859) is little more than revisionist Lamarckism—minus the crucial point that evolution is progressive. 53] From the days of Darwin and Huxley to our own.] The God-Deniers So where does the idea come from that belief in evolution is incompatible with belief in God? Not from Darwin. about which … theologians. “not to look forward with high expectations to the future progress of nearly an entire hemisphere.“Life isn’t fair. three feet from Isaac Newton.”) Darwin was buried in Westminster Abbey. His view on religion? Darwin was a Christianity booster (surprise. was self-evolving. and is sustained by a “great Mind. both orthodox and heterodox. 53] Not from Thomas H. “It is impossible.” Wallace. “In my most extreme fluctuations [of attitude] I have never been an Atheist in the sense of denying God. Kennedy once said. an agnostic is one who confesses himself “to be hopelessly ignorant concerning a variety of matters. by modern science. Nature. surprise).” Huxley was an agnostic (indeed.” [502] Alfred Russel Wallace came to the view that the universe was created. Lamarck was buried in a pauper’s grave. defining it as merely “descent with modification. . may therefore be regarded as the “father of Intelligent Design.” Block [A Wallace quotation re the above. Huxley declared that the God question could not be settled on the basis of the scientific method. The march of improvement. consequent on the introduction of Christianity throughout the South Sea. In his own words.” but did not see the Creator as continuously involved with the creation. in his view.” he writes in The Voyage of the Beagle. people with more than half a brain have realized that the God hypothesis cannot be proved.” Writes the theologian-scientist Alister McGrath: “Fed up with both theists and atheists making hopelessly dogmatic statements on the basis of inadequate empirical evidence.” as John F. (Darwin denied evolution is progressive. co-founder of Darwinism. Huxley.” [McGrath. or disproved. he invented the term). probably stands by itself in the records of history….

The idea that one cannot be a believer in evolution without first renouncing God originates with a small. time and again. In you wish to join the “sophisticated” Dawkinsian neo-Darwinist Club.” However. is Within. Dawkins argues that the DNA (genes) has a kind of god-like power and that bodies are nothing but “survival machines”: “A monkey is a machine which preserves genes up trees. but very vocal. Chief among the God-deniers is Cambridge (England) professor Richard Dawkins. The realm of God. The theologian-scientist Alister McGrath has done us all a great favor by writing a thorough exposition and critique of Dawkins’ work.” [OBD. we are told by the well-known Nazarean and others who got his message. then I’m afraid you’ll have to become an atheist. Well worth a read. . His book is called Dawkins’ God— Genes. a fish is a machine which preserves genes in the water. for the Grand Master has declared. if you wish to become associated with a school of evolutionary theory that offers something more than witty rhetoric. a whole lot of micromutations can add up to a macromutation. then you have many choices … and none will require that you renounce God. In the former.and macro-mutations. in fact.] There is an old word.which is restricted to the observable/measurable realm of Without. number of neo-Darwinists and fellow dogmatists. invalid. for a philosopher such as Dawkins —“sophist.” A sophist is a philosopher who is very clever in giving a kind of plausibility to arguments who are. that religions are “mind parasites” and belief in God a kind of “virus. who is best known for his books The Selfish Gene (1976/78) and The Blind Watchmaker— Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design (1986/87). not much used anymore. etc. and the Meaning of Life. Dawkins re-argues one of the worst arguments Darwin ever made—that over a long period of time. 82] In the latter. Block [Definitions of micro. Memes.

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