The Faith of Darwin


Charles Darwin was convinced that life’s origin didn’t involve a creator, even though there was no (and still is no) scientific explanation of how life could have begun without one.

That’s the thrust of new research on Darwin’s writings, published in the journal Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres.1 In the paper, scientists—including evolutionary origin-of-life theorist Jeffrey Bada, whom we’ve reported on before (in September and October 2008 and January 2009)—discuss Charles Darwin’s opinion on the origin of life.

The phrase was added to try to reduce the controversial nature of the already-controversial book.

Darwin famously references a “Creator” in the last paragraph of some editions of On the Origin of Species, giving the false impression that he was an avowed theist despite the implications of his new theory. Actually, the phrase was added to try to reduce the controversial nature of the already-controversial book. University of Valencia biochemist Juli Peretó, the lead author of the study, said of the Origin passage, “It is utterly wrong to think that [Darwin] was invoking a divine intervention; it is also well documented that the mention of the ‘Creator’ . . . was an addition for appearance’s sake that he later regretted.”

Letters and other documents reveal Darwin’s true views on the initial origin of life, argue the study authors. “The intimate relationship between the vital phenomena with chemistry and its laws makes the idea of spontaneous generation conceivable,” Darwin wrote in one notebook, while in a letter to English botanist Joseph Hooker, Darwin speculated that inanimate matter may have arranged itself into life in a warm pool with the right chemical components and energy sources. The paper authors emphasize that “many . . . lines of evidence demonstrat[e] that Darwin took for granted a natural origin of life,” even taking a somewhat favorable view of spontaneous generation.

Of course, spontaneous generation had been experimentally discarded through the work of Louis Pasteur. Thus, as with many evolutionists today, Darwin had faith in an unscientific, mystical process as the ultimate explanation for the origin of life. “Darwin . . . had an amazingly modern materialist and evolutional vision about the transition of inanimate chemical matter into living matter,” Peretó noted in an all-too-true reference to the connection between materialism and evolutionary beliefs.

It isn’t that we think Darwin’s idea is, by itself, a totally worthless idea. On the contrary, Darwin helped clarify our understanding of natural selection, as well as offering more evidence of natural selection; creationists have no disagreement with that idea. However, Darwin went beyond observable science and made a materialistic leap of faith. Evolution of all life from a single ancestor would be an appropriate idea for a science fiction story, perhaps, but it certainly is not a conclusion based on rigorous scientific research, nor is the idea so compelling that one must be viewed as intellectually deficient if he resists it. Besides, the most important point is that Darwin had already rejected God and His Word, laying the foundation for his quest for a godless theory of origins.

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  1. Juli Peretó, Jeffrey L. Bada, and Antonio Lazcano, “Charles Darwin and the Origin of Life,” Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres 39, no. 5 (October 2009): 395–406, doi:10.1007/s11084-009-9172-7.


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