The Origin of Species is essentially about eliminating the need to invoke God to explain life. And Charles Darwin made no bones about it. In a letter to his mentor, the geologist Charles Lyell on 11th October 1859, Darwin wrote,
But I entirely reject as in my judgment quite unnecessary any subsequent addition “of new powers, & attributes & forces”; or of any “principle of improvement”… If I were convinced that I required such additions to the theory of natural selection, I would reject it as rubbish. I would give absolutely nothing for the theory of Natural Selection, if it requires miraculous additions at any one stage of descent.
This has consistently been the position of Darwin’s heirs and the vast majority of evolutionary biologists. Ernst Mayr, widely considered to be one of the most important and influential biologists of the twentieth century, wrote:
The Darwinian revolution was not merely the replacement of one scientific theory by another, but rather the replacement of a worldview, in which the supernatural was accepted as a normal and relevant explanatory principle, by a new worldview in which there was no room for supernatural forces.
Julian Huxley was the grandson of Darwin’s Bulldog, Thomas Huxley, and a prominent biologist in his own right. He wrote:
Darwinism removed the whole idea of God as the Creator of organisms from the sphere of rational discussion. Darwin pointed out that no supernatural designer was needed; since natural selection could account for any new form of life, there is no room for a supernatural agency in its evolution.
George Gaylord Simpson, one of the leading palaeontologists of the twentieth century, wrote that “Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind.”
In Genesis and Genes, I quoted the late Stephen Jay Gould, one of the most famous scientists and popularisers of science in the latter part of the twentieth century. Gould frequently discussed the “radical philosophical content of Darwin’s message” and its denial of purpose in the universe:
First, Darwin argues that evolution has no purpose… Second, Darwin maintained that evolution has no direction… Third, Darwin applied a consistent philosophy of materialism to his interpretation of nature. Matter is the ground of all existence; mind, spirit, and God as well, are just words that express the wondrous results of neuronal complexity.
Contemporary biology textbooks are adamant that Darwinian evolution is unguided. A popular college biology textbook by Douglas Futuyma declares that “[B]y coupling undirected, purposeless variation to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection, Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of the life processes superfluous.”
This is what you will find in Invitation to Biology:
Now the new biology asked us to accept the proposition that, like all other organisms, we too are the products of a random process that, as far as science can show, we are not created for any special purpose or as part of any universal design.
And Evolution (by Strickberger) has this to say:
The advent of Darwinism posed even greater threats to religion by suggesting that biological relationships, including the origin of humans and of all species, could be explained by natural selection without the intervention of a god… In this scheme a god of design and purpose is not necessary…
And Evolution (by Barton) explains that evolution involves “random genetic drift,” “random mutation,” “random variation,” “random … individual fitness,” and “random reproduction”.
In 1997, the National Association of Biology Teachers in the USA removed from its description of the evolution of life an assertion that it was an “unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable and natural process.” Ninety-nine academics, including over 70 evolutionary biologists, sent a letter of protest to the NABT asserting that evolution indeed is “an impersonal and unsupervised process… The NABT leaves open the possibility that evolution is in fact supervised in a personal manner. This is a prospect that every evolutionary biologist should vigorously and positively deny.”
Evolutionary biologists and authors are often at pains to emphasise this point. University of Chicago evolutionary biologist and author Jerry Coyne makes the point concisely:
But any injection of teleology into evolutionary biology violates precisely the great advance of Darwin’s theory: to explain the appearance of design by a purely materialistic process — no deity required.
And the biochemist Larry Moran of the University of Toronto writes that:
The main mechanisms are natural selection and random genetic drift and those two mechanisms act on populations containing variation. The variation is due to the presence of mutations and mutations arise “randomly” with respect to ultimate purpose or goal.
This sentiment is often encountered in academic papers:
Mutation is the central player in the Darwinian theory of evolution – it is the ultimate source of heritable variation, providing the necessary raw material for natural selection. In general, mutation is assumed to create heritable variation that is random and undirected.
Francisco Ayala is a former Roman Catholic priest and world-famous evolutionary biologist [See the post Tactics and Deceit to read more about Ayala]. In a 2007 paper Ayala wrote:
Chance is, nevertheless, an integral part of the evolutionary process. The mutations that yield the hereditary variations available to natural selection arise at random. Mutations are random or chance events because (i) they are rare exceptions to the fidelity of the process of DNA replication and because (ii) there is no way of knowing which gene will mutate in a particular cell or in a particular individual. However, the meaning of “random” that is most significant for understanding the evolutionary process is (iii) that mutations are unoriented with respect to adaptation; they occur independently of whether or not they are beneficial or harmful to the organisms. Some are beneficial, most are not, and only the beneficial ones become incorporated in the organisms through natural selection.
What Professor Ayala means by point (iii) can be economically expressed as follows: the Darwinian process is bereft of foresight. This has direct and obvious bearing on the philosophical content of biological evolution, as Ayala points out:
It was Darwin’s greatest accomplishment to show that the complex organization and functionality of living beings can be explained as the result of a natural process – natural selection – without any need to resort to a Creator or other external agent… The scientific account of these events does not necessitate recourse to a preordained plan, whether imprinted from the beginning [this is sometimes referred to as front-loading – YB] or through successive interventions by an omniscient and almighty Designer. Biological evolution differs from a painting or an artifact in that it is not the outcome of preconceived design.
Ayala’s conclusion is concisely expressed:
This is Darwin’s fundamental discovery, that there is a process that is creative although not conscious. And this is the conceptual revolution that Darwin completed: the idea that the design of living organisms can be accounted for as the result of natural processes governed by natural laws. This is nothing if not a fundamental vision that has forever changed how mankind perceives itself and its place in the universe.
Notwithstanding the above – and we could go on and on demonstrating that the community of evolutionary biologists, as a whole, conceives of evolution as a non-teleological process – there are those who style themselves theistic evolutionists. This position often results in confusion, as we shall presently see.
In July 2005, Christoph Cardinal Schönborn wrote an op-ed in the New York Times in which he stated that “evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense – an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection – is not [true].”
Ken Miller, a biologist, textbook-writer and prominent exponent of theistic evolution, responded:
But the Cardinal is wrong in asserting that the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution is inherently atheistic. Neo-Darwinism, he tells us, is an ideology proposing that an “unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection” gave rise to all life on earth, including our own species. To be sure, many evolutionists have made such assertions in their popular writings on the “meaning” on evolutionary theory. But are such assertions truly part of evolution as it is understood by the “mainstream biologists” of which the Cardinal speaks? Not at all… This means that biological evolution, correctly understood, does not make the claim of purposelessness.
Huh? Is Miller serious about “mainstream biologists” believing anything except that evolution is unguided and unplanned? Besides everything we said above, consider the following. In 2005, the Kansas State Board of Education sought to introduce changes to the biology syllabus in order to foster critical thinking among students. This involved allowing teachers to introduce scientific criticisms of evolutionary biology. In response, no fewer than 38 Nobel laureates (!) under the auspices of – wait for it – the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity signed a joint statement to the KSBE informing them that,
… evolution is understood to be the result of an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection.
Perhaps Professor Miller does not consider these Nobel Prize-winners representative of the mainstream. But besides his capacity to ignore the obvious, Miller also contradicts himself. Five editions of Miller’s textbook, Biology, stated that “evolution works without either plan or purpose… Evolution is random and undirected.” In his book Finding Darwin’s God, we find the following:
- Random, undirected process of mutation had produced the ‘right’ kind of variation for natural selection to act upon (Page 51).
- A random, undirected process like evolution (Page 102).
- Blind, random, undirected evolution [could] have produced such an intricate set of structures and organs… (Page 137).
- The random, undirected processes of mutation and natural selection (Page 145)
- Evolution is a natural process, and natural processes are undirected (Page 244).
Both the 1991 and 1994 editions of Miller & Levine’s Biology: The Living Science contain the following passage:
Darwin knew that accepting his theory required believing in philosophical materialism, the conviction that matter is the stuff of all existence and that all mental and spiritual phenomena are its by-products. Darwinian evolution was not only purposeless but also heartless – a process in which the rigors of nature ruthlessly eliminate the unfit. Suddenly, humanity was reduced to just one more species in a world that cared nothing for us. The great human mind was no more than a mass of evolving neurons. Worst of all, there was no divine plan to guide us. [Italics in the original.]
The confusion generated by Professor Miller’s apparently-schizophrenic writings is, unfortunately, not limited to the Gentile community. I wrote in Genesis and Genes that,
Evolution is inherently indifferent to religion; deities need not apply. But there will always be those who wish to reconcile the irreconcilable. They want to take the world’s most efficient engine for atheism, slap on a veneer of verses, and recast it as a Torah ideal. The result is about as appetising as frosting on a bar of soap. There cannot be a rapprochement between mutually-exclusive concepts. The attempt to apply a layer of religious respectability to evolution is vacuous.
See Also: The post Tactics and Deceit
 Letter from Darwin to Charles Lyell, 11th October 1859. See Darwin Correspondence Database,
Retrieved 28th April 2013.
 Ernst Mayr, book review of Evolution and God, Nature 248 (March 22, 1974): 285.
 Tax, S. and Callender, C. (Eds.), Evolution after Darwin, Issues in Evolution (volume III), The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, USA, page 45, 1960.
 George Gaylord Simpson, The Meaning of Evolution, revised edition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967), page 345.
 Stephen Jay Gould, Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History, pg. 12–13 (W.W. Norton & Co. 1977).
 Douglas J. Futuyma, Evolutionary Biology, 3rd edition, Sinauer Associates, 1998, page 5.
 Helena Curtis and N. Sue Barnes, Invitation to Biology, 3rd edition. New York: Worth Publishers, 1981:474-75.
 Monroe W. Strickberger, Evolution, 3rd edition. Sudbury: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2000:70-71.
 The Nature of Nature, Bruce L. Gordon and William A. Dembski, editors. ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware, 2011, page 41.
Retrieved 28th April 2013.
Retrieved 28th April 2013.
 An environmentally induced adaptive (?) insertion event in flax, Yiming Chen, Robin Lowenfeld and Christopher A. Cullis, International Journal of Genetics and Molecular Biology Vol. 1 (3), pages 038-047, June 2009. The paper can be read here: http://www.acadjourn.org/IJGMB/PDF/pdf2009/June/Chen%20et%20al..pdf. Retrieved 11th July 2011.
 Francisco J. Ayala, “Darwin’s greatest discovery: Design without designer” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 104 (May 15, 2007): 8567-8573. I saw this in an article by Casey Luskin dated 11th August 2012 on the website Evolution News and Views.
Retrieved 28th April 2013.
Retrieved 28th April 2013.
 The letter used to be available at:
I was not able to retrieve it.
 Kenneth Miller and Joseph Levine, Biology (1st ed., 1991), p. 658; (2nd ed., 1993), p. 658; (3rd ed., 1995), p. 658; (4th ed., 1998), p. 658; (5th ed. 2000), p. 658. See article by Casey Luskin here:
Retrieved 28th April 2013.
 Joseph Levine & Kenneth Miller, Biology: Discovering Life (1st ed., D.C. Heath and Co., 1992), pg. 152; (2nd ed. D.C. Heath and Co., 1994), p. 161.