Creation & Variation: Mutually Exclusive?

Darwin observed many phenomena that culminated in his theory of evolution. Among these phenomena were commonalities in the growth and reproductive processes of species, apparent in the embryonic stages. Darwin postulated that dominant varieties supplant inferior varieties based on advantage in the struggle for existence. He observed that some species exhibit traits that serve no purpose, as if the species had forgone the need for such traits but was waiting on nature to catch up. Variation within species was the most obvious proof of natural selection for Darwin; it was also incompatible with the dominant theory of Creation: “on the view of each species having been independently created, why should the species of the same genus differ from each other, be more variable than the generic character in which they all agree?” (494). Why should species develop variations at all, if they are perfectly endowed by a creator? He maintained that variation resulted from of a combination of randomness, use and disuse, and the physical conditions of life.

Darwin’s observation that “living things have in common their chemical composition, their germinal vesicles, their cellular structure, and their laws of growth and reproduction” (504) lays a compelling foundation for his suggestion that “all the organic beings which have ever lived have descended from one primordial form, into which life was first breathed” (504). I am curious as to his usage of ‘was first breathed’ and how it potentially mediates between Creation and Evolution theory. I don’t think they are necessarily mutually exclusive ideas. Darwin’s theory may explain life all the way back to the ‘primordial form’, but it does not account for what came before. Likewise, the Big Bang theory explains what came before, but it still does not account for the Why?

“As natural selection works solely by and for the good of each being, all corporeal and mental endowments will tend to progress towards perfection” (513). I worry that a statement like this was misappropriated in order to assert man’s dominance over nature. ‘Progress towards perfection’ is an Enlightenment trope that was used not only in the formation of liberal ideals, but also to justify the exploitation of non-whites and Nazi-ideology. Darwin didn’t mean to suggest anything of the sort, but the word choice lends itself to misinterpretation. Darwin obviously had the foresight to acknowledge that in a long-distant future, humans may be supplanted by a new species altogether.

3 thoughts on “Creation & Variation: Mutually Exclusive?”

  1. I love the quote that you used to support your first point about the presence of variation within species and your interpretation as to why would this variation exist if each species was already perfectly endowed by a creator. Your second paragraph is my favorite, as I did not pay much attention to the quote you cited where Darwin writes “into which life was first breathed” (504). I found your perspective that Creation and Evolutionary theories are not mutually exclusive really cool, as life had to begin or be created somewhere, and that evolution is just a process that follows and builds upon this creation. I also think that you’re statement that Darwin did not intend for the “progress toward perfection” to be taken so literally and to be used in justifying forms of oppression and racism is correct. I do not think that there ever will be a ‘perfect’ organism because how an organism functions and survives is completely dependent upon its environment.

  2. Hello Hilary, great blog post! I like the argument of Charles Darwin that you decided to start off with. This argument is very interesting because of how Charles believes that there can be development as an organism in the embryonic stages. As you said, inferior varieties are supplanted based on the struggle to stay alive. I think that it’s fascinating that some organisms will come to the point where they serve no purpose anymore. So, these organisms will adapt to fit a new or changing area. I agree with you on your thoughts in the second paragraph. Living things do indeed share lots of common things with each other. It’s a very curious idea that all organic beings have descended from a previous form.

  3. Excellent connection to the negative consequences that stemmed from Darwin’s theories, despite the lack of mention of said concepts in his actual work! It is so telling to step back and realize that while Darwin’s work focused on plants and animals, that it was turned in to a political and social form of control and even danger to some groups. This reality in and of it self demonstrates the importance of truly thinking across disciplines and facets of society when performing science and pursuing technological fixes. Also, this proves the premise we have discussed in class that no science or technology is free of some sort of political or other intent.

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