On Darwin’s Birthday, The Evolution Debate Goes On

February is an important month for the devotees of Charles Darwin (1809–1882): the 12th marks the British botanist’s birthday, as well as the International Darwin Day, which celebrates his achievements and contributions to the theory of evolution.

And just a few days earlier, a rare first edition of Darwin’s seminal 1859 work, On the Origin of Species, was sold for £26,000 ($39,000) from a private collection in England. For scientists, the findings documented in this book were the most important biological breakthroughs of the 19th century, but the creationists have vehemently disputed the theory because it negates the Biblical account of how the world—and everyone in it—had begun.

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center in Washington DC shows that “a huge number” of Americans reject the theory of evolution; in fact, a mere 35 percent of the surveyed public believes that all living creatures had progressed though natural processes as described by Darwin.

The controversy over how it all started—with the (big) bang or in the Garden of Eden—is not a recent development: the evolutionists and creationists have butted heads over this issue since The Origin’s publication. It is worth mentioning, however, that that the concept of evolution is most contentious in the United States; in Darwin’s native Britain and many other parts of the world, the theory is much less divisive and the debate over it not as fierce.

As evolutionists commemorate Darwin on Feb. 12, some of the old but still unanswered questions will likely pop up again. The foremost among them is “what were Darwin’s views about God and religion?”

Nobody knows for sure, but some of his correspondence indicates that his beliefs changed and—no pun intended—evolved over the course of this life. There is some evidence of his growing uncertainty about the existence and nature of God, but he did qualify his doubts by stating that his expertise was rooted in science, not religion.

Perhaps this quote can shed some light on Darwin’s beliefs: “I cannot persuade myself,” he said," that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created parasitic wasps with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars.”

These lines may not show Darwin to be a man of faith, but they do show him to be a man with a sense of humor.

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