Christian History graph: Debating Darwin

IN THE NINETEENTH and early twentieth centuries, people responded to Darwin’s ideas in many different ways. Here are several of the most common positions, showing where the thinkers featured in this issue fit in.

We talked about evolution, or “survival of the fittest,” before Charles Darwin came on the scene.

• Erasmus Darwin (1731–1802), British philosopher and Charles Darwin’s grandfather

• Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744–1829), zoologist

• Robert Malthus (1766–1834), British scholar and Anglican clergyman

• Robert Chambers (1802–1871), British publisher and author of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (1844)

• Herbert Spencer (1820–1903), British philosopher

Darwin inspired me to develop my scientific theories.

• Francis Galton (1822–1911), Darwin’s cousin, British scientist, and promoter of eugenics 


We believe science and religion are eternally opposed to each other, and Darwin proves it.

• John William Draper (1811–1882), American scientist and author of History of the Conflict between Religion and Science (1874)

• Thomas Henry Huxley (1825–1895), British biologist, often called “Darwin’s Bulldog”

• Andrew Dixon White (1832–1918), president of Cornell University, author of History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896)

• Wilhelm Herrmann (1846–1922), German theologian

• Anonymous author of essay on “Evolutionism in the Pulpit” in The Fundamentals

Darwin poses challenges to Christianity, but we can revise our theology to deal with them—perhaps radically.

• Asa Gray (1810–1888), American botanist

• James McCosh (1811–1894), president of Princeton University

 • Frederick Temple (1821–1902), archbishop of Canterbury

• Joseph LeConte (1823–1901), American chemist and geologist

• Alexander Winchell (1824–1891), American geologist

• James Woodrow (1827–1907), American theologian

• Lyman Abbott (1835–1922), American theologian

• George Frederick Wright (1838–1929), American geologist and contributor of an essay on evolution to The Fundamentals 

• John Augustine Zahm (1851–1921), American Catholic priest


Darwin poses challenges to Christianity, but we believe other theories of evolution do not. 

• Arnold Guyot (1807–1884), Swiss geographer and geologist

• George Campbell, 8th Duke of Argyll (1823–1900), British politician and scientific writer

• Rudolf Schmid (1828–1907), German theologian

• James Orr (1844–1913), American Presbyterian theologian and contributor of an essay on evolution to The Fundamentals

• Benjamin (B. B.) Warfield (1851–1921), American theologian

• R. A. Torrey (1856–1928), American evangelist and editor of The Fundamentals 

Darwin poses challenges to Christianity, so we need to show that he is wrong—either in his theology or his science.

• Charles Hodge (1797–1878), American theologian and head of Princeton Theological Seminary, author of What Is Darwinism? 

• Samuel Wilberforce (1805–1873), bishop in the Church of England

• Louis Agassiz (1807–1873), Swiss scientist and professor at Harvard

• Ellen G. White (1827–1915), founder of Seventh-day Adventism

• Otto Zöckler (1833–1906), German theologian

• William Jennings Bryan (1860–1925), American politician and prosecuting lawyer at the Scopes Trial 

• George McCready Price (1870–1963), American Seventh-day Adventist author and promoter of flood geology

By The Editors

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #107 in 2013]

Next articles

Chance or the dance?

Many Christians in European countries found Darwin's ideas challenging

Frederick Gregory

Darwin on trial?

The Scopes Trial revealed developing divisions over evolution

David Goetz and the editors

Darwin on tour

How you responded to Darwin in many cases depended on where you lived

David Livingstone and the editors.

What the Bible demands

CH sat down with Biblical scholar John Walton and scientist Jeff Schloss to talk about science, faith, the Bible, and Darwin

John Walton, Jeff Schloss, and the editors
Show more

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