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Was Charles Darwin a Confident Evolutionist?

By Kenneth R. Samples - December 5, 2013
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It may be surprising to learn that the father of modern evolutionary theory had doubts about his proposed explanation for life’s diversity. In an article entitled “Darwin’s Doubt,” I address Charles Darwin’s worries about the philosophical implications of his biological theory. For example, he wrote:

With me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?1

Consistent with Darwin’s original uneasiness, a growing contingent of theists think it is irrational to believe in evolutionary naturalism in particular. I outline three reasons for this skepticism.

1. Naturalism Postulates a Nonrational Source for Human Rationality

According to the presumptions of science, an effect requires an adequate and sufficient cause, and the effect cannot be greater than the cause. But in the case of evolution, the effect of human intelligence is magnitudes (exponentially) greater than its supposed cause.

2. Evolution Promotes a Species’ Survivability, Not Its True Beliefs

Evolution functioned only to enhance a particular organism’s adaptation to its environment—thus promoting that species’ continued existence. What a particular species believes about its environment is nonessential to the process. Evolutionary naturalism appears to lead to inevitable insecurity concerning the truth of one’s beliefs.

3. False Beliefs Illustrate Evolutionary Naturalism’s Epistemological Unreliability

Attributing humanity’s false religious convictions (from the naturalist perspective) to the evolutionary process only adds suspicion to Darwin’s original doubt. If evolution is responsible for humankind’s virtually universal religious impulse—which from a naturalistic point of view is patently false (and even pernicious, according to Dawkins)—then history shows that false beliefs about reality have promoted human survivability more than true beliefs.

But again, if evolutionary naturalism can cause a person to believe that which is false (such as religiously oriented beliefs) in order to promote survivability, then what confidence can evolutionists muster that their own convictions are reliable and true?

For the full-length article, visit https://www.reasons.org/blogs/reflections/darwin-s-doubt.

Endnotes
  1. Charles Darwin to W. Graham, July 3, 1881, in The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, ed. Francis Darwin (1897; repr., Boston: Elibron, 2005), 1:285.

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