One of Darwin’s Greatest Supporters Was a Devout Christian

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Photo credit: Wikipedia.

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. 

For more on evolution, Darwin, and how God works through "random" processes, check out Praveen's full talk above, as well as the resources on the sidebar (below on mobile).




Sethupathy, Praveen. "One of Darwin’s Greatest Supporters Was a Devout Christian" N.p., 23 May. 2017. Web. 17 January 2019.


Sethupathy, P. (2017, May 23). One of Darwin’s Greatest Supporters Was a Devout Christian
Retrieved January 17, 2019, from /blogs/guest/one-of-darwins-greatest-supporters-was-a-devout-christian

About the Author

Praveen Sethupathy

Praveen Sethupathy is a faculty member in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Cornell University, where he directs a research laboratory focused on genomics, gene regulation, and human diseases.  Praveen received his B.A. in Computer Science from Cornell University and his Ph.D. in Genomics and Computational Biology from the University of Pennsylvania.  He then continued his training as a post-doctoral fellow with Dr. Francis S. Collins at the National Institutes of Health.  Dr. Sethupathy has published over seventy peer-reviewed articles in a wide array of scientific journals.  He is committed to engaging university students and the broader public on the topic of science and faith.  Dr. Sethupathy has been an invited speaker for the Veritas Forum, is a member of the BioLogos Voices Program, and serves on the Board of Directors for BioLogos.  He lives in Ithaca, NY with his wife, Rebecca, and three children.

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