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Darwin’s Cold Shudder

[Originally published on]

Darwin’s faith was in a cunning man

J. Gould was Professor of Paleontology and Geology at Harvard. In his book, Natural History, published in 1975, Gould wrote,

Charles Lyell was a lawyer by profession…Lyell relied upon true bits of cunning to establish his uniformitarian views as the only true geology. First, he set up a straw man to demolish…In fact, the catastrophists were much more empirically minded than Lyell. The geologic record does seem to require catastrophes: rocks are fractured and contorted; whole faunas are wiped out. To circumvent this literal appearance, Lyell imposed his imagination upon the evidence.

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Darwin found “peace” and comfort in Lyell’s imaginings, for, in Darwin’s subservient letter to Lyell (dated Nov. 23, 1859), he wrote:

Often and often a cold shudder has run through me, and I have asked myself whether I may not have devoted my life to a phantasy. Now I look at it as morally impossible that investigators of truth like you and Hooker can be wholly wrong; and therefore I feel that I may rest in peace.

Is Darwin resting now in the “peace” of Lyell?

Eleazar Lord, one of the originators of the New York and Erie Railroad Company, wrote in his book, The Epoch of Creation,

No rational creature can behold the vast masses of sedimentary matter, which to a great depth constitute the crust of the globe, or inspect in detail the wonders which they exhibit, and believe at the same time that the whole of these masses with their fossil contents, were deposited by the slow, uniform, unaided operation of physical laws without inferring at once that the process must have occupied immeasurable periods of duration.

But before he can make that inference, and as the sole ground of it, he must first assume that those sedimentary masses were formed by the physical causes and in the manner represented. Of that assumption, however, he can adduce no positive evidence whatever; nor anything but an inference from the fact that at present the operation of those causes is slow, uniform, and unaided; and he therefore infers that it always was so. An admission that, for moral reasons, a different, a supernatural, process may have been interposed by the Creator and moral governor of the world, would preclude his inference, and destroy the basis of his main assumption, and of the theory founded on it.

In short, Lyell’s theory is incredible. Why do people believe it? To avoid (in the minds) the “moral governor of the world,” i.e., Jehovah God and the Creator Jesus.

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Cheri Fields Lake Michigan profile 2020

Written by Cheri Fields

Hi, I’m Cheri Fields: 2nd generation homeschooling mom of seven, wife, writer, and science lover. There is a wealth of information available to help people see how trustworthy God and His testimony in the Bible is. The key is to explain concepts simply so they can be understood by anyone. This is my goal, and I’ve had a lot of fun tackling areas where the world tests our faith.

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