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On holy ground: a creationist in Darwin's house

I recently decided to pay a visit to the family home of Charles Darwin. Down House lays nestled in the beautiful Kentish countryside of Southern England. This fabulous residence housed the eminent naturalist, his wife, and ten children for a period of forty years. It was here that he conducted much of his research and developed his theory of evolution by natural selection. It was in the study at Down House that he wrote his most influential work, On the Origin of Species. The house today is a museum run by English Heritage and still features many of the original decorations and furniture from the time of Charles Darwin, as well as a good selection of exhibitions and equipment from his scientific work.

Expectation versus Reality

Of course, given that this was the home of Charles Darwin, I was prepared for the onslaught of evolutionary propaganda, which began as soon as I entered the house. Purchasing my ticket from the gift shop, I was left to peruse the large bookshelf of contemporary works on evolution by some of today’s most prominent atheistic scientist’s. The audio device used on the guided tour around Darwin’s family rooms is led by none other than naturalist extraordinaire, Sir David Attenborough. However, those looking for a display of scientific evidence to support Darwin’s theory will be disappointed, finding nothing more than a few musings from his personal journals and a taxidermy display of the oft-used “proof”, the Galapagos finches.

Who influenced Darwin?

One of the most significant influences on the ideas of Charles Darwin were those of geologist Charles Lyell. This is clearly reflected at Down House. In the study of Darwin hanging above the mantel is an engraved portrait of Lyell, testament to the profound impact he had in Darwin’s life. Elsewhere in the house is the first edition of Lyell’s book Principles of Geology which Darwin brought with him aboard his voyage on the Beagle (1831-1836). Charles Lyell held to the view known as uniformitarianism, by which he concluded that geological processes observed today should be assumed to have operated the same way in the past. Thus, the slow erosion of river valleys today, or the gradual depositing of sedimentary rock layers, indicate that these phenomena must have occurred over millions of years. In this view, the rocks provide a picture of earth’s “history”, it is one of a slowly changing world, with fauna and flora appearing and disappearing over long periods of time. This provided the bedrock upon which Darwin could build his theory of evolution, which would posit natural selection as the mechanism by which these new species arose. However, it is crucial to note that the Lyellian view of geology was not a theory derived solely from geological observation and scientific enquiry, there was an ideological bias involved too as Lyell himself claimed that he wished to “free the science [of geology] from Moses”[1].

Darwinism versus Christianity?

Perhaps the most telling part of the museum was the section that addressed the subject of evolution and Christianity. It is here that the anti-Christian worldview of Darwinism became visible. In a prominent section of the museum, a large banner with the title ‘Darwinism versus Christianity?” poses this question to museum visitors:

“It is possible to accept Darwin’s theory and to believe in a God or gods. Why then did some Christians reject it?”

This might seem like a conciliatory statement, that is until you read the answer on the banner just below;

“One reason is that it is not possible to see the Book of Genesis as the literal story of creation and accept Darwin’s theory of evolution”.

In other words, it is possible to be a Christian and accept Darwin’s theory, but only if you are willing to reject the history found in the book of Genesis. It is pivotal that Christians understand this message, it is either Darwin or Genesis, trying to have both means that Genesis must be reinterpreted for this to be possible. For those who tread this path, what they have basically done is place the words of Charles Darwin above the Word of God – there is simply no other way to explain it, and right here in Darwin’s House we have the perfect example of the underlying issue in the Creation – Evolution controversy; the authority of the Word of God.

Upon Reflection

As I left the house I thought of all the thousands of people, many children on school trips, who would read these signs and take this message as truth. Darwin is so revered in our culture and education system that many consider evolution as a sacred doctrine. The final banner I saw was a quote from Darwin:

“I’m sorry to inform you that I do not believe in the Bible as divine revelation, and therefore not in Jesus as the son of God.”

Make no mistake this is the message of Down House! This is why Christians need to be equipped to respond to the challenges of evolution and raise up a generation of Christians who will stand on the authority of the Word of God.


[1] Lyell, C., letter to Scrope, 14 June 1830, in Lyell, K.M., Life, Letters and Journals of Sir Charles Lyell, Bart, vol. 1, Cambridge University Press, p. 269–270, 2010



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