Creationist Wisdom #751: Darwin Was Crazy

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears at a website called LancasterOnline, which we think is the internet version of the Intelligencer Journal of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It’s titled Darwin was a crazy scientist. The newspaper has a comments section.

Because the writer isn’t a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote her by using her full name. Her first name is Gabrellen. Excerpts from her letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

In response to the Feb. 21 letter “Evolution, religion can co-exist”: so can truth and error, but we dare not equate the two.

A profound beginning! Then she says:

I suggest that the writer do more research if he in interested in truth. First, let’s clarify that “religion’’ is a product of every human mind since all human brains are endowed with the ability to recognize spiritual issues.

Yes, we are all inclined to seek out causes of things, but some do it better than others. After that she tells us:

Even atheism is a religion. [Hee hee!] Charles Darwin’s purpose was to discredit the Christian view from the universe of phenomena. However, to do this he had to erase teleology (the doctrine of final causation, which is God).

Wow — Gabrellen really understands Darwin! She continues:

He wanted to substitute “unlimited time’’ as the cause of “species variation’’ rather than a creator! He confessed that this caused him problems when he spoke to his scientific friend Asa Gray, who was a Christian. When Gray challenged Darwin’s anti-teleological views, Darwin had to admit that he was in an “utterly hopeless muddle. I cannot think that the world … is the result of chance; yet I cannot look at each separate thing as the result of design.’’

We’ve seen a lot of creationist quote-mining attempts to distort Darwin’s views, but that’s a new one. We found the source here: Darwin Correspondence Project — To Asa Gray: 26 November [1860]. This is Darwin’s paragraph that Gabrellen mined. We’ll put the part she excerpted in red font:

Yesterday I read over with care the third Article; & it seems to me, as before, admirable. But I grieve to say that I cannot honestly go as far as you do about Design. I am conscious that I am in an utterly hopeless muddle. I cannot think that the world, as we see it, is the result of chance; & yet I cannot look at each separate thing as the result of Design.— To take a crucial example, you lead me to infer (p. 414) that you believe “that variation has been led along certain beneficial lines”.— I cannot believe this; & I think you would have to believe, that the tail of the Fan-tail was led to vary in the number & direction of its feathers in order to gratify the caprice of a few men. Yet if the fan-tail had been a wild bird & had used its abnormal tail for some special end, as to sail before the wind, unlike other birds, everyone would have said what beautiful & designed adaptation. Again I say I am, & shall ever remain, in a hopeless muddle.

Darwin, as always, was being polite. But to the end of his life, he never rejected his theory. Therefore, he was clearly saying that Gray’s idea of “Design” — and not his own theory of evolution — left him in a hopeless muddle. Let’s read on from Gabrellen’s letter:

So he was forced to admit that natural laws had been designed [Huh?], which was at odds with his own theoretical methodology. In this state of double-mindedness, he was forced to admit “with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy.”

Ah yes, Darwin’s “horrid doubt” letter, so beloved by creationists. We debunked that here: A Preacher Quote-Mines Darwin.

Gabrellen ends her letter with a question:

Would you trust such a crazy scientist?

Well, dear reader, who ya gonna trust — Darwin, or Gabrellen?

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9 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #751: Darwin Was Crazy

  1. Once again, it seems that someone thinks that people today accept evolution because Darwin said so. Rather than because of the evidence and reasoning available today. Just as people accepted evidence in the 19th century because of the evidence and reasoning of that age. Much of that remains convincing throughout the 20th century.
    That is as it is for science generally.
    We don’t accept science because of who proposed it: We don’t “believe” in periodic table of elements because of the personality of Mendeleev; the Pythagorean Theorem because of who said it; the existence of the Americas, by the trustworthiness of Columbus.

  2. Michael Fugate

    The idea that Darwin only proposed evolution because he was an atheist/ materialist and wanted to abolish religion is as our CiC would say “sad” – one could say that about any scientist and any scientific concept.

  3. I am currently reading Daniel C. Dennet’s book *From Bacteria to Bach and Back Again*. Chapters 4 and 5 give a pretty thorough account of how natural selection on a variable population can get results that look in hindsight exactly like the product of an engineering project. The account also gives insight into the reason so many engineers are creationists.

  4. Well, she almost got one thing right: religions are products of human minds. But she’s yet another creationist who apparently never read Darwin, or, if she did, she didn’t pay attention. Darwin’s purpose wasn’t “to discredit the Christian view from the universe of phenomena”, whatever that poorly constructed phrase is supposed to mean. He came to the conclusion that variation among living things arose in a manner similar to the selection process that produces variations among domestic animals by studying (among other things) variation among closely related species separated by geography. I suggest that, if Gabrellen is interested in knowing anything about the world, she do some research in something other than bronze age mythology.

  5. Gabrellen is from Lancaster, so close to Dover and yet apparently so far.

  6. Dunning-Kruger effect.

  7. What is the Christian view of variation among things so that species are similar to one another when they are closely related by geography? (Or other observations about variation?)

    Where is that “view” expressed in the Bible? (Or in any old-time religion?)

  8. Ross Cameron

    Weird and wonderful are the products of a deceived mind. Probably evolved to help primitive man make sense of their surroundings and prevalent through to today. Will Homo sap (or Hetero sap as the fundies prefer) conquer the ghosts of the past? Well, some of us have managed. What`s stopping the rest? Lack of courage? Chemical imbalance? Stay tuned in to Sensuous Curmudgeon 2099 for the answer.

  9. techreseller

    Who I trust is the question in the post: Darwin hands down.