O uso da teologia por Charles Darwin no Origem das Espécies

quinta-feira, maio 05, 2011

The British Journal for the History of Science, FirstView Article

Copyright © British Society for the History of Science 2011

DOI: 10.1017/S000708741100032X (About DOI) Published online: 2011

Charles Darwin's use of theology in the Origin of Species


a1 Department of Philosophy, St Edward's University, Austin, TX 78704, USA. Email: stephend@stedwards.edu.

Charles Darwin's Bible from the Beagle's Voyage
Bíblia de Charles Darwin na viagem do Beagle
Image not related to this article/Imagem não relacionada com este artigo


This essay examines Darwin's positiva (or positive) use of theology in the first edition of the Origin of Species in three steps. First, the essay analyses the Origin's theological language about God's accessibility, honesty, methods of creating, relationship to natural laws and lack of responsibility for natural suffering; the essay contends that Darwin utilized positiva theology in order to help justify (and inform) descent with modification and to attack special creation. Second, the essay offers critical analysis of this theology, drawing in part on Darwin's mature ruminations to suggest that, from an epistemic point of view, the Origin's positiva theology manifests several internal tensions. Finally, the essay reflects on the relative epistemic importance of positiva theology in the Origin's overall case for evolution. The essay concludes that this theology served as a handmaiden and accomplice to Darwin's science.


For comments, criticisms and other forms of help I am grateful to Andrea Palpant Dilley, Judy Palpant, John Angus Campbell, Richard McClelland, Brian Clayton, Clinton Ohlers, Elliott Sober, St Edward's University Philosophy Interest Group and anonymous reviewers.



We may now step back and take stock of the claims advanced in this essay. I have argued that, in the first edition of the Origin, Darwin drew upon at least the following positiva theological claims in his case for descent with modification (and against special creation):

1. Human begins are not justified in believing that God creates in ways analogous > to the intellectual powers of the human mind.

2. A God who is free to create as He wishes would create new biological limbs de novo rather than from a common pattern.

3 A respectable deity would create biological structures in accord with a human  conception of the 'simplest mode' to accomplish the functions of these structures.

4 God would only create the minimum structure required for a given part's function.

5 God does not provide false empirical information about the origins of organisms.

6 God impressed the laws of nature on matter.

7 God directly created the first 'primordial' life.

8 God did not perform miracles within organic history subsequent to the creation of the first life.

9 A 'distant' God is not morally culpable for natural pain and suffering.

10 The God of special creation, who allegedly performed miracles in organic history, is not plausible given the presence of natural pain and suffering.

I have further argued that Darwin utilized theological claims in the Origin to provide epistemic support for descent with modification (and against special creation) in at least the following ways:

1 as a crucial background claim that helped adjudicate between his theory and a rival theory;

2 as the primary factor that eliminated a rival theory in a case in which Darwin's theory and a rival were at an empirical stalemate;

3 as a justification for applying the vera causa criterion to a competing theory in order to reject that theory;

4 as grounds to counter Paley's formidable design argument about the vertebrate eye;

5 as a partial substitute for an empirically based counter to Paley's design argument about the vertebrate eye;

6 as a tacit premise in his argument about natural suffering and pain;

7 as tacit assumptions in his famous homology argument, an area of study Darwin  declared part of the 'very soul' of natural history.

I have also argued that Darwin drew upon theology not simply to argue for his theory, but to inform or undergird the theory (or key aspects of the theory), including:

1 to support recourse to explanations involving only natural (or secondary) processes, causes and events;

2 to help justify the trustworthiness of empirical data 

Finally, I have argued that a meta-level analysis of Darwin's theological statements reveals several tensions:

1 imprecision in his argument from natural suffering

2 logical incoherence in his reply to Paley and use of Owen and 

3 the epistemic illegitimacy of the positiva theological claims in the Origin


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Certa vez neste blog eu mencionei os diversos usos de citações teológicas de Darwin no Origem das Espécies [Darwin e a sua 'Confissão de Westminster'] e que isso demandava estudos mais detalhados sobre o por que desta teologia em Charles Darwin. Influência dos seus estudos para pastor??? 

Fico feliz por ser vindicado novamente por um cientista evolucionista que trabalhou com esses questões cum grano salis: há sim muita teologia no Origem das Espécies!!!

Ué, então pela lógica da Nomenklatura científica, este livro de Darwin deve ser proibido de ser mencionado, estudado e pesquisado em salas de aulas de ciências!!!