One of Darwin’s Greatest Supporters Was a Devout Christian
The person that Darwin felt best understood and appreciated him and his theory was a devout man of faith and a follower of Christ.
Editor’s note: Below is one of the “highlight clips” from the plenary talks at our Christ and Creation conference last month in Houston, TX. This week’s clip is from Praveen Sethupathy’s talk, titled “Quid Est Veritas: Reflections on Science and Faith.” In the video below, Praveen discusses the relationship between Darwin and Asa Gray, a Christian contemporary of Darwin’s who defended his findings. (Embedded video is the full talk, fast forward to 13:15 to see the section transcribed below.)
Randomness does not imply lack of order or purpose. Instead, it can—operating under specified constraints—weave a pretty beautiful tapestry, like how evolutionary processes bring about the diversity of biological life.
One of the earliest and most enthusiastic American supporters of Darwin’s thesis was a man named Asa Gray. He was a botanist at Harvard and a devout Christian. After critical examination of the theory and extensive back-and-forth interaction with Darwin himself, he found the theory so beautiful, so compelling that he was among the first to galvanize support for Darwin’s theories here in America.
And he went on to author a volume of essays called Darwinia about the harmony between biological evolution and Christian doctrine. Notably, Asa was not troubled at all by what he called “accidental” or “random” processes in nature, because he believed that creation was endowed with a certain amount of freedom. Which would necessarily bring about variation, but all within the sphere of God’s plan and design.
Darwin once wrote in a letter that, “no one person understands my views and has defended them so well as Asa Gray.” I want to let this sink in: the person that Darwin—at least at one point in his life—felt best understood and appreciated him and his theory was a devout man of faith and a follower of Christ.
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Emily Smith | Science & Neighborliness