Below is an excerpt from the opening chapter of On Our Origins, which is available now at onourorigins.org, Amazon and many other online book retailers:
“In the 1830s, an unknown British naturalist set sail on a journey that became a lifelong quest to discover the origins of the human race. He was far from the first person to ponder the beginnings of humanity and is certainly not the last to do so. What has made his journey remarkable is the effect his conclusions have had on how the human race has come to understand its origins.
In the introduction of his book, On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin stated his conviction that the human intellect finally could grasp how life came to its present state. Equipped with his impressions of the natural order and loads of evidence to defend his radical new theory, Darwin optimistically stated, “These facts seemed to throw some light on the origin of species—that mystery of mysteries, as it has been called by one of our greatest philosophers. On my return home, it occurred to me, in 1837, that something might perhaps be made out on this question by patiently accumulating and reflecting on all sorts of facts which could possibly have any bearing on it.”[i]
Not only has something been “made out” of his theory, but his ideas have completely rewritten humanity’s understanding of life. His ideas proved so influential that they have now become the foundation of the life sciences.
Darwin recognized the potential of his theories to revolutionize how we understand our origins and clairvoyantly predicted that his theory would become the basis of many fields of study: “In the distant future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation. Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history.”[ii]
Darwin’s prediction has proven true. His evolutionary model now serves as the foundation of sciences as diverse as biology, geology, psychology, and sociology. His theories have had such far-reaching implications that they now form the framework within which most people today—even most people of faith—try to understand themselves and where they’ve come from. His ideology has become ingrained in our collective consciousness.
Reflecting on Darwin’s impact on both culture and the sciences, we would be mistaken to view Darwin as a genius who arrived at his conclusions in a vacuum. By the time of his rise to popularity in the nineteenth century, the world had already experienced many awakenings. The theory of evolution, birthed in the mind of Darwin, simply grew out of humanity’s already changing understanding of the universe, life, and self. A culture dominated by the Christian church, with God at the center of humanity’s understanding of existence, was found by many to no longer be acceptable.
By proposing a new explanation for humanity’s origin and life based strictly upon natural knowledge, Darwin substituted a purely naturalistic view of humanity and life’s origins. His view naturally grew out of his purely scientific mindset. Because God cannot be observed physically, all theories based upon a purely naturalistic scientific method will, by necessity, be godless or potentially anti-God.
Darwin’s contribution to the sciences tipped the scales in favor of a much more naturalistic analysis of human origins. Before the rise of secularism (greatly accelerated in the sciences by Darwin’s theory of natural selection and later by Einstein’s theory of relativity), the church had been the largely undisputed arbiter of truth in the Christian West.[iii] People had generally accepted the premise that God had revealed the true nature of existence and humanity’s origin in the Scriptures.[iv]
We now find ourselves living in a culture awash in the confluence of two strikingly different explanations of humanity’s origins. Much of the current conflict and confusion about human origins likely stems from the different foundations upon which the institutions of religion and science are built. The faithful have traditionally viewed the revealed knowledge of God in the Scriptures[v] and the church as authoritative in matters of faith and life. In contrast, a scientific community, now secularized, proposes natural knowledge as the exclusive source of truth.”
What blessings do you enjoy because you live in the 21st century Scientific/Information Age?
What curses come with life in the 21st century?
[i] Charles Darwin, On the Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection; Or, the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle of Life (Rockville, MD: Wildside Press, 2003), 1.
[ii] Darwin, 488.
[iii] Francis Oakley, The Medieval Experience (Toronto: Universtiy of Toronto Press, 1997), 113.
[iv] “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:14–16).
[v] “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).