Lucretius (c. 99 - c. 55 B.C.) an ancient writer with a naturalistic theory of origins.
The quotations below are from his De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things), translated by W. H. D. Rowse (Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. Press, 1959 [Loeb Classical Library]).
- . . . you have no reason at all to believe that they [the senses and the limbs] could have been made for the purpose of usefulness (IV.855-857).
- . . . the world was never made for us by divine power: so great are the faults wherewith it stands endowed (V.198-199).
- But next in order I will describe in what ways that assemblage of matter which you see has established earth and sky and the ocean deeps, and the courses of sun and moon. For certainly it was no design of the first-beginnings [or atoms] that led them to place themselves each in its own order with keen intelligence, nor assuredly did they make any bargain what motions each should produce; but because many first-beginnings of things in many ways struck with blows and carried along by their own weight from infinite time unto this present, have been accustomed to move and to meet in all manner of ways, and to try all combinations, whatsoever they could produce by coming together, for this reason it comes to pass, that being spread abroad through a vast time by attempting every sort of combination and motion, at length those come together which being suddenly brought together often become the beginnings of great things, of sea and sky and the generation of living creatures (V.416-431 [translators marginal summary How the world arose: not by design, but by chance congress of atoms.]).
- In the beginning the earth . . . put forth herbage and trees first, and in the next place created the generations of mortal creatures, arising in many kinds and in many ways by different processes (V.783-792).
- Whereas again and again the earth deserves the name of mother which she has gotten, since of herself she created the human race, and produced almost at a fixed time every animal that ranges wild everywhere over the great mountains, and the birds of the air at the same time in all their varied forms (V.821-825).
- Many were the monsters also that the earth then tried to make, springing up with wondrous appearance and frame. . . . And many species of animals must have perished at that time, unable by procreation to forge out a chain of posterity (V.837-838, 856-857 [translators marginal summary: Many deformed and defective beings were at first produced which could not propagate their kind, because they did not suit their surroundings.]).
Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) medical doctor, poet, grandfather of Charles Darwin.A miserly man with at least two illegitimate children, Erasmus Darwin was, like Lamarck, a deist and a strong opponent of Christianity. An admirer of Rousseau, he was involved in founding the Lunar Society, a group of intellectuals sympathetic to the French revolutionaries. His two-volume work Zoonomia (1794-1796) was read and greatly admired by Charles. Although Erasmuss evolutionary views were similar to Lamarcks, he anticipated Charles on almost every point of evolutionary theory. It may well be that Charles Darwins notorious lack of acknowledgment of his grandfathers numerous contributions to his own theory was because of his reluctance to be identified with the older mans sociopolitical views (Morris, 1989, p. 177).
Thomas Malthus (1766-1834) British theologian and economist.In 1798 he wrote An Essay on the Principle of Population as It Affects the Future Improvement of Society (usually referred to as Essay on the Principle of Population), discussing the problem that human populations always tend to grow faster than the food supply. Both Darwin and Wallace attributed their insight into the struggle for existence to Malthus. Darwin read the essay in 1838, shortly after his return to England from the Beagle voyage; Wallace read it in 1844. Darwin applied the essays argument to the biological world at large: It made Darwin realize that through the struggle for existence favourable variations would tend to be preserved and unfavourable ones to be destroyed. The result of this would be the formation of new species. Here, then I had at last got a theory by which to work. (Price, p. 21, cf. p. 34).
Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck (1744-1829) French deist, self-taught botanist, bitterly anti-Christian and especially anti-Genesis.After the French Revolution, Lamarck was appointed to be in charge of the invertebrate zoology section of the Paris Museum of Natural History. He wrote two major works, Philosophie zoologique (1809) and Histoire naturelle des animaux sans vertèbres (1815-1822). Lamarcks theory of evolution has been summarized in two laws 1. Law of Use and Disuse (parts of an organisms body that are used become more developed; those not used become smaller and may disappear). 2. Law of Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics (changes achieved over an organisms lifetime are passed on to its offspring). Like Darwin, Lamarck viewed evolution as slow and gradual. Unlike Darwin, he considered the environment as a stimulus causing organisms to strive to change, to make an effort to change that is, organisms have an active role in their own evolution. (The classic example usually given in biology textbooks, though not a key example used by Lamarck, is of giraffes stretching to reach leaves at the tops of tall trees, then passing increased neck length on to their offspring.) Although Darwin called Lamarcks view veritable rubbish (in an 1844 letter to botanist Joseph Hooker), he retained these two key concepts within his theory (Origin of Species, chapter 5 . . . I think there can be no doubt that use in our domestic animals has strengthened and enlarged certain parts, and disuse diminished them; and that such modifications are inherited.). For many years, leftist academics preferred Lamarck over Darwin, because the idea of inheriting environmentally induced changes fit better with Marxist ideas of social change. In 1948, under T. D. Lysenko as Soviet director of scientific research, Mendelian genetics was officially outlawed in Russia and Lamarckism established as communist dogma. (This policy was abandoned in 1953 with Stalins death; the communists then moved not to Darwinism but to a form of saltatory evolution, or evolution by jumps, with similarities to todays punctuated equilibrium view.) Lamarckism suffered a major blow in 1891, when August Weismann published the results of his classic experiment: after cutting off the tails of hundreds of white mice over several successive generations, he found that each new generation was born with tails of normal length. (A counter-argument to this experiment is that it did not disprove Lamarckism because these mice were not trying to shorten their tails! See Bernard Shaw, preface to Back to Methuselah, pp. 40-42.)
William Paley (1743-1805) Anglican theologian, apologist.In 1802 Paley published Natural Theology, in which he argued for an Intelligent Designer by providing a variety of examples of design in nature. (He hoped to combat the influence of the humanist philosopher, David Hume.) The work became one of the most widely read books of the 19th and 20th centuries, and is still considered the leading exposition of the argument from design. It was read and admired by Darwin during his days at Cambridge University The logic of . . . Natural Theology gave me as much delight as did Euclid and it may have given Darwin his first introduction to Malthuss ideas on population growth and the struggle for existence. Recent books attempting to update Paleys argument include Walter ReMines The Biotic Message (1993) and Michael Behes Darwins Black Box (1996).
Charles Darwin (1809-1882) science writer, evolutionary theorist.Darwins father and grandfather were both noted physicians. Darwin studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh for two years, but then dropped out and took three years of theology at Cambridge, earning his B.A. During the years 1831-1836 he acted as captains companion on board the Beagle as the ship traveled around the tip of South America and into the Pacific Ocean. During this trip he studied rocks, fossils, and living animals, collecting many specimens. He also read Lyells book and was converted to geological uniformitarianism. From 1837 on, he worked on his theory of origins and became actively involved in the scientific community. He suffered a great deal from illness, and lived a somewhat secluded life in the country with his family. Between 1846 and 1854 he completed four volumes on barnacles. By 1858 he was working on his big book on the transmutation of species when he heard of Wallaces essay. Under this pressure he completed a shortened version of his theory, published in 1859 as the Origin of Species. That book did not address the question of human ancestry, but this was considered in his other important book, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871). Ironically (because he rejected both creation and Christianity), Darwin was buried in Westminster Abbey, close to Sir Isaac Newton this was a political move, engineered by Huxley and other friends who wanted him honoured.
Charles Lyell (1797-1875) British lawyer, amateur geologist, adviser of Darwin.Inspired by earlier amateur geologist James Hutton (1726-1797), Lyell popularized the principle of uniformitarianism (the present is the key to the past), believing that presently observable processes, operating at the same rates as today, could explain the geological record of the past. While he attacked Mosaic geology and rejected a worldwide flood, for many years he maintained a superficial adherence to a form of creationism. He brought Lamarcks ideas to the attention of the British public, though he argued against the French evolutionist. Lyell was probably the single greatest influence in the life of Darwin (and his book was also read and much studied by Wallace). During the Beagle voyage (1831-1836) Darwin read Volume 1 of Lyells Principles of Geology (1830), which converted him to uniformitarianism and the concept of geological ages. (Darwin would later acknowledge his great debt to Lyell for justifying the vast timespans needed to make evolution by random variation and natural selection seem credible.) Immediately upon Darwins return to England, Lyell became his friend and adviser, continually counseling and encouraging him in his research and writing. Lyell strongly urged Darwin to publish Origin of Species before Wallace could publish his own similar theory, and he persuaded a publisher to take on Darwins book. According to evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould, Lyell relied upon true bits of cunning to establish his uniformitarian view as the only true geology. . . . Lyell imposed his imagination upon the evidence. Again, Lyell constructed the self-serving history that has encumbered the study of earthly time ever since (Morris, 1989, pp. 162f., 167).
Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) self-taught field biologist (British).Wallace studied and collected specimens for many years in the Amazon jungles and the East Indies and has been called the greatest tropical naturalist of his time. In February 1858, while ill with malaria in Malaysia, Wallace wrote his paper on natural selection, On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from the Original Type. He sent the paper to Darwin for evaluation, at a time when Darwin was still procrastinating about writing up his own identical theory. Lyell persuaded Darwin to proceed immediately with his own book; he also helped arrange the July 1858 meeting of the Linnaean Society at which both Wallaces paper and Darwins (allegedly) earlier material were presented, thus supposedly establishing Darwins priority in the discovery. From 1865 on, Wallace attended séances, and eventually he grew convinced of the scientific authenticity of spiritualist phenomena. He became a leader in spiritism and occultism, publishing in 1876 one of the definitive evidential textbooks on spiritism, Miracles and Modern Spiritism. Contrary to Darwin, Wallace considered natural selection inadequate to explain unique human traits, especially the human mind; these he attributed to an intelligent Cause.
Thomas Huxley (1825-1895) British agnostic, biologist.Huxley is known as Darwins bulldog for his aggressive promotion of evolution in Britain. His most famous confrontation occurred on June 30, 1860, the year after Origin of Species was published. At an Oxford meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Anglican bishop Samuel (Soapy Sam) Wilberforce spoke against evolution, allegedly provoking Huxley (who was in the audience) about his ape ancestry. Huxley and evolution were reportedly the victors in the exchange, and evolutionists have ever since used this incident as a club against creationists. There is, however, some dispute over what really took place. A recent textbook, Biological Evolution (Price, 1996, pp. 22-23), recounts the story, but the only bibliographic sources given are the 1892 (edited) autobiography of Darwin, who did not attend the meeting, and an 1896 book by Andrew Dickson White, a notoriously hostile and less than fully trustworthy opponent of Christianity. It was a translation of Huxleys Principles of Evolution into Chinese (by Yen Fu) that prepared the way for the establishment of communism in China, with the ensuing slaughter of millions under Mao Zedong. Huxley had two famous grandsons: Sir Julian Huxley, a leading evolutionist of the twentieth century, and first director general of UNESCO; and Aldous Huxley, atheist philosopher, author of Brave New World, and patriarch of the modern drug culture.
Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) German atheist, racist, professor of zoology at Jena.As the foremost European popularizer of evolution, Haeckel brought Darwinism into German intellectual life. He promoted Darwins recapitulation notion as the Biogenetic Law (ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, i.e., the sequence of an organisms embryonic development exhibits its evolutionary ancestry) an idea which has been shown to be false. In 1874 he published the first diagram of a phylogenetic (evolutionary) tree, a technique that tends to cover up our ignorance of virtually all transitional forms. He is notorious for producing fraudulently altered drawings of mammalian embryos purporting to show their similarity to each other this deception was exposed by Wilhelm His, a famous comparative embryologist and professor of anatomy at the University of Leipzig. In a catalogue of the errors, His (1874) showed that Haeckel had used two drawings of embryos, one taken from Bischoff (1845) and the other from Ecker (1851-59), and he had added 3-5 mm to the head of Bischoffs dog embryo, taken 2 mm off the head of Eckers human embryo, reduced the size of the eye 5 mm, and doubled the length of the posterior. His concluded by saying that one who engages in such blatant fraud forfeits all respect, and he added that Haeckel had eliminated himself from the ranks of scientific research workers of any stature. . . . His, whose work still stands as the foundation of our knowledge of embryological development, was not the first to point out the deficiencies of Haeckels work, nor indeed was he the last, yet Haeckels fraudulent drawings have continued to the present day to be reproduced throughout the biological literature (Taylor, p. 276). Along with the nihilist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, Haeckel helped to lay the foundations for the intense German militarism that led to two world wars; he became one of Germanys major ideologists for racism, nationalism, and imperialism. He advocated the killing of abnormal newborn children, and the poisoning of people with cancer and other incurable diseases. Dr. Edward Simon, professor of biology at Purdue University, although an evolutionist himself, has said: I dont claim that Darwin and his theory of evolution brought on the holocaust; but I cannot deny that the theory of evolution, and the atheism it engendered, led to the moral climate that made a holocaust possible (Morris, 1989, p. 78). In light of that, it is interesting that Hitler himself stressed the idea of biological evolution as the most forceful weapon against religion, and he repeatedly condemned Christianity for its opposition to the teachings of evolution.
Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) British philosopher, bitterly anti-Christian.One of the founders of modern sociology, Spencer was second in importance only to August Comte; he was the main founder of the right-wing sociological system called social Darwinism. (Karl Marx, who founded the competing left-wing sociological system of marxism, was also a disciple of Comte.) Spencer rejected the supernatural, believing that human emotions, religion, and morality had all come into being through evolution. In his 1865 book, Principles of Biology, he introduced the phrase survival of the fittest, which Darwin acknowledged as more accurate than the equivalent term natural selection. In his writings between 1862 and 1867, Spencer also popularized the word evolution, making it synonymous with development toward increasing organization and complexity. (Darwin did not use the word until the sixth edition of Origin of Species in 1872; he preferred the phrase descent with modification.) Spencer argued that civil laws should never contribute to the artificial preservation of those people who were least able to take care of themselves.
Asa Gray (1810-1888) American theistic evolutionist, botany professor at Harvard.Though a Christian (Congregationalist), Gray became, from 1860 on, Darwins foremost ally in the United States. He was concerned that Darwins theory with its atheistic overtones would not be accepted by the majority of Americans. Although Gray described himself as one who is scientifically, and in his own fashion, a Darwinian, he confessed to a friend that his ideas on divinely directed variations were very anti-Darwinian (Numbers, p. 21). Grays theistic evolution was not only rejected by Darwin, but also was never seriously considered by any of the other founding fathers of evolution. As Darwin wrote in 1868, however much we may wish it, we can hardly follow Professor Asa Gray in his belief in lines of beneficent variation [i.e., divinely guided evolution].
Louis Agassiz (1807-1873) paleontologist at Harvard, father of glacial geology.Agassiz was a specialist in living and fossil fishes; he carried out definitive studies which have never been equaled. He opposed Darwinism not as a Biblical creationist, but as a nineteenth century catastrophist and progressionist he believed in a series of major catastrophes, the last and greatest of which was Noahs flood, after each of which a new and higher group of life forms had been specially created.
David Brewster (1781-1868) founder of the science of optical mineralogy.Brewster described light polarization and is the inventor of the kaleidoscope. One of the founders of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, he later served as its president. He opposed Darwinism for both scientific and biblical reasons.
John William Dawson (1820-1899) distinguished Canadian geologist.Dawson was Nova Scotias first superintendent of education (1850-53). Hired by McGill in 1855, he served as principal for almost forty years, during which time that institution went from cow pasture to world-class university. He was the first president of the Royal Society of Canada; during the 1880s he served as president of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the British Association for the Advancement of Science a unique accomplishment. Trained under Lyell, Dawson accepted the long-age view of geology, reconciling this to Scripture using the day-age theory. Nevertheless, he was a committed Christian (Presbyterian) and Sunday school teacher. He was also an energetic anti-Darwinist, considering evolution to be crass materialism and atheism.
Jean Henri Fabre (1823-1915) great French entomologist, science educator.Known as a careful and patient student of nature, especially of insects, Fabre wrote many well-received science books for children. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, he was one of the most celebrated educators on the subject of nature. . . . although Charles Darwin greatly admired Fabre and referred to him as the inimitable observer in On the Origin of Species, Fabre refused to accept the theory of evolution (Pasteur, p. 74). Indeed, he was a vigorous lifelong opponent of Darwinism.
Charles Hodge (1797-1878) evangelical theologian, teacher at Princeton seminary.Hodge accepted the day-age theory but rejected evolution. In his 1874 book What Is Darwinism? he argued that Darwinism was atheism because it enabled one to account for design without referring it to the purpose or agency of God (Numbers, p. 14).
James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) noted theoretical physicist.Building on Faradays work, Maxwell developed a comprehensive theoretical and mathematical framework of electromagnetic field theory. Einstein called Maxwells achievement the most profound and most fruitful that physics has experienced since the time of Newton (Morris, 1988, p. 67). Maxwell also developed a rigorous mathematical refutation of Laplaces nebular hypothesis (an atheistic theory of the evolution of the solar system), and he argued incisively against Spencers evolutionary philosophy.
Richard Owen (1804-1892) zoologist, paleontologist, comparative anatomist.Owen was for many years superintendent of the Natural History Department of the British Museum. He coined the word dinosaur. He was a progressionist rather than a Bible-believing Christian nonetheless, he lectured against natural selection and supported Christians who took a stand against Darwinism.
Adam Sedgwick (1785-1873) theologian, geology professor at Cambridge.One of Englands leading geologists, Sedgwick opposed Lyells uniformitarianism. Like Agassiz, he was a catastrophist and progressionist. Although his own studies did contribute to the development of the geological ages concept, he rejected Darwins evolutionary ideas, predicting that they would lead to devastatingly harmful results.
William Thomson, Lord Kelvin (1824-1907) noted physical scientist.Kelvin held the chair of Natural Philosophy at the University of Glasgow for fifty-four years. He devised the scale of absolute temperature (which now uses the kelvin unit), and established thermodynamics as a formal scientific discipline, formulating its first and second laws in precise terminology. He supervised the design and laying of the first trans-Atlantic cable. Kelvin was a strong Christian, opposing both geological uniformitarianism and Darwinian evolution. His calculation of the maximum possible age of the earth at 100 million years far too brief for evolution led to an extended controversy with Thomas Huxley, Darwins Bulldog. Modern evolutionists like to ridicule this calculation which was based on terrestrial heat flow and the cooling of the earth by noting that Kelvin did not know about heat from radioactivity. However, when radioactivity was discovered, Kelvin did consider it and showed it would not be at all adequate to meet the need for an earth old enough to allow evolution (Morris, 1988, p. 66).
Rudolph Virchow (1821-1902) German medical researcher.Virchow is considered the father of modern pathology and the study of cellular diseases. He was the first to describe leukemia. Virchow fought strongly against allowing the evolutionary teachings of Darwin and Haeckel into the schools of Germany.
Neo-Darwinian Evolution (the modern synthesis or synthetic theory).In the 1930s and 1940s evolutionists worked to incorporate new data from various subdisciplines of biology into a revised version of classical Darwinism. The primary focus on natural selection was maintained, but other aspects of Darwins thinking were updated. The geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky (Genetics and the Origin of Species, 1937) presented his understanding of the significance of Mendelian genetics and mutations. (Darwin was unaware of Mendels views, and had mistaken ideas on how inheritance worked; he thought ordinary variation would provide enough raw material for natural selection to work on.) The ornithologist and systematist Ernst Mayr (Systematics and the Origin of Species, 1942) defined species as groups of actually or potentially interbreeding populations that are reproductively isolated from other groups (biological species definition), and urged the central importance of geographic barriers as reproductive isolating mechanisms promoting the evolution of new species. (Darwins concept of species was that they were simply well-marked varieties; he considered geographic isolation of limited importance.) The paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson (Tempo and Mode in Evolution, 1944) integrated the fossil record into the synthesis, proposing that mutations and natural selection were sufficient to account for both micro- and macro-evolution. Other contributions came from Bernhard Rensch and G. Ledyard Stebbins; a 1947 conference consolidated the efforts of various evolutionists and confirmed that a new synthesis was being achieved.
Ernst Mayr summarized the position in 1963: The proponents of the synthetic theory maintain that all evolution is due to accumulation of small genetic changes [mutations], guided by natural selection, and that transspecific evolution [macroevolution] is nothing but an extrapolation and magnification of the events that take place within populations and species [microevolution] (quoted in Gould, p. 120).
In the 1990s, adherents of strict neo-Darwinism include John Maynard Smith, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett. These people insist that natural selection is the overriding factor at work in evolution. Their opponents (especially Stephen Jay Gould) call them selectionists, ultra-Darwinians, or Darwinian fundamentalists; Gould and others refer to themselves as pluralists because they acknowledge a variety of important factors affecting evolution, of which natural selection may not even be the most important.
Punctuated Equilibrium (originally called punctuated equilibria).This view was developed in the 1970s by paleontologists Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge, based on three noteworthy features of the fossil record: 1. The extreme rarity of transitional forms (missing links). 2. Stasis or equilibrium (meaning little or no change in a species throughout its time on Earth) as the most prominent feature of the fossil record. 3. Sudden appearance (new species appear all at once and fully formed ). Gould and Eldredge proposed that most of a species existence is characterized by evolutionary inaction or stability (stasis), punctuated by relatively rare bursts of evolution. (A burst on the evolutionary time scale would consist of relatively rapid evolution over a few thousand to tens of thousands of years.) Some evolutionists feel the punctuated equilibrium view is diametrically opposed to Darwinism; others prefer to think Gould and Eldredges points can be accommodated within the neo-Darwinian synthesis. Gould himself appears to have spoken with both of these attitudes at different times!
Biblical creationistsThese are evangelical Christians who insist on an inerrant Bible, a young Earth and a worldwide Flood, and who reject the Big Bang. Included are such organizations as the Institute for Creation Research (Henry Morris, Duane Gish), Answers in Genesis (Ken Ham, Gary Parker), Creation Science Foundation (Carl Wieland, Andrew Snelling).
Mere creationistsMany of these are Christians, though some are not; they tend to focus more narrowly on issues of biological evolution and philosophy, leaving aside questions of time scale and biblical issues. This group includes such noted authors as lawyer Phillip E. Johnson (Darwin on Trial) and biochemist Michael Behe (Darwins Black Box).
Miscellaneous writersThese people are not necessarily Christians; they are helpful in that they oppose Darwinism but they may or may not hold to some other form of evolutionary thought. Examples include noted British astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle (Evolution from Space), Jewish physicist Lee Spetner (Not By Chance!), British science journalist Richard Milton (Shattering the Myths of Darwinism), and Australian molecular biologist Michael Denton, an agnostic (Evolution: A Theory in Crisis).