In his major work, Origin of Species, Charles Darwin, showed how a materialistic mechanism, called natural selection, could explain the changing characteristics of organisms, their development and their extinction through long stretches of time. [Selecting the "natural selection" link will take you to an excerpt of UC Berkeley's Evolution 101 website.] That, of course, was what made his evolutionary theory so controversial over a hundred years ago and what makes it so controversial today. The problem is not that life evolves. Evolution was not a new thing in the time of Darwin. A hundred years before Darwin the French naturalist Comte de Buffon, wrote about the evolution of life. Others followed such as Geoffroy St. Hilaire, Jean Baptiste Lamarck, and Robert Chambers. Evolution was not a new idea. Having a plausible materialistic mechanism for evolution was new. Before Darwin, Lamarck also had a materialistic mechanism for evolution but it had several problems with it and so it was later abandoned. The idea of natural selection developed by Darwin (and also independently at the same time by Alfred Russell Wallace), was very plausible and was convincingly argued for in his book, Origin of Species.
Charles Darwin (1809 - 1882)
Alfred Russell Wallace (1823 - 1913)
Although the finding of a materialistic mechanism for evolution was in keeping with standard scientific practice, it immediately led to controversies between science and religion that are still with us today. And it wasn't so much the finding of a materialistic mechanism in the natural world that created (still creates!) the controversy, it was finding it in the realm of life, and most particularly the development of homo sapiens, humans. Darwin skirted the application of theory of evolution to humans in Origin of Species, but that is where the real controversy was (is). The controversy is not so great with the development of the human body. People could accept that the human body evolved. The real controversy was (is) the application of his evolution theory to the human mind, morality, the human soul. Darwin made an attempt at applying his evolution theory to these areas in his later work, The Descent of Man, though that book's arguments were weaker than those in Origins and even his supporters, including Wallace, did not buy them.
|Assumptions of Science||Theory + attributes||Methodological Materialism|
|Evolution via natural selection||Imago Dei||ID beliefs: God-action detection|
|Irreducible Complexity||Specified Complexity|