July 18, 2006 | David F. Coppedge

Evolutionists Idolize Darwin Daddy

What is it about Charles Darwin?  Evolutionists seem to hold this one 19th-century scientist in higher regard than any other man in history.  In print or debate, they sometimes criticize anti-evolutionists for attacking “Darwinian” evolution, arguing that evolutionary theory has come a long way since Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection in 1859.  One would think if evolutionists really believed this, they would pick up and move on, focusing on the work of the latest and greatest proponents, rather than exalting a Victorian individual whose views have been largely superseded.   Yet their own fixation on the bearded father of evolution is a running theme in their own literature.  Consider these three examples from the most recent issue of Current Biology (07/11/2006):

  • Darwin Iconography:  Florence Maderspacher, the magazine’s reviews editor, wrote about how the “tree of life” imagery from Darwin’s book needs to be revised.1  Revisiting the one diagram in the Origin, she explained how a coral, rather than a tree, represents the image that guided Darwin’s development of his theory.  (This is the historical revision presented in a new book by Horst Bredekamp, Darwin’s Coral.)
        The aroma of Maderspacher’s review exudes not primarily from the debate about the path of evolution as understood today, however, as much as the desire to accurately preserve the old man’s vision.  “Bredekamp offers fascinating insights into how Darwin’s thinking developed,” she says in one place, and speaks of his sketches “that allow us to watch Darwin think” in another.  The medium-length review, which ends with the theme of accuracy in “evolutionary iconography,” mentions Darwin’s name 50 times.
  • Darwin Goliath Squad:  An editorial called “Darwin’s Champions Fight Back” begins, “Researchers are building their response to the attack by creationism on evolution as interest in Darwin memorabilia continues to grow.  Nigel Williams reports.”2  As the subtitle suggests, the article discusses both the counterattack against creationism and the growing interest in Darwin collections.  Williams first summarizes the work by “Darwin’s champions” against creationism in the UK, including the international joint statement (see 06/19/2006), and statements by the Royal Society, Nottingham University and the press.  Then Williams’ attention turns affectionately to Charles Darwin:

    But in spite of this battle, Darwin memorabilia and other material are attracting growing interest.  The world’s largest collection of editions of Charles Darwin’s works was bought last month by Britain’s Natural History Museum for nearly �1 million, the most expensive acquisition in the museum’s 125 year history.  Antiquarians, Chris and Michele Kohler collected about 3,500 items, filling four rooms of their house, over 20 years.  The collection includes almost everything Darwin published from 1829 onwards.
        The museum’s director said: “This acquisition makes the museum the ultimate Darwin resource.  Darwin brought about a revolution in how humans think about themselves and the natural world.  Combining this collection with our existing holdings gives us an unprecedented insight into how the theory of evolution developed, and how Darwin worked.

    Williams follows with the story of a “lovely letter” by Darwin to a Victorian clergyman who had questions about his evolutionary theory.  In the letter, Charles Darwin gently helps Rev. William Denton overcome his doubts.  “As in The Origin of Species,” Williams explains, “he uses specific examples to make his point.  For example, he discusses the origin of deafness in cats and why pigs in Florida are black.”  The “striking” letter is expected to fetch �20,000�30,000.
        Williams sees the rise in interest over Darwin as timely: “With the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the first publication of The Origin of Species due in the next few years, researchers hope that these events will help provide a prop to garner public interest and support and also help stem the anti-evolutionary tide.  This short article mentions Darwin 16 times.  Another project is raising funds for the 2009 Darwin Bicentennial.  The BBC News reported on a project to build a full-scale replica of the H.M.S. Beagle, the ship that launched Charles Darwin to fame.

  • Darwin Daddy-O:  “Who’s your daddy,” cartoon pops ask, when junior needs to show a little respect.  Well, Lynne Cassimeris (Lehigh U) is no smart aleck.  In her interview in the same issue,3 she knows who’s in charge:

    Do you have a scientific hero?
    Darwin is quickly becoming my scientific hero because he synthesized so many observations into one coherent theory of evolution by natural selection.  His theory is beautifully logical and explains so much of what we see in biology.

    Speaking of affection, here’s how Cassimeris responds when someone takes Darwin’s name in vain:

    Speaking of evolution, your colleague Michael Behe is one of the leading proponents of ‘intelligent design’: care to comment on what it’s like to be in a biology department that includes an ‘ID’ proponent?
    An article in the student newspaper falsely accused me of taunting Mike with chants of “Darwin’s your daddy”, so I guess that’s another reason why Darwin is my science hero – he’s my daddy too.

    Cassimeris went on to praise Behe in a backhanded way.  “Mike’s ideas led all of us to think more about evolution and how important it is to our own fields and to biology education,” she said.  “Before Mike’s book, evolution was something that many of us took for granted and didn’t consider all that much…. So, I have to credit Mike with inspiring me to think about evolution much more than I had before.” 

Maybe this includes closing one’s eyes, sitting in a lotus position, and repeating Abba, Darwin over and over.


1Florence Maderspacher, “The captivating coral – the origins of early evolutionary imagery,” Current Biology, Volume 16, Issue 13, 11 July 2006, pages R476-R478, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2006.06.019.
2Nigel Williams, “Darwin’s champions fight back,” Current Biology, Volume 16, Issue 13, 11 July 2006, pages R479-R480, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2006.06.035.
2Lynne Cassimeris, “Q & A,” Current Biology, Volume 16, Issue 13 , 11 July 2006, pages R480-R481, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2006.06.015.

Can you think of any scientist in history that gets this kind of attention?  Einstein scores high points, maybe, and perhaps Newton, but certainly no other scientist, no matter how great his or her achievement, gets the gushy worship that Pope Charlie gets from his devoted foot-kissers.  There is no annual Einstein Day or Newton Day, but Charlie’s birthday is becoming an international event.  Even in Darwin’s old age, his groupies would stand in awe in his presence at the Shrine of Down House, and “grown men would crumble in the presence of the god” as biographer Janet Browne described the new cult (see 02/13/2004 commentary).  This is not even weird science.  Clearly, it’s religion.  No wonder creationists, intelligent design advocates, theologians and pastors often target the cult of Darwin (see op-ed piece by Albert Mohler), because evolutionists themselves have placed Charlie’s fatherly image on their own standards.  If he falls, who is there (09/02/2004) to stand against the attacking Visigoths? (07/14/2006)  Richard Dawkins?  Bring it on.

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