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He invented evolution, didn’t he, Charles Darwin? Al Murray: The Pub Landlord: My Gaff, My Rules, London’s Playhouse Theatre
But I didn’t believe in the theory that human beings – thinking, loving beings – originated from fish that sprouted legs and crawled out of the sea. Or that human beings began as single-celled organisms that developed into monkeys who eventually swung down from trees; I believed we came about through a random process, but were created by God. Sarah Palin, cited Going Rogue: An American Life 2009
When the views entertained in this volume on the origin of species, or when analogous views are generally admitted, we can dimly foresee that there will be a considerable revolution in natural history. Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species
As many more individuals of each species are born than can possibly survive; and as, consequently, there is a frequently recurring struggle for existence, it follows that any being, if it vary however slightly in any manner profitable to itself, under the complex and sometimes varying conditions of life, will have a better chance of surviving, and thus be naturally selected. From the strong principle of inheritance, any selected variety will tend to propagate its new and modified form. ibid. Introduction p5
It will be seen that I look at the term species, as one arbitrarily given for the sake of convenience to a set of individuals closely resembling each other, and that it does not essentially differ from the term variety, which is given to less distinct and more fluctuating forms. The term variety, again, in comparison with mere individual differences, is also applied arbitrarily, and for mere convenience sake. ibid. ch2 p52
Owing to this struggle for life, any variation, however slight and from whatever cause proceeding, if it be in any degree profitable to an individual of any species, in its infinitely complex relations to other organic beings and to external nature, will tend to the preservation of that individual, and will generally be inherited by its offspring. The offspring, also, will thus have a better chance of surviving, for, of the many individuals of any species which are periodically born, but a small number can survive. I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term of Natural Selection, in order to mark its relation to man’s power of selection. ibid. chIII p61
Natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinising throughout the world every variation even the slightest, rejecting that which is bad, preserving and adding up all that is good, silently and insensibly working. We see nothing of these slow changes in progress until the hand of time has marked the laps of ages. ibid.
It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing in the bushes, and various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp Earth and reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and yet so dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. Thus, from the war of Nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object we can think of conceiving, namely, the production of higher animals directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of Life, with its several powers having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one, and that whilst this planet has gone cycling along according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been and are being evolved. ibid.
We behold the face of Nature bright with gladness. Every single organic being around us may be seen to be striving to the utmost to increase in numbers. That each lives by a struggle at some period of its life. That heavy destruction inevitably falls either upon the young or old during each generation or at recurrent intervals. The face of Nature may be compared to a yielding surface with ten thousand sharp wedges packed close together and driven inwards by incessant blows. Sometimes one wedge being struck and then another with greater force. ibid.
Authors of the highest eminence seem to be fully satisfied with the view that each species has been independently created. To my mind it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator, that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world should have been due to secondary causes, like those determining the birth and death of the individual. When I view all beings not as special creations, but as the lineal descendants of some few beings which lived long before the first bed of the Silurian system was deposited, they seem to me to become ennobled. ibid.
Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history. ibid.
It has often and confidently been asserted, that man’s origin can never be known: but ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science. Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, Introduction p3
Man bears in his bodily structure clear traces of his descent from some lower form; but it may be urged that, as man differs so greatly in his mental power from all other animals, there must be some error in this conclusion. No doubt the difference in this respect is enormous, even if we compare the mind of one of the lowest savages, who has no words to express any number higher than four, and who uses no abstract terms for the commonest objects or affections, with that of the most highly organised ape. ibid. chII p34
My object in this chapter is solely to shew that there is no fundamental difference between man and the higher mammals in their mental faculties. ibid. chII p35
Belief in God – Religion – There is no evidence that man was aboriginally endowed with the ennobling belief in the existence of an Omnipotent God. On the contrary there is ample evidence, derived not from hasty travellers, but from men who have long resided with savages, that numerous races have existed, and still exist, who have no idea of one or more gods, and who have no words in their languages to express such an idea. The question is of course wholly distinct from that higher one, whether there exists a Creator and Ruler of the universe; and this has been answered in the affirmative by some of the highest intellects that have ever existed.
The belief in God has often been advanced as not only the greatest, but the most complete of all the distinctions between man and the lower animals. It is however impossible, as we have seen, to maintain that this belief is innate or instinctive in man. On the other hand a belief in all-pervading spiritual agencies seems to be universal; and apparently follows from a considerable advance in man’s reason, and from a still greater advance in his faculties of imagination, curiosity and wonder. I am aware that the assumed instinctive belief in God has been used by many persons as an argument for His existence. But this is a rash argument, as we should thus be compelled to believe in the existence of many cruel and malignant spirits, only a little more powerful than man; for the belief in them is far more general than in a beneficent Deity. The idea of a universal and beneficent Creator does not seem to arise in the mind of man, until he has been elevated by long-continued culture. ibid.
Man with all his noble qualities, with sympathy which feels for the most debased, with benevolence which extends not only to other men but to the humblest living creature, with his god-like intellect which has penetrated into the movements and constitution of the solar system – with all these exalted powers – Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin. ibid.
Darwin removed the main argument for God’s existence. Richard Dawkins, interview Professor Richard Blakemore, Christianity: A History: God and the Scientists, BBC 2009
The Darwinian theory raises our consciousness to the fact that any God worthy of the name would have to be ... particularly demanding of the explanation he purports to provide. Richard Dawkins, interviewing Professor Steven Weinberg
You cannot have complexity to build a computer, to build a second-life software to run us, unless the creatures that built that computer evolved ... Sooner or later regresses of that kind have to be terminated. You cannot suddenly invent complexity and intelligence. The only way to do it is to start from primeval simplify and work up gradually. Richard Dawkins, American Atheists Conference 2009
Rather than adapt to evidence, many of us it seems remain trapped in ways of thinking inherited from our primitive ancestors. Irrational belief, from dowsing to psychic clairvoyance, has roots in early mankind’s habit of attributing spirit and intention to natural phenomena such as water, the sun, a rock or the sea ... Even in the twenty-first century, despite all science has revealed about the indifferent vastness of the universe, the human mind remains a wanton story-teller creating intention in the randomness of reality. Richard Dawkins, Enemies of Reason: Slaves to Superstition, Channel 4 2007
Darwin’s great insight was that life evolved steadily and slowly, inching its way gradually over four billion years. Natural selection, not a divine designer, was the sculptor of life. So evolution driven by Darwin’s motor of natural selection gets us to the top of mount improbable. From primeval simplicity to ultimate complexity. The design hypothesis doesn’t even begin to do that. Because it raises an even bigger problem than it solves. Who made the designer? Richard Dawkins, The Root of All Evil? The God Delusion, Channel 4 2006