Between Newton and Darwin

By Johnny O. Trail — On March 14, 2018, Stephen Hawking died. After his passing, his remains were cremated, and his ashes were buried between Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. It seems ironically fitting that his remains would be placed between a brilliant scientist who believed in God and a man who stole another’s research and established the framework for evolutionary theory.

Newton believed in God and his belief informed his study of science. It is strange to think that this man who was lauded for his great scientific mind, wrote more about theology than science. One writer avers, “For Newton the world of science was by no means the whole of life. He spent more time on theology than on science; indeed, he wrote about 1.3 million words on biblical subjects. Yet this vast legacy lay hidden from public view for two centuries until the auction of his nonscientific writings in 1936.” To put it mildly, Newton was a believer.

Contrariwise, Darwin was a quasi-scientist who stole much of his research from a contemporary and co-opted it for his own. Many are surprised to learn that Darwin was originally a creationist who believed every word of the Bible. One biographer writes,

Raised as a Christian in Victorian England, Charles Darwin enrolled at Cambridge University as a divinity student. “I did not then in the least doubt the strict and literal truth of every word in the Bible,” he wrote. While studying at Cambridge, a tutor recommended he take a biology research trip around the world on the HMS Beagle — a voyage that would prompt Darwin to question his Christian worldview.[1]

After losing a child, Darwin seriously questioned the existence of God. Darwin’s wife, Emma, was a devout woman, and he waited about publishing his views for many years after arriving and some of his conclusions regarding evolutionary theory. One writer states,

Then the story took on an opera-like turn. The Darwins’ beloved oldest daughter, Annie, got sick. And she died just after turning 10. Darwin was so overcome with grief that he could not go to her burial, biographers have written. But Annie’s death changed things between Charles and Emma, says historian Deborah Heiligman. Darwin became more willing to proclaim his theories — and his religious doubts. And Emma, while still keeping her religious faith, turned toward Darwin, not away from him.[2]

Along these same lines, many people have questioned God’s existence after losing a significant person in their lives. In this case, it resulted in Darwin releasing his theory regarding human evolution.

Stephen Hawking considered himself an atheist at the time before his death. It is heartbreaking to think that such a brilliant man would arrive at the conclusion that God does not exist. One writer avers,

In a speech shortly before his death he said “We are each free to believe what we want, and it’s my view that the simplest explanation is that there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization: there is probably no heaven and afterlife either. I think belief in the afterlife is just wishful thinking. There is no reliable evidence for it, and it flies in the face of everything we know in science. I think that when we die we return to dust. But there is a sense we live on, in our influence, and in the genes we pass to our children.[3]

This is a disastrous legacy to leave behind for our children and those who follow false theories about God and creation as if they were gospel. Hawking’s “influence” has caused some to tread the atheistic pathway he has forged.

Sadly, Hawking once said there is no place for a Creator in explaining the origins or workings of the universe. He says in A Brief History of Time,

With the success of scientific theories in describing events, most people have come to believe that God allows the universe to evolve according to a set of laws and does not intervene in the universe to break these laws. However, the laws do not tell us what the universe should have looked like when it started—it would still be up to God to wind up the clockwork and choose how to start it off. So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But, if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simple be. What place, then, for a creator?[4]

Contrary to this idea is the concept of God as the giver and sustainer of life. The Bible continually appeals to this idea. God is the creator, we are the creature, and we should be seeking Him.

One wonders how many people are being led astray by scientific theories that had resulted in the adherents believing that there is no God? We can allow our view of God to dictate our thoughts on science or allow science to dictate our view of God. This is part of the reason why this writer believes that Bible teachers and preachers need to spend some time on apologetics as they pertain to the creation.

People in schools and universities throughout our world are somewhere between Newton and Darwin figuratively speaking. The complexities of our universe should cause one to reach the inescapable conclusion that there is a God. Instead, men have removed the principle of a conscious, creative mind from the equation and the cosmos has become a mathematical impossibility.

In some respects, we have become more ignorant than primitive humans regarding God and creation. Almost all primitive societies believed in a creator, the question was “who did the creating?” Indeed, only the foolish reached the conclusion that there was no God. Psalm 14.1 says, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.”

It is incredible to think that the first verse of the Bible is the most controversial for people in our age. Genesis 1.1 says, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” God created time— “In the beginning…” God was the “who” in the creative process. God was the one who “created,” thus He was the power behind creation. Finally, God created matter and space “heaven and the earth.” The most controversial passage answers many of the fundamental questions that have been asked by scientists over the millennia. The answer is simple. It only becomes complicated when people attempt to remove God from the equation.

[1] Myint, B. (2016). “Charles Darwin: Five Facts About the Father of Evolution.” Biography. https://www.biography.com/news/charles-darwin-facts-darwin-day

[2] Krulwich, Robert (2009). “Death of Child May Have Influenced Darwin’s Work.” NPR. https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100597929

[3] Robson, John (2018). “The Lack of Wonder of It All.” www.johnrobson.ca.

[4] Hawking, Stephen W. (1988). A Brief History of Time. Bantam Books, New York. Page 140.

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