Who Is a Darwinian?
When it comes to those who claim to be followers of Darwin, there is no end to the procession – Marxists, atheists, nihilists, Neo-Darwinians – the list goes on. The problem with all this comes when these positions are compared with the actual writings of Charles Darwin.
Those currently in the biological sciences who wish to link themselves with Darwin need to call themselves Neo-Darwinians because his theory of natural selection as outlined in Origin of the Species does not fit the model they want. Darwin very candidly stated: "…Natural Selection acts only by taking advantage of successive variations; she can never take a great and sudden leap, but must advance by short and sure, though slow steps." (p. 162) "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down." (p. 158) In other words, Darwin observed what everyone admits – a form of micro-evolution: i.e. within basic human genetic structure – or the basic genetic structure of any form of life – there exists the possibility of some variation. Witness the variety of human life, for example, with its many races, sizes, bodily characteristics etc. – yet very much human.
Neo-Darwinians have trouble with this because they need a mechanism which can explain the existence of complex organs "which could not possibly have been formed by numerous successive, slight modifications,…." They call this mechanism "macro-evolution" which they believe can explain what Darwin thought to be unexplainable. Among other reasons, Neo-Darwinists are forced to propose their theory of macro-evolution due to what is called the Cambrian explosion – the sudden appearance of various phyla occurring far too rapidly in geological time to fit Darwin’s theory of natural selection. As Richard Dawkins observes: "It is as though they (the invertebrate phyla) were just planted there, without any evolutionary history."
The point is this: Neo-Darwinians have come up with a mechanism which has nothing at all to do with Darwin since he himself disavowed the possibility of any mechanism other than natural selection – "numerous successive, slight modifications" over an extended period of time. To be honest, the Neo-Darwinian idea of macro-evolution cannot have any relationship whatsoever to the Darwinian idea of micro-evolution/natural selection. Neo-Darwinians have linked his name to something totally different than what he described in Origin of the Species.
Michael J Behe in his book, Darwin’s Black Box, effectively demonstrates by means of current micro-biology what Darwin recognized would destroy his theory – the existence of complex cellular mechanisms which could not be accounted for by "numerous successive, slight modifications." As Behe so ably points out, there would need to be an independent simultaneous development and modification of numerous cellular components which at the same time would work together to accomplish complex cellular functions — something macro-evolutionists try to explain – but something Darwin would have rejected as incompatible with his theory of natural selection. Michael Behe appropriately titled his book, Darwin’s Black Box, because Darwin, of course, had no knowledge of the complexity of micro-biology and the interrelationship of cellular components. In fact, the cell was to him like a black box.
Moving to the philosophical arena, those who so recklessly associate Darwin’s name to their philosophies would not accept at all what he had to say about himself. He certainly did not support blatant atheism, for example. Although Darwin was by no means a Christian, (although raised as such), he did not discount some kind of intelligent Being behind the universe. Those who use Darwin’s name to support their philosophical positions would be aghast at what he said in his Autobiography written a year before his death in 1882 – an edition published by his granddaughter, Nora Barlow. This position, Darwin said, was that which he held when he wrote his Origin of the Species in 1859:
"Another source of conviction in the existence of God connected with the reason and not the feelings, impresses me as having much more weight. This follows from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capability of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look at a first cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a theist."
To be honest with the context in his Autobiography, Darwin admits what he calls "the mystery of the beginning of all things" – something which he says is "insoluble." Yet, he was not afraid to commit to writing "the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe…as the result of blind chance or necessity.
If you have been keeping up with the Intelligent Design debate which has unfortunately met with unfavorable judgments in the courts, you may have noticed the proponents of Intelligent Design saying much the same things as Darwin in his Autobiography. This would absolutely astound many in the academic community who violently eschew anything which remotely resembles Intelligent Design. They have repeatedly pontificated that such a thing could not possibly be scientific or reasonable.
Now this is quite interesting when their patron saint, Charles Darwin, wrote he had "extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe…as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look at a first cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man."
Those who so readily attempt to build their positions on the writings of Darwin may need to take a second look.