Although the Origin of Species is quoted as a classic scientific text, and generations of atheists have held Darwin close to their heart in their crusade against Creationism, the actual theological content of this work is generally under appreciated.
A recent paper published in the British Journal for the History of Science ( BJHS) argues that Darwin’s position on the Theory of Evolution was solidly entrenched in theological argument in favour of God’s role in Creation through evolution. The author, Stephen Dilley, a philosopher of Science at the State University of Arizona, argues that Darwin’s use of theology in the Origin of Species was far more than just refuting Biblical creationist arguments offered by his opponents. Rather, it went far beyond – trying to actually justify evolution theologically, as part of God’s ‘enhanced’ pre-Biblical creation plan.
These are a few of Dilley’s observations on Darwin’s positive use of theology in the Origin :
1. God does not provide false information about the origin of life
2. God imposed the laws of nature on matter and seeded the primordial life, and the evolution followed. Analogously God did not produce miracles within organic chemistry.
3. Humans are not justified in describing God’s creation not based on evidence, but out of imagination allowed by their intellect.
4.Given the scale and nature of pain and suffering in the world, a God of Special Creation who performed miracles wasn’t feasible, nor morally culpable.
Dilley’s article perhaps puts evolutionary biologists like Richard Dawkins in an uncomfortable position, who have continued to attack theology to make a stronger case for Darwinian evolution. But Dilley does not challenge evolution in any way; his scholarly concerns have more to do with how human awareness can be inter-dependant and multi-faceted, when it comes to issues like life and creation. In this respect, theology is much more than just a belief system.
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