The behavior of some Christians toward a famous evolutionist is shameful, but his arguments against God are empty at the least.
Apparently the veteran naturalist and famed television host Sir David Attenborough gets hate mail from Christians. “They tell me to burn in hell and good riddance.” Attenborough makes these complaints in an interview with the BBC Wildlife Magazine in advance of his forthcoming documentary, Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life.
It would be interesting to know what proportion of letters that he gets from creationists actually use such intemperate language. I suspect that it would be a very small number. (Though one harsh, unloving email or letter is one too many.) The implication of his comments is that creationists are people who use hateful language.1
Attenborough is criticising his critics because they complain, he says, that he is “not giving credit to God in his wildlife programmes.” He counters with:
They always mean beautiful things like hummingbirds. I always reply by saying that I think of a little child in East Africa with a worm burrowing through his eyeball. The worm cannot live in any other way, except by burrowing through eyeballs. I find that hard to reconcile with the notion of a divine and benevolent creator.
Implicit in his complaint is probably the misunderstanding that suggests that all species were directly created by God in the manner that we see them today. This is not the case. Genesis tells us that God created kinds, not species. New species can develop from within the existing gene pool within a created kind. Moreover, the parasitic worm would not have been parasitic when God created it. God created everything to be “very good.” Such harmful, non-benevolent attributes would have developed after Adam’s sin.
In a world before the Fall, the interactions of worms with their hosts would have been benign (such as with the nematode Loa loa filaria, which Attenborough is most likely referring to—a microscopic worm). But due to alterations (such as mutations) in a post-Fall world, those interactions are now harmful.
Attenborough goes on to make the usual claim that evolution is an established fact:
Evolution is not a theory; it is a fact, every bit as much as the historical fact that William the Conqueror landed in 1066. Indeed, more so, because all we have to tell us about William are a few bits of paper here or there—not very much at all. For evolution we have much more evidence: palaeontology, embryology, biology, geology.
Many articles on this website tackle these issues. However, a few brief comments are worth making here. The statement that “evolution is a fact” is a disingenuous comment. Attenborough has to be aware that one-off events allegedly happening in the past—such as the supposed event when inorganic molecules became a cell—are not susceptible to scientific analysis. To prove such an event would require actual contemporary eye-witness accounts. Such accounts are missing for the alleged origin of life, whereas the “few bits of paper” constitute hard evidence for William the Conqueror. We have a similar eye-witness account for the events surrounding creation—the book of Genesis!
Attenborough gives us a catalogue of sciences as evidence without actually quoting the evidence.
It is noteworthy that Attenborough gives us a catalogue of sciences as evidence without actually quoting the evidence. This technique is known as “the argument from authority” and is a logical fallacy. Readers should not believe that these sciences actually contain evidence for evolution just because a broadcaster with “National Treasure” status in the U.K. tells us so. It is noteworthy that Attenborough includes the discredited evolutionary evidence of embryology in his list.
Sir David must be aware of the significant minority of scientists who do not accept evolution. Why is he so against school children discussing such thoughts in school? Fortunately, a large number of state science teachers—even those who actually believe in evolution—consider it good practice to tell their pupils about the differing views that scientists have.
Attenborough says, “It never really occurred to me to believe in God—and I had nothing to rebel against, my parents told me nothing whatsoever.” The apostle Paul tells us:
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:20–21)
Whether it occurred to Sir David to believe in God or not is irrelevant. God has made Himself known, and he is without excuse.
Additionally, Attenborough says—in direct contradiction to what God says in Genesis—that “The idea that the Lord had given us a present, that the world is a gift from God. . . . well, the amount of stuff, back then, that the Lord was giving away was limited. We do not have dominion.”
Maybe some Christians have been intemperate in their correspondence with Sir David, rather than being compassionate and praying for him. But this does not alter the fact that God’s creation itself makes it clear that we should bow the knee in repentance and faith, acknowledging Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. Sir David’s rebellion is, sadly, against God Himself.