Lesson 5: Geology, Biology and Evolution

1. Biology and geology stimulated by the great voyages of discovery in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. First estimates of the age of the earth from geology and biology on the one hand and from physics on the other. Eventual solution from modern physics. All these estimates much longer than that apparently indicated by the Bible.

2. The Origin of Life and of Species. How can living things come to be: by special creation or by development from non-living matter? Apparent improbability that living organisms can come about by the blind operation of natural forces. Haeckel and Lecomte du Nuoy. The God of the Gaps. Malthus, Darwin and Wallace. Evolution by natural selection.

3. The Bible and Science. How can we interpret the Bible so as to keep intact the spiritual truths it teaches, while at the same time taking full account of scientific discoveries?

4. The Debate between Wilberforce and Huxley. The true story behind one of the greatest myths about the relation of science to religion.

5. Newman on Evolution.

6. Science and Creationism. How the recognition of the role of the Creator, coupled with the belief that the Bible must be interpreted literally, gave rise to a damaging and unnecessary conflict.

Reading List

W.B. Ashworth, "Natural History and the Emblematic World View." Ch.7 in Reappraisals of the Scientific Revolution. Ed. D.C. Lindberg and R.S. Westman, Cambridge, 1990).

J.H. Brooke, Science and Religion. Cambridge, 1991.

L. Biseley, Darwin's Century. Scientific Book Guild, 1959.

C.S. Gillespie, Genesis and Geology. Harper, 1959.

B. Hadley, Evolution and Faith. Sheed and Ward, 1931.

G. Himmelfarb, Darwin and Darwin's Revolution. Chatto and Windus, 1959.

S.L. Jaki, Chesterton, A Seer of Science. Illinois, 1986.

S.L. Jaki, Miracles and Physics. Christendom Press, 1989.

P. Kitcher, Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism. Open University, 1983.

J.R. Lucas, Wilberforce and Huxley: A Legendary Encounter. The Historical Journal. 22.2.313. 1979.

J.H. Parry, The Age of Reconnaissance. Mentor, 1963.


1. What was the effect on the scientific view of the world of the voyages of discovery in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries?

2. How was the age of the earth estimated using geological, biological and physical methods? Comment on any discrepancies between these estimates. Are they consistent with the Bible?

3. Did life originate by special creation or by evolution from non-living matter? If by evolution, is this consistent with the Bible?

4. Discuss the views of Huxley, Wilberforce and Newman on evolution.

5. How would you answer the arguments of a creationist?


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