Was Darwin More Concerned About God's Reputation Than We Are?

By Ralph D. Winter

According to Deborah Cadbury’s book entitled The Terrible Lizard which tells us about early dinosaur hunters, the tumble of new bones being dug up right in England soon became a significant factor in a vast and widespread shift away from what came to be called a “bondage to Moses,” that is, bondage to the Bible.

Cornelius Hunter’s book, Darwin’s God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil, demonstrates conclusively that even Darwin, only a little later, was still concerned about the Christian faith in that he was pained until the day he died by the intellectual task of explaining how a good and all-powerful God could have authored the cruelty which he saw so pervasively in nature, and which many of the discoveries of dinosaur bones dramatically highlighted.

Both Hunter and Cadbury show that in the 1820s Biblical perspectives were major factors filtering interpretations of the bones being discovered of earlier life forms. This was true at Oxford University, for example, which was in that era a citadel of defense of the literal text of the Bible, somewhat of a Moody Bible Institute.

Today we have the wonderful and effective work of the Evangelical pioneers in the Intelligent Design (ID) movement, a perspective portrayed magnificently in the Illustra Media video, Unlocking the Mystery of Life. But neither the writings of these pioneer ID people nor this magnificent video reflect any stated concern whatsoever for the perplexing presence of pervasive evil, suffering and cruelty throughout all of nature. Strange, because the lurid presence of evil (“Nature red in tooth and claw”) was a major factor in Darwin’s thinking and the thinking of quite a few other key people who in his day were confused about how the existence of violent forms of life could be congruent with the concept of a benevolent Creator.

Thus, it would appear that some of our present-day creationists are so eager to give God all the credit for all of creation that the virtually unavoidable presence of evil to be seen there has become strangely less important than it was in Darwin’s day and even to Darwin himself. Would it not be very ironic if the man we usually accuse of destroying faith in a Creator God were to turn out to be more interested in preserving the good reputation of that God than are we?


This entry was excerpted from an essay Ralph Winter wrote in the Winter of 2003 entitled, "Where Darwin Scores Higher Than Intelligent Design." The full essay can be read here.