Stephen Andrew Kovach
Publication year: 2005

Perplexing both religious and scientific leaders for centuries has been the ability to accurately identify the origin of life on earth.  On one hand, religious leaders contend that God created all creatures on earth; on the other hand, scientists assert that Charles Darwin’s theories on evolution explicates life’s genesis.  Amid those two theories lies an amalgam known as scientific creationism, which suggests that evolution occurred only after God created the basic structure of each life form.  Notwithstanding the long-lasting belief in creationism shared by virtually all individuals before Darwin, after the introduction of his Origins of Species, a paper documenting his theories of evolution, a new worldview vis-à-vis the process of life and death was fashioned, one that excited the scientific world, and contradicted the long-taught theory that God created all creatures.  This paper will briefly summarize the facts contiguous to Darwin’s theory of evolution, and through example, it will demonstrate that his willingness to remain open-minded to new ideas exemplifies how all academic research ought to be performed because preconceived notions about the truth can lead to the creation of biased theories that develop from the utilization of only partial, rather than all available evidence.

In The Origin of Species, Darwin argues that species are not, “miraculous acts of creation,”  (Darwin, 99) but rather, they were modified over time.  Consequently, Darwin received staunch criticism from the religious community; however, criticism notwithstanding, Darwin remained flexible and defended his theories by comparing them to the, “greatest discovery ever made by man…the law of attraction of gravity.”  (Darwin, 99)  Disagreeing with the creationists that, “each species has been independently created,” (Darwin, 100) Darwin hoped that future generations would consider both views and draw their own conclusions.  Darwin warned against overrating, “the accuracy of organic change as a measure of time,” (Darwin, 100) asserting that all life began long before the Cambrian system, and has since worked towards perfection.  The fact that Darwin remained flexible when developing his theories sustains the notion that it is vital to remain open-minded when conducting research because the alternative might result in biased theories that utilized only some, rather than all, of the available evidence.

Although challenging the, “truth of the Bible,” (Moorhead, 101) was not his original intent, Darwin’s discoveries supported the notion that evolution, not creation, is the cause of species mutation.  In 1831, Darwin’s, “greatest adventure” (Moorhead, 101) occurred while serving as the naturalist on the Beagle, a ship that was chartered to sail around the world.  On the Beagle, Darwin’s scientific methodologies consisted of adding numerous living species to his existing collection, thus enabling him to perform observational and comparative studies that ultimately supported his theory of evolution.  That trip also provided Darwin with the opportunity to explore, “unknown rivers and mountains…coral islands in the tropics…and the frozen south,” (Moorhead, 101) and resulted in his discovery of, “prehistoric fossil remains.”  (Moorhead, 102)  From that unearthing, Darwin concluded that the isthmus of Panama must have been previously submerged, and as the trip commenced south, Darwin concluded that the Chilean mountains once stood seven hundred miles away on the shores of the Atlantic after discovering seashells at an altitude of twelve thousand feet.[1]  That discovery further supported his theory that, “earthquakes and volcanic eruptions…acted like safety values” (Moorhead, 104) that affected changes in the earth’s geography, thus creating and destroying species periodically.  It was, however, the uniqueness of the creatures on the Galapagos Islands, specifically the variety of finches, that developed Darwin’s confidence sufficiently to realize that if his theories were correct they would challenge the existing preconceived notions about creation that are found in the Book of Genesis, the story of Adam and Eve, and Noah’s Flood.[2]  Simply put, Darwin’s theories changed the whole framework of human thought, and the results of his demonstrated flexibility sustains the notion that it is vital to remain open-minded when conducting research because, in this case, the alternative would have resulted in embracing preconceived biblical notions vis-à-vis the origins of life.

During the earlier part of the nineteenth century, Darwin’s theories withstood numerous legal and religious challenges.  For example, against the then-existing law that forbade teaching any doctrine other than creationism, John T. Scopes, a Tennessee high-school teacher was placed on trial for exposing his students to Darwin’s theories.  In addition, believers in creationism developed a hybrid version of creation and evolution, known as scientific creationism, as a means of coping with Darwin’s newfound evidence.  Scientific creationism notwithstanding, however, Harvard professor Stephen Jay Gould believes that creationists have been unable to present, “not a single new fact or argument” (Gould, 108) supporting their claims, thus indicating weaknesses in their conjectures that results from a misunderstanding of the word theory, and from their behavior, which is inconsistent with science because it contradicts the concepts of evolution.  Gould alludes that contemporary creationist theories are unsupported, and that creationists are desperately searching for ways to combat the challenges created by Darwin’s theories of evolution.  It is because of that weakness, and because their theories cannot be falsified or challenged by typical academic means, Gould states, that renders, “scientific creationism as meaningless and self contradictory.”  (Gould, 108)  Contrarily, evolution is not only a fact; it, “is a theory” (Gould, 108) because there is abundant observational evidence available; thus, not teaching Darwin’s theories to high school students would be wrong because it is one of the greatest scientific theories ever discovered.

Darwin did not embark on a quest to prove the Bible wrong; in fact, at an earlier age he could have been convinced that his ideas were incorrect.  However, his discoveries and consequential theories represent superior academic work, not because they are accurate, but rather, because it demonstrates that open-mindedness is an asset to researchers that desire to develop theories that are based on all of the available evidence.  The alternative is to remain convinced that preconceived notions are correct, thus causing the researcher to include information that supports his or her theories, while simultaneously excluding information that might refute them, or perhaps even develop exciting new theories, such as Darwin’s.  Whether or not Darwin’s theories of evolution are correct is irrelevant because it ultimately depends on one’s point of view.  However, what is important is his demonstrated willingness to remain open-minded to new ideas because it sets an excellent example for all researchers to emulate, and if for no reason other than to exemplify how all academic research ought to be performed, Darwin’s methodologies and theories ought to be taught to all students.

[1] Sowards, J. (1991). Makers of the Western Tradition: Portraits from History (5th ed.)St. Martin’s. p. 104

[2] Sowards, J. (1991). Makers of the Western Tradition: Portraits from History (5th ed.) St. Martin’s. p. 104