I recently explained that Darwin, as well as evolution co-discoverer Alfred Wallace, came to believe in transmutation and so they then sought a suitable mechanism. That comes straight from leading Darwin historian Janet Browne. And why did Darwin and Wallace “believe in transmutation” in the absence of a known mechanism? Both Darwin and Wallace made it clear in their writings that their reasoning was metaphysical. The biological world did not meet with their creationist expectations. God would never have created this world and so evolution was the answer, even though they didn’t know how it could occur. Again, this is well recognized by historians. Darwin’s books, papers and notebook entries were chocked full of religious arguments.
This is the motivation and template for evolution and it has continued ever since Darwin. Evolution is not about science, it is about God. But evolutionists are in denial about this. They insist there is no religion here, right after making religious arguments. It is a fascinating study in denialism. You can see examples here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
So it is not surprising that an evolutionist gave me pushback when I wrote that Darwin and Wallace were driven by metaphysics:
This is, basically, crap. If anything, it was biogeographical observation that led Darwin to evolution:
In fact, not only did Darwin’s arguments for evolution hinge on religious premises, that includes his biogeographical arguments. Evolutionists are ahistorical. They imagine their mandate for a spontaneous origins is a scientific finding. Let’s look at some examples.
The Swedish botanist Carl Von Linne, or Linnaeus (1707-1778), was one of the greatest naturalists of the eighteenth century. He is most famous for the universally-accepted hierarchical method of classification that today bears his name. But Linnaeus’ popularity and influence spread beyond just classification. One of his most famous and influential beliefs was that of the fixity, or stability, of species. His proclamation Nullae Species Novae—no new species—idealized species as perfect forms created by the wise Creator.
Linnaeus was later troubled when he discovered hybrids—species that are produced by the crossing of two related species—and he later softened his doctrine of the stability of species. But this was inconsequential—his system with its conception of species became deeply rooted and the nineteenth century began with the notion of species as immutable still strongly in place.
But in his travels around the world in the 1830s, Darwin saw species on various islands that did not quite match the species on the nearby mainland. It was practically an epiphany for Darwin when he began to consider that the different types of finches he saw on the Galápagos Islands might not simply be variants of a species, but instead might actually be different species. If there was the slightest foundation for this idea, Darwin wrote in his famous notebook entry, it “would undermine the stability of species.”
The finches did not suddenly reveal to Darwin how fish could change to amphibia, or how amphibia could change to reptiles, or how reptiles could change to mammals. Rather, the revelation was that the idea of creation was suddenly becoming untenable. The crucible for Darwin was not full of positive evidence for evolution but rather negative evidence against creation. Evolutionist Ernst Mayr has pointed out that Darwin’s conversion from creationist to materialist was not due to a loss of religious faith but rather initially due to three key scientific findings and then later reinforced by several additional findings. And what were these scientific findings? They were all findings against creation. In other words, the key evidence that swayed Darwin was not direct evidence for evolution but rather evidence against creation that indirectly argued for evolution. And as Mayr further points out, the doctrine of fixity of species was a key barrier to overcome in order for evolution to flourish:
Darwin called his great work On the Origin of Species, for he was fully conscious of the fact that the change from one species into another was the most fundamental problem of evolution. The fixed, essentialistic species was the fortress to be stormed and destroyed; once this had been accomplished, evolutionary thinking rushed through the breach like a flood through a break in a dike.
The preDarwinian metaphysic was that species were fixed and essentialistic. Evidence for small-scale change argued against the old view and in so doing became important evidence for evolution.
This is one example of how Darwin interpreted the biogeographical evidence according to religious premises. These arguments became even stronger when the evidence did not merely fail to align with religious expectations, but rather made no sense on the theory of creation. These are much more powerful arguments for evolution and are evident in Darwin’s earliest notes and writings on evolution. For instance, in 1842 and 1844, almost two decades before publication of Origins, Darwin wrote two lengthy essays on his emerging theory. These eventually were published by his son Francis in 1909 in a book entitled The Foundations of The Origin of Species.
In the 1844 essay Darwin discussed the biogeography evidence. Darwin argued that certain species existed over narrow geographical ranges, and that there was “no reason” for this “On the ordinary theory of the separate creation of each species.” Also, Pacific islands closer to the Americas had plants with more of an “Asiatic character.” That too was “not obvious on the ordinary theory of creation.” Or again, the same species of plants had been found on immensely remote mountain summits, but:
we ought to be very slow in admitting the probability of double creations. In the case of plants on mountain summits, I think I have shown how almost necessarily they would, under the past conditions of the northern hemisphere, be as similar as are the plants on the present Arctic shores; and this ought to teach us a lesson of caution. But the strongest argument against double creations may be drawn from considering the case of mammifers in which, from their nature and from the size of their offspring, the means of distribution are more in view. … On the idea of double creations it would be strange if the same species of several plants should have been created in Australia and Europe; and no one instance of the same species of mammifer having been created, or aboriginally existing, in two as nearly remote and equally isolated points.
Then there was the problem of plant diversity, or lack thereof, on islands:
Why on the theory of absolute creations should this large and diversified island only have from 400 to 500 (? Dieffenbach) phanerogamic plants? and why should the Cape of Good Hope, characterised by the uniformity of its scenery, swarm with more species of plants than probably any other quarter of the world? Why on the ordinary theory should the Galapagos Islands abound with terrestrial reptiles? and why should many equal-sized islands in the Pacific be without a single one or with only one or two species? Why should the great island of New Zealand be without one mammiferous quadruped except the mouse, and that was probably introduced with the aborigines? Why should not one island (it can be shown, I think, that the mammifers of Mauritius and St Iago have all been introduced) in the open ocean possess a mammiferous quadruped? Let it not be said that quadrupeds cannot live in islands, for we know that cattle, horses and pigs during a long period have run wild in the West Indian and Falkland Islands; pigs at St Helena; goats at Tahiti; asses in the Canary Islands; dogs in Cuba; cats at Ascension; rabbits at Madeira and the Falklands; monkeys at St Iago and the Mauritius; even elephants during a long time in one of the very small Sooloo Islands; and European mice on very many of the smallest islands far from the habitations of man2. Nor let it be assumed that quadrupeds are more slowly created and hence that the oceanic islands, which generally are of volcanic formation, are of too recent origin to possess them; for we know (Lyell) that new forms of quadrupeds succeed each other quicker than Mollusca or Reptilia. Nor let it be assumed (though such an assumption would be no explanation) that quadrupeds cannot be created on small islands; for islands not lying in mid-ocean do possess their peculiar quadrupeds
Finally, Darwin went “full-Queeg” with this extended rant:
Shall we then allow that the three distinct species of rhinoceros which separately inhabit Java and Sumatra and the neighbouring mainland of Malacca were created, male and female, out of the inorganic materials of these countries? Without any adequate cause, as far as our reason serves, shall we say that they were merely, from living near each other, created very like each other, so as to form a section of the genus dissimilar from the African section, some of the species of which section inhabit very similar and some very dissimilar stations? Shall we say that without any apparent cause they were created on the same generic type with the ancient woolly rhinoceros of Siberia and of the other species which formerly inhabited the same main division of the world: that they were created, less and less closely related, but still with interbranching affinities, with all the other living and extinct mammalia? That without any apparant adequate cause their short necks should contain the same number of vertebræ with the giraffe; that their thick legs should be built on the same plan with those of the antelope, of the mouse, of the hand of the monkey, of the wing of the bat, and of the fin of the porpoise. That in each of these species the second bone of their leg should show clear traces of two bones having been soldered and united into one; that the complicated bones of their head should become intelligible on the supposition of their having been formed of three expanded vertebræ; that in the jaws of each when dissected young there should exist small teeth which never come to the surface. That in possessing these useless abortive teeth, and in other characters, these three rhinoceroses in their embryonic state should much more closely resemble other mammalia than they do when mature. And lastly, that in a still earlier period of life, their arteries should run and branch as in a fish, to carry the blood to gills which do not exist. Now these three species of rhinoceros closely resemble each other; more closely than many generally acknowledged races of our domestic animals; these three species if domesticated would almost certainly vary, and races adapted to different ends might be selected out of such variations. In this state they would probably breed together, and their offspring would possibly be quite, and probably in some degree, fertile; and in either case, by continued crossing, one of these specific forms might be absorbed and lost in another. I repeat, shall we then say that a pair, or a gravid female, of each of these three species of rhinoceros, were separately created with deceptive appearances of true relationship, with the stamp of inutility on some parts, and of conversion in other parts, out of the inorganic elements of Java, Sumatra and Malacca? or have they descended, like our domestic races, from the same parent-stock? For my own part I could no more admit the former proposition than I could admit that the planets move in their courses, and that a stone falls to the ground, not through the intervention of the secondary and appointed law of gravity, but from the direct volition of the Creator.
Evolution is motivated by the perceived failures of creation. Darwin had no idea how the species could evolve, and neither do evolutionists today. But this is man’s assessment of creation. Evolution must be true. There is nothing wrong with religious arguments and beliefs. But let’s not confuse it with science.