Thursday, May 23, 2013

Evolution Is Dead?

When Charles Darwin died in 1882, people opposed to his writings claimed that the father of evolution had recanted his research.  That was not true, although the claims continue today.  In fact, Darwin became more willing to proclaim his religious doubts after the death of his beloved daughter, Annie.

At the end of his great book On The Origin of Species, Darwin returns to her death, noting that everything dies for no apparent reason.  Yet, he noted, life continues in richness and beauty, the product of millions of years of competition and death.  That’s a belief he defended to the end of his long life.

That writing apparently has not touched doubters, who have continued to insist that evolution has begun to disappear as a scientific study.  Recently, there have been several reports making those claims.  They are really not new.  The chorus against the theory began in 1859, almost immediately after Darwin’s book was published, as devout people began to realize the implication of his research showing that all living creatures developed from earlier forms in a recognizable process.

In the 1960s, faced with the growing belief that “God is dead,” anti-evolution writers began to spin out their fantasies again.   For example, in 1968, hydraulic engineer Henry Morris, who the New York Times called the father of modern creationism when he died in 2006, published The Twilight of Evolution.  In it, Morris claimed that evolution was fading away.

Of course, he’s the same guy who denied all geological research to insist that Noah’s flood shaped the geography of the world.

“He was absolutely sincere about his convictions that the Bible was literally true and that science would support it and creation science was good science,” said Eugenie C. Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education.  Morris’ books, Scott added, “have no scientific merit.”

They did ignite other opponents of evolution, however.  In 1991, attorney Philip Johnson supported Morris in a book titled Darwin on Trial.  Johnson helped start the Intelligent Design movement, which argues erroneously that everything is so complex only God must have designed it.

Such writings have had an impact.  Recent studies show that a large number of Americans still don’t accept evolution.  One 2006 poll found that only 14 percent of Americans thought that evolution was "definitely true," while about a third firmly rejected the idea.  That’s in contrast to Europeans where as many as 80 percent in some countries endorse evolution.

Groups like the Discovery Institute have been working hard to keep Americans misinformed.  The    It “works to defend free inquiry,” according to its website.
Institute has a large following and regularly holds workshops and forums, all the while claiming to be “an inter-disciplinary community of scholars and policy advocates dedicated to the re-invigoration of traditional Western principles and institutions and the worldview from which they issued.”

Actually, it does nothing of the sort.  It really “seeks to counter the materialistic interpretation of science by demonstrating that life and the universe are the products of intelligent design and by challenging the materialistic conception of a self-existent, self-organizing universe and the Darwinian view that life developed through a blind and purposeless process,” its website notes.

That doesn’t sound like free inquiry since it already has an agenda to reject scientific findings that disagree with its philosophy.

That’s the funny part about science – evolution or any other field.  It has an open mind.  It allows for change.  Darwin proposed an idea called Natural Selection to explain how all living creatures developed.  He built on the already existing theory of evolution, offering a mechanism for the changes. Since then, his theory has been tested repeatedly in scientific labs and in the field.

That’s what scientist do.  They do not accept any idea simply because it sounds good or conforms to some religious ideal.  Instead, they probe, they examine, they analyze, they confront.  They look for errors, for mistakes that could undermine any idea.  

Evolution has gone through the same process.  

As a result, today, science realizes that natural selection does have an impact on life forms, but so do time, mutation and environment.  In fact, evolution as a theory has evolved.  

Today, there’s virtually no argument in the scientific community about its validity.  Every study, every bit of ancient fossils, every finding in molecular biology and related fields has confirmed Darwin’s original insight: all living creatures evolve from earlier life forms.  Sometimes, the changes create a dead end, and the creature becomes extinct.  Other times, the changes lead to new species.  Some living creatures are not necessarily more advanced than their predecessors; many are.

That’s simply fact.

“In the century and a half since Darwin's theory of evolution was first pronounced dead, it has grown steadily stronger. It is not in ‘crisis.’ It is not ‘collapsing.’ It is not ‘shot full of holes.’ Darwin's theory has grown steadily stronger to the point where virtually all evolutionary biologists would be mystified by the claim that evolution was dying, or even feeling poorly. Evolution is no more ill than heliocentricity, atomic theory or quantum mechanics is ill,” wrote Dr. Karl Giberson in an on-line column.

Giberson is the author of The Unholy War Between Science and Religion, which examined this issue and has spent much of his career trying to bring religion and science together.

He has not had great success.  Too many people prefer to live in darkness, to fall victims to the preaching and teaching of non-scientists because it is easier to accept religious pap than scientific research.

That, however, doesn’t affect reality.

Evolution is true, just as Darwin outlined.  Saying it isn’t loudly and often won't change that.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

You can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion for Dummies, at

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