February 25, 2009 This year marks the bicentennial of Charles Darwin's birth. Since the publication of 'The Origin of the Species' in 1859 and its sequel 'The Descent of Man,' Darwin's theory of evolution has been marked by controversy despite its grounding in modern scientific thought.
Today I thought I would share some information about Darwin which might offer a perspective on the controversy surrounding his ideas. My source is the NPR program 'Speaking of Faith' which recently did a program about Darwin and his theory of evolution based on the work of James Moore, a Cambridge research scholar who has studied and written about Darwin for over three decades.
According to Moore, Darwin's understanding of nature never departed from a theological point of view... "When I wrote The Origin of the Species my faith in God was as strong as that of a bishop."
Darwin's basic idea includes the following. The theory of natural selection or the preservation of favorable differences and the destruction of those which are injurious.
To quote Darwin, "As new species in the course of time are formed through natural selection, others will become rarer and rarer, and finally extinct."
For those of us who accept Darwin, the last great battle over evolution came during the Scopes trial of 1925 which forbade the teaching of evolution in the state of Tennessee. The story of that trial was the subject of the movie 'Inherit The Wind.' Though Scopes lost his case, eventually the law was changed.
According to Professor Jon D. Miller in Science magazine, 62% of Ameri-cans say they believe that God created humans as whole persons without any evolutionary development. A Pew Forum survey says in the United States, Buddhists, Hindus and Jews are the most likely to accept evolution, while Christian evangelicals, Mormons, and Jehovah's Witnesses are least likely to accept evolution.
Today the debate on the issue centers around the philosophy of creationism which holds certain theological views about the nature of the universe and the soul.
Because of its religious context, teaching creationism is clearly a violation of the First Amendment and the separation of church and state.
This is not to say the topic cannot be discussed in classes on philosophy or sociology, but to claim intelligent design is a science on a par with Darwin's theory of evolution is simply wrong.
I am fully aware these opinions of mine are as controversial in the 21st century as Darwin's ideas were in the 19th. Today's column is this former professor's attempt to stir up the pot so to speak. No doubt the debate will continue for many years to come.