Today is Darwin Day. Is this is a fake holiday created by Hallmark to sell more greeting cards? I’ve never gotten such a card. But this past Christmas I did get a Darwin candle in the “Secular Saints” series of candles produced by philosophersguild.com. He is called the “Patron Saint of slow, random, gradual, adaptive change and of finches.” The gift was kind of a joke. I’m not part of a tradition that prays to saints—and even if I were, I’m not sure I could bring myself to ask Darwin for spiritual assistance.
We Christians who accept the scientific evidence for evolution have a complex relationship with Darwin. He was a complex figure. (If you ever have the chance to see the play Mr. Darwin’s Tree, I strongly recommend it for showing some of that complexity.) The difficulty is that there are multiple lines of ideological descent from Darwin all claiming him as their intellectual ancestor. Evolution-denying groups use this to their rhetorical advantage. For example, since Social Darwinism was a thing, critics of evolution insinuate that all descendents of Darwinism are tainted with its application of “survival of the fittest” (a phrase never used by Darwin himself) to human societies.
There is similar critique from the other side too. The New Atheists claim that Darwin’s theory has shown humans are nothing but slightly adapted apes with no special standing in the world. They too act as though anyone who claims to find the crux of Darwin’s theory correct must accept all of their interpretation of the data.
But there are other lines of descent from Darwin. And just as you may not want to be labeled with everything the people in your extended family stand for, neither do we. Evolutionary creationists can look back to Darwin and appreciate (and even marvel at) the incredible insight he had into the created order without accepting the value systems some descendents of Darwin lay on top of the science itself.
We believe it is worthwhile to work through the implications of the science, and we will continue to do so in the light of our Christian faith. If you’re interested in that sort of thing too, consider coming to our conference in Houston in March, where you’ll find a community of people seeking to honor God through our efforts to understand the natural world and his revealed Word.
In an act of appreciation, I may pull out my Darwin candle today and light it while reflecting a bit on the incredible transformation of scientific knowledge Darwin helped to bring about. But more importantly, I’ll be at church today, worshiping the God who created all things through Christ.