HIS 144 GCU Darwinism and American Society Essay


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and R. A. Torrey
Michael N. Keas
Michael N. Keas
R. A. Torrey (1856–1928), a leading world evangelist at the turn of the twentieth
century, played a prominent role in the emergence of fundamentalism, which
aimed to defend Christianity against liberalism. The writers of The Fundamentals
(1910–1915), including Torrey, proposed harmony between science and Christianity by accepting the standard geological ages and by offering some criticisms
of Darwinism. Torrey advanced the work of The Fundamentals beyond 1915
through the monthly periodical of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, The King’s
Business (1910–1970). Although Torrey offered occasional criticism of Darwinism
in The King’s Business and his other publications, he urged evangelicals and
fundamentalists to focus on biblical inerrancy and a repudiation of naturalism
more broadly. There is much to be emulated from early fundamentalism before it
flung itself into the humiliation of the 1925 Scopes trial—a disastrous move that
Torrey did not support. R. A. Torrey is worth remembering in 2010, the centennial
year of The Fundamentals.
istorical and philosophical
analysis of science and religion
can improve our understanding of how science and religion have
related and how they should relate.
On the last page of his insightful book
about American fundamentalism, historian George Marsden wrote,
Since God’s work appears to us
in historical circumstances where
imperfect humans are major
agents, the actions of the Holy
Spirit in the church are always
intertwined with culturally conditioned factors.1
Following Marsden, I shall analyze
some of the “culturally conditioned
factors” of science and fundamentalism
in the early twentieth century (how science and religion have related), largely
leaving the matter of how they should
relate to another study. Even so, historical knowledge can inform philosophical
Volume 62, Number 1, March 2010
The Bible Institute of Los Angeles
(hereafter, Biola) played a prominent role
in the emergence of fundamentalism in
the early twentieth century, particularly
through the work of R. A. Torrey—
Biola’s dean from 1912 to 1924. If the
twenty-first-century reader can look
beyond the harmful connotations of the
term fundamentalism today and recognize its beneficial features before the
1925 Scopes trial, such reflection might
inspire a better relationship between
science and Christianity. Presbyterian
ASA Fellow Michael N. Keas earned a PhD in the history of science from
the University of Oklahoma. He experienced some of the last historic moments
behind the Berlin Wall as a Fulbright Scholar in East Germany. He is professor
of the history and philosophy of science at the College at Southwestern in
Fort Worth and an adjunct professor in Biola University’s M.A. program in
Science and Religion. He teaches physical science, biology, philosophy, logic,
hermeneutics, rhetoric, intellectual history, and the history of science and
religion. His scholarly and curricular work has received funding from agencies
such as the John Templeton Foundation, the National Science Foundation and
the American Council of Learned Societies. He has contributed articles to
several scholarly journals and anthologies, including the American Chemical
Society’s Nobel Laureates in Chemistry and Darwinism, Design and
Public Education published by Michigan State University Press.
Darwinism, Fundamentalism, and R. A. Torrey
millionaire Lyman Stewart (1840–1923) funded some
important early steps of the fundamentalist renewal
of evangelical Christianity, including founding
Biola (1908)2 and its monthly periodical The King’s
Business (1910), financing a series of pamphlets called
The Fundamentals (1910–1915), and hiring Torrey to
take up the editorial torch of these publications
while serving as Biola’s dean. To better understand
early fundamentalism and its relationship to Darwinism, we will focus on the life of Torrey.3
Evangelicalism’s Scholarly
Revivalist: Reuben Archer
Torrey (1856–1928)
R. A. Torrey embodied the scholar-evangelist ideal
of evangelical Christianity, though to a lesser degree
than the principal American founding father of
evangelicalism, Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758).4
Torrey’s first two years
at Yale College (where
Edwards had also attended) were devoted to
the classical liberal arts.
Yale juniors studied
physics, astronomy, German or French, in addition to continuing their
earlier work in mathematics, rhetoric, logic,
Greek, and Latin. The
eighteen or so required
Reuben Archer Torrey
(1856–1928). Courtesy of
courses of Torrey’s senior
Biola University Archives.
year included chemistry,
geology, anatomy, and physiology (four brief
courses), as well as courses with Yale’s conservative
evangelical president Noah Porter (1811–1892).
The studies under Porter consisted of Christian
apologetics, natural theology, and three philosophy
courses.5 Torrey graduated in 1875 with a general
BA degree.
Around the time Torrey began his studies at Yale
in 1871, the daily chapel services were reportedly
dreary and disliked by students. Compulsory chapel attendance at the Sunday afternoon service was
lifted in 1872. “The intent was not to undermine the
chapel, but to aid in its appeal. For the next seven
years, the College President [Noah Porter] and various tutors filled the pulpit.”6 An Englishman visiting Yale in 1869 reported,
All the students are compelled to attend the
daily morning service, which takes place at
eight AM. The chapel is a frightful building
fitted up in the coldest and meanest meetinghouse style … But cold and mean as is the
chapel, the service is colder and meaner still.
Any more heart-chilling and profane performance could scarcely be imagined. The students, on entering, either commenced a conversation with their friends, or applied themselves,
with great diligence, to the subject-matter of
the lectures which were to follow after the service. In no instance did any one engage in
private prayer … The air of utter carelessness
and irreverence, which was universal, was
chilling to witness. If the congregation had
disbelieved in the existence of God, it could not
have been worse. Such being the spiritual food
which Puritanism has to offer to her sons in
her own chosen home, who can wonder at the
unbelief and unbounded immorality which is
making New England a byword even in the
United States?7
Although Porter worked hard to bolster Christianity
at Yale after he became president in 1871, some of
this depressing report probably describes what
Torrey experienced in his years as a rowdy Yale
undergraduate (1871–1875). In one of his published
sermons, Torrey describes his Yale undergraduate
experience, beginning “as a boy of fifteen,” as a
descent “into dissipation and sin,” until
… one awful night [in the senior year], a mere
boy still, with all hope gone, with life desolate
and bare, life so barren that there was just one
step between me and hell, in fact, that very night
I started to take that awful step, to take my life
by my own hand. I sprang out of bed and drew
open a drawer to take out the instrument that
would end my life. For some reason or other
I could not find it. God did not let me find it,
and I dropped upon my knees, and said, “Oh
God, if you will take this awful burden from
my heart, I will preach the Gospel”; and God
not only removed the burden, I found a joy
I had never dreamed of in this world, and all the
years since it has gone on increasing, with the
exception of a short time when I fell under the
blighting power of scepticism and agnosticism;
all the rest of the time all these years the joy has
grown brighter, brighter, brighter every year.8
Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
Michael N. Keas
Porter, a pivotal figure in the history of American
higher education,9 played an important role in the
formation of Torrey’s worldview. Torrey likely
heard President Porter’s inaugural address, which
he delivered in the fall of 1871, when Torrey was
a freshman. In this address, the new college president argued that Christians do not need to fear
modern science, which, at its best, is committed to
an open inquiry that leads to truth.10 Porter on other
occasions warned of the “atheistic tendencies of
much of modern science, literature, and culture.”
He included here a caution about the “ill-disguised
materialism of Huxley” and the “evolutionism of
Herbert Spencer, with its demonstrated impossibility of a positive theism.”11 Indeed, George Marsden
tells a compelling story of The Soul of the American
University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief (Oxford University Press, 1994), in
which Porter is one of the most important characters—attempting to protect American education from
the universal acid of materialism. We hear echoes of
President Porter in Torrey’s work.
Torrey returned to Yale in 1875 for three years of
seminary education. During his final year at Yale,
Torrey attended D. L. Moody’s (1837–1899) campus
and New Haven community revival meetings. He
also volunteered for six weeks in Moody’s “inquiry
room,” leading many people to Jesus.12 Moody, the
most influential revivalist of the late nineteenth century, had become one of Porter’s strongest allies in
the cause of distinctively Christian education in the
face of attacks from liberal theology and scientific
materialism. This was an about-face for Porter, who
mid-century had uncritically assumed that higher
education would inevitably advance Christianity,
and who had downplayed the importance of campus-sponsored revivals.13
Porter’s most controversial decision as a college
president, which took place shortly after Torrey had
graduated with his seminary degree in 1878, was
to forbid Yale professor William Graham Sumner
to adopt Herbert Spencer’s textbook The Study of
Sociology, especially because of this assessment of
Spencer’s book by Porter:
And so he ends this long discussion with the
assumption with which he begins, that in social
phenomena we can only recognize natural
causation, because forsooth, if Sociology is a
science it cannot admit any other agencies.14
Volume 62, Number 1, March 2010
Porter recognized that such methodological naturalism would distort the findings of sociology, because
it would preclude the detection of divine agency in
human affairs. Torrey demonstrated similar insight
in his later work.
After four years of pastoral work in Ohio punctuated by occasional revivals, Torrey (accompanied
by his wife Clara and infant daughter Edith) studied
theology in Leipzig and Erlangen. Most of Torrey’s
German professors believed that the original manuscripts of the Bible contained errors—a view Torrey
rejected at the end of his year in Germany.15
Torrey, whose sermons reflected a substantial
Yale education and the influence of Moody, became
one of the most influential evangelicals near the
turn of the twentieth century. After returning from
Germany and serving as pastor at several churches
in Minneapolis, Torrey, in 1889, accepted Moody’s
invitation to become the first superintendent of the
new Bible Institute of Chicago (later named Moody
Bible Institute, hereafter, MBI). George Marsden has
identified MBI as the leading Bible institute among
the nearly dozen that had originated by 1910, particularly because of the leadership of Moody and
Torrey.16 Torrey worked under the uneducated
(but gifted) Moody to create an exemplary Bible
institute curriculum for common people to achieve
biblical literacy and lay ministry skills—much of
which Torrey later adapted for Biola. Marsden has
concluded that early twentieth-century Bible institutes like MBI and Biola were at the leading edge of
The Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA) was housed in Los
Angeles’ tallest building when it was complete enough for students
to occupy it in 1914.17 This historic building was demolished in
1988.18 Courtesy of Biola University Archives.
Darwinism, Fundamentalism, and R. A. Torrey
a middle position among evangelicals in regard to
the relationship between Christianity and culture.
They advocated both revivalism centered on the
message of the cross and social reform through
urban ministry. “They should see in the cities not
only their sin, but also their suffering, and attempt
to eliminate both,” according to Marsden’s distillation of their rallying cry.19 Although such a balanced
perspective represented the typical evangelical orientation in the nineteenth century,20 it had become
increasingly rare after 1910. Liberals turned to the
social gospel (including eugenics and its forced sterilization of the “feebleminded”)21 and conservative
evangelicals paid little attention to the material
needs of the poor.
As a leader within the balanced, historic evangelical tradition, Torrey spent most of his time at MBI
developing and delivering curriculum for lay people
to receive theological training, sometimes with attention to the methodological similarities between
theology and science. He published his notes for
a MBI (and later Biola) doctrine class in the 1898
textbook What the Bible Teaches. The preface explains
that, in this book, “the methods of modern science
are applied to Bible study—thorough analysis followed by careful synthesis.” His textbook was
“an attempt at a careful, unbiased, systematic, thorough-going, inductive study and statement of Bible
truth.”22 Such a vision of the methodological similarities of theology and science, with an emphasis
on a shared Baconian ideal of inductive inquiry,
has been common among evangelicals over the past
few centuries.23
Torrey’s characterization of the scientific method
was similar to what Nobel Prize winner Robert
Millikan (1868–1953) would write in 1923: “The purpose of science is to develop without prejudice or
preconception of any kind a knowledge of the facts,
the laws, and the processes of nature.”24 Nevertheless, Torrey and Millikan saw religion quite differently. In the next sentence of the same pamphlet
published by the University of Chicago Divinity
School, Millikan wrote: “The even more important
task of religion, on the other hand, is to develop
the consciences, the ideals, and the aspirations of
mankind.” Torrey was a critical realist in religious25
(and scientific) matters, while Millikan—following
the spirit of modernism—reduced religion to the
culturally constructed yearnings of humanity. Historian Edward Davis has investigated this liberal
American way of reconciling science and religion in
the 1920s. He has focused on the widely circulated
series of Chicago pamphlets, including Millikan’s,
which abandoned historic Christianity in the name
of modernization.26 Torrey, while defending Christianity, recognized common methodological ground
between science and theology—provided that one
rejects the naturalistic philosophy (miracle prohibition) assumed by many scientists and theological
practitioners of higher criticism.27
While actual scientific practice contains more
diverse methodological practices than either Torrey
or Millikan articulated, they both recognized the
ideal of objectivity that has inspired many scientists.
Philosophers and historians of science since the
1950s have made it implausible to believe in a
unique “scientific method” that almost always leads
us closer to the truth. But, there is still reason to
believe that we know much more about nature now
than in the past. Most scientists are critical realists
like Millikan (and Torrey), and actual scientific work
reflects a variety of methodological orientations—
most notably hypothetico-deductive approaches and
the inductive procedure of “inference to the best
explanation” (comparative explanatory and predictive power).28
Fundamentalist statements about scientific
method were not that much different from what
leading scientists like Millikan were expressing.
Thus, we must rethink George Marsden’s oftenrepeated argument that twentieth-century fundamentalists were methodologically inferior relative
to the scientists of their day, in that they invoked
a naive Baconian-inductivist characterization of
science.29 A scientific argument should be evaluated evidentially, regardless of the methodological
characterization offered by the argument’s proponent. Even so, a brief survey of prominent early
twentieth-century statements about scientific methodology is instructive.
F. R. Moulton, known for coauthoring with
geologist Thomas C. Chamberlin a “planetesimal”
mechanism for the origin of our solar system that
temporarily replaced Laplace’s nebular hypothesis,
declared that astronomy “is a science” because “the
facts which have been acquired by observations
and experiments are classified on the basis of their
essential relations to each other and to the facts
and principles of other sciences.”30 This resembles
Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
Michael N. Keas
Torrey’s factual “analysis” followed by “synthesis.”
Moulton offered this characterization of scientific
procedure in his 1906 astronomy textbook, which
passed through several editions in the first quarter
of the twentieth century. Moulton later summarized the triumph and methods of science in his
lead essay of the general science textbook of 1926,
which he coauthored with fifteen other University
of Chicago science faculty. Moulton stated,
Within a few decades the world has been
revolutionized by science and its applications.
The successes of science invite attention to its
methods. That science depends upon observations and experiments is known to everyone,
but those who have not been engaged in its
pursuit cannot fully realize the scrupulous care
with which observations and experiments are
made, the faithfulness with which they are
recorded, the variety of conditions under which
they are repeated, and the caution with which
conclusions are drawn from them. Science does
not bow down before precedent nor custom
nor dogma; it exalts the truth and honestly
seeks it. The fact that scientific theories have
often been altered justifies no reproach to science, for they are simply the most coherent
organizations of its data that are possible at
a given time. The fact that changes are necessary means that knowledge has been increased.
New discoveries do not contradict earlier truth,
but include it as a special case, or as an imperfect statement of some larger truth.31
What were leading philosophers saying about the
methods of science in the time of Torrey? The English
economist and logician William Stanley Jevons
(1835–1882) authored an influential assessment of
scientific method that appeared in two editions and
numerous reprints from 1874 (when Torrey was
an undergraduate at Yale) to 1920. He wrote,
In a certain sense all knowledge is inductive.
We can only learn the laws and relations of
things in nature by observing those things.
But the knowledge gained from the senses is
knowledge only of particular facts, and we
require some process of reasoning by which
we may collect out of the facts the laws obeyed
by them. Experience gives us the materials of
knowledge: induction digests those materials,
and yields us general knowledge.32
Volume 62, Number 1, March 2010
Philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872–1970) voiced an
amusingly simplistic depiction of induction as the
essence of scientific method in 1931:
The conflict between Galileo and the Inquisition
is not merely the conflict between free thought
and bigotry or between science and religion;
it is a conflict between the spirit of induction
and the spirit of deduction. Those who believe
in deduction as the method of arriving at
knowledge are compelled to find their premises somewhere, usually in a sacred book.
Deduction from inspired books is the method
of arriving at truth employed by jurists, Christians, Mohammedans, and Communists.33
Russell’s viewpoint—including his faulty warfare
view of science and religion—has influenced more
recent science education. For example, Eric Rogers
approvingly quotes Russell’s naive methodological
pronouncement in Physics for the Inquiring Mind,
which was a physics textbook that emerged from
a 1950s course at Princeton University.34 Roger’s
work as a science educator was celebrated soon after
his death in 1990, in a memorial publication.35
R. A. Torrey: The Harmony of
Science and Christianity in the
Tradition of James Dwight Dana
If Torrey’s characterization of scientific method
shared much in common with the pronouncements
of leading scientists, what about his opinion of biological evolution? “Whatever truth there may be in
the doctrine of evolution as applied within limits
to the animal world, it breaks down when applied
to man,” Torrey asserted in What the Bible Teaches.36
Like many other evangelical leaders, he advocated
what was later called progressive creationism—
the view that God miraculously created new types
of organisms at different times (interspersed with
limited evolution and mass extinction) throughout
millions of years in earth history.37 Torrey probably
acquired progressive creationism from his favorite
Yale professor, geologist James Dwight Dana (1813–
1895), who had advocated this view in various forms
throughout his career as one of America’s leading
The Dana-Torrey alliance proved to be an important venue for promoting the harmony between science and Christianity near the turn of the twentieth
century. Dana had the relevant scientific credentials
Darwinism, Fundamentalism, and R. A. Torrey
and Torrey, a recognized theologian-evangelist,
conveyed some of Dana’s ideas to millions through
revival sermons and related publications. A detailed look at Dana’s subtle views about evolution
and divine action will help us to understand
Torrey’s assessment of these issues. By the time
Torrey studied under Dana in 1874, Dana had just
announced, in print, that he had accepted a more
evolutionary version of progressive creationism
which he considered “most likely to be sustained
by further research.” He tentatively concluded that
the “evolution of the system of life went forward
through the derivation of species from species,
according to natural methods not yet clearly understood, and with few occasions for supernatural
From 1871 to 1890, Dana delivered a series of
lectures on evolution at Yale College in which he
concluded (in the lecture versions that he began
to deliver in the late 1870s and early 1880s)40 that
Darwinian natural selection had only succeeded in
explaining the survival of the fittest species, not the
origin of species.41 Dana recognized the explanatory
power of natural selection in making sense of the
geographical distribution of species in past and
present floras and faunas—roughly what we now
call biogeography and ecological succession. In his
eighth and final lecture in this unpublished series,
Dana wrote concerning Darwin’s theory, “I see
nothing here to sustain the view that the survival
of the fittest satisfies our inquiry as to the origin of
the fittest.”42 However, natural selection acting on
variations might help explain some of the smaller
“divergences like that of the horse and giraffe from
other species,” Dana granted. He continued his
assessment of the limited efficacy of natural selection in the next paragraph:
while also observing that “the origin of variation is
not considered” in Darwin’s theory and that it is
“for the most part throughout the Kingdoms of life,”
a phenomenon “without explanation.”44 In both his
1895 Manual of Geology and his earlier unpublished
lectures, Dana maintained that “natural variations”
originated by mechanisms that science had not yet
adequately determined. He nevertheless considered
such variation to be “natural,” rather then miraculous “creative acts” of God, which Dana (correctly)
recalled had been the view of Louis Agassiz (1807–
1873)—America’s leading zoologist, and friend of
Dana.45 Dana accepted an account of life’s history
that he called “evolution by natural variation.”46
Before we examine this viewpoint, it is important
to note Dana’s advocacy of a few exceptions to this
general story. He excluded human origins and a few
other crucial points in life’s history from “evolution
by natural variation” because he thought such were
instances of detectable intelligent causation of the
sort advocated by Louis Agassiz (“intervention of
an intellectual power,” was Agassiz’s expression).47
In 1890, Dana published a lengthy Yale lecture
(different from his eight-lecture evolution series)
that surveyed evolution and related interpretive
issues in Genesis. Here he specified two of the
points of divine intervention in natural history
prior to God’s creation of humans:
There is, hence, reason for believing that the
power which so controls and exalts chemical
forces, raising them to the level required by the
functions of a plant, cannot come from unaided
chemical forces; and much less that which
carries them to a still higher level, that of the
living, sentient animal.48
But it explains only in part. The [sic] most of the
higher subdivisions of animals were already
developed very nearly as we now have them
in Paleozoic time; all the grand subdivisions of
Radiates & Mollusks and nearly all of Insects
and Vertebrates; and many of these were out
in complete display in the Cambrian [period
of the Paleozoic era]; thus showing that in this
development of the Kingdoms of Life there
was some more profound cause at work than
superficial natural selection.43
Dana appears to refer to a power that is beyond
the inherent capacities of unaided material nature.
This is made somewhat clear by the context of the
above passage. The origin of plants (a category that
included microbes in Dana’s terminology) represented the origin of first life, of which “science, as
is universally admitted, has no explanation; for no
experiments have resulted in making dead matter
a living species.”49 So Dana argued that a special
organizing power was needed to account for the
origin of “plant” life, and yet again for the origin
of “sentient animal” life.
Dana reaffirmed this conclusion in the last edition of
his Manual of Geology (1895) shortly before his death,
This continued insistence upon at least some
interventionist acts of God in prehuman natural
Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
Michael N. Keas
history, a view that Dana apparently held throughout his life, would itself be sufficient to regard him
as a progressive creationist rather than a theistic
evolutionist. However, there are additional reasons
for this assessment. As for the bulk of life’s history
beyond such rare interventionist exceptions, Dana
distinguished his own view—evolution by natural
variation—from Darwinism in two respects. First,
he rejected the suggestion that chance variation
(coupled with natural selection) constitutes the
engine of evolutionary change: “It is of no avail
to speak of chance variations. The use of the word
chance indicates personal ignorance. Chance has no
place in nature’s laws, and can have none in naturescience.”50 Dana’s last assertion about the nature of
nature in his 1895 Manual of Geology further illuminates what he meant by natural (but not random)
variations, which he thought fueled evolutionary
progress: “the whole Universe is not merely dependent on, but actually is, the Will of one Supreme
Intelligence.”51 Put otherwise, Dana believed that
God guided (usually in a noninterventionist manner) the production of the variations among organisms that constituted most of biological evolution.
Second, Dana distinguished his understanding of
evolution from Darwin’s by arguing that natural
variations make their initial appearance within
the majority of a population, not the minority as
Darwin had suggested. The few population members lacking such new beneficial variations would
be eliminated by natural selection.52 Natural selection is a conservative, not innovative, process in
Dana’s view of life’s history.53
Dana considered the progressive appearance of
increasingly complex life over millions of years
to be “a fact, whether carried forward by Natural
Causes under Divine power & guidance, or by
Divine Intervention.”54 This is how he expressed it
in the first of his eight Yale lectures on evolution,
which he delivered to students episodically from
1871 to 1890. Dana’s distinction here is between
those cases in which God works through natural
processes (without a role for “chance”) to achieve
his goals in nature, and those cases in which
God’s interventionist acts cause new entities to
come into existence by momentarily suspending
natural law, as in the case of the first appearance
of plants, animals, and humans.55
Dana’s subtle views on biological origins have
not been captured adequately by recent secondary
Volume 62, Number 1, March 2010
sources,56 which is a point worth emphasizing
before we return to Torrey’s acceptance of Dana’s
views. Here is how historian Ronald Numbers
summarizes Dana’s viewpoint:
Came to accept theistic evolution in the 1870s
but continued to insist that “a creative act”
was necessary for the origin of humans;
leaned more toward neo-Lamarckian than
Darwinian mechanisms.57
Contrary to this assessment, Dana also insisted upon
at least two interventionist acts of God in prehuman
history, and he considered the origin of variation
to be largely “without explanation,” at least more
so than Lamarckian or Darwinian in character.
Historian David Livingstone even claims (with only
minor qualification) that by 1883 “Dana had clearly
accepted the Darwinian cornerstone of evolution—
namely, natural selection.”58
We have seen that Dana considered natural selection to be more helpful in explaining biogeography
and ecological succession, rather than in explaining
the origin of radically new life forms (which alone
would give it “cornerstone” status in the Darwinian
sense). Although Dana sometimes appeared to be
one of “Darwin’s forgotten defenders” (the title of
Livingstone’s book), Dana more often proclaimed
the congruence of his views with those of progressive creationists like Louis Agassiz (1807–1873) and
Arnold Guyot (1807–1884).59 Although Dana believed in fewer interventionist acts of God in natural
history than either Agassiz or Guyot, he agreed with
them that God guided the progressive appearance
of fundamentally new types of organisms. The origin of the major groups of species had nothing to do
with chance and almost nothing to do with natural
selection, Dana concluded. Dana was not a theistic
evolutionist, at least not in the most common and
recent senses of this term.60
Torrey’s assessment of Darwinism was strikingly
similar to Dana’s. Recall what Torrey wrote in 1898:
“Whatever truth there may be in the doctrine of
evolution as applied within limits to the animal
world, it breaks down when applied to man.” In
fact, Torrey’s diary suggests vaguely how Darwin’s
theory “breaks down when applied to man.”61 In a
dozen diary entries dated July through September
of 1882, Torrey reports reading Darwin’s Descent of
Man (which first appeared in 1871—the year Torrey
began his Yale studies and the year Dana began his
Darwinism, Fundamentalism, and R. A. Torrey
Yale evolution lectures). On July 17, he remarks,
“Darwin’s argument on the development of the
moral faculty seems extremely weak.” The next day
he writes,
Read in Darwin’s “Descent of Man” & Mivart’s
criticism of Darwin on Language, Duty & Pleasure in “Lesson from Nature.” Mivart points
out [two illegible words] facts in Darwin’s theory, which Darwin did not sufficiently notice
or seem to apprehend in his later editions. This
portion of Darwin’s work lacks the acuteness
and discrimination of other parts.62
Torrey appears to have recognized the force of
St. George Jackson Mivart’s argument against Darwin’s theory of the origin of morality by means of
natural selection. “Perceptions of right and wrong,
and of our power of choice, and consequently responsibility, are universally diffused amongst mankind, and constitute an absolute character separating
man from all other animals,” declared Mivart in his
thesis statement placed at the head of his chapter
on “Duty and Pleasure,”63—a chapter Torrey apparently finished reading on July 18, 1882. Although
Mivart, a prominent Catholic theistic evolutionist,
acknowledged “altruistic habits can be explained by
‘natural selection,’” he maintained that this is beside
the main point at issue, namely,
No amount of benevolent habits tend even in
the remotest degree to account for the intellectual perception of “right” and “duty.” Such
habits may make the doing of beneficial acts
pleasant, and their omission painful; but such
feelings have essentially nothing whatever to
do with the perception of “right” and “wrong,”
nor will the faintest incipient state of the
perception be accounted for by the strongest
development of such sympathetic feelings.
Liking to do acts which happened to be good
is one thing; seeing that actions are good,
whether we or others like them or not, is quite
“the very essence of an instinct is, that it is
followed independently of reason” ([Descent of
Man,] vol. i, p. 100). But the very essence of
moral action is that it is not followed independently of reason.64
Torrey’s evaluation of Darwin’s Descent of Man and
Mivart’s Lessons from Nature appears to have been
cut short by the appearance of what later became
known as “The Great September Comet of 1882.”
Torrey reports in his diary that he viewed a comet
in early October after having read (on September 14,
21, and 28) a book on observational astronomy by
H. W. Warren.65 Soon after viewing the comet,
the Torrey family spent a year in Germany—apparently leaving Darwin’s and Mivart’s books behind.
Torrey’s enjoyment of scientific literature spurred
him to even read aloud to his wife Clara from
R. A. Proctor’s Light Science for Leisure Hours.66
Torrey, who read widely on evolution, was somewhat ambivalent about evolutionary theory and its
relation to Christianity. In a sermon used during
his 1902–1905 revival tour, Torrey presented scientific arguments against universal common descent,
but then presented a backup greater-God evolutionary design argument (in case universal common
descent were ever proven).67 In October 1925
(shortly after the Scopes trial), Torrey recalled in
a letter to his friend James Gray, editor of the
Moody Bible Institute Monthly,
Even after I came to believe thoroughly in the
Bible, and in its exact interpretation, I was, to
a certain extent, an evolutionist. I later, with
more thorough study, was led to give up the
evolutionary hypothesis for purely scientific
In that same published letter, Torrey indicated that
a fundamentalist could be an evolutionist in at least
some sense of the term:
Mr. Darwin’s account of the moral sense is very
different from the above. It may be expressed
most briefly by saying that it is the prevalence
of more enduring instincts over less persistent
ones—the former being social instincts, the
latter personal ones. …
While I am not an evolutionist in any sense,
I have known men intimately who were as
sound on the Scriptures and on all fundamental doctrines of our faith as I am who were
at the same time evolutionists. I think they
are mistaken, but I can see how a man can
believe thoroughly in the absolute infallibility
of the Bible and still be an evolutionist of
a certain type.69
Mr. Darwin then means by “the moral sense”
an instinct, and adds, truly enough, that
The Moody editors inserted a footnote at this point
that read:
Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
Michael N. Keas
The “evolutionist” in mind evidently, is not he
who denies the supernatural, but who employs
the term in the simple sense of growth, progress, development from the lower to the higher
in the history of the universe of man.70
During the period in which Torrey collaborated with
The Fundamentals publication project (1910–1915),
he promoted a book by the British criminal law practitioner and amateur theologian Sir Robert Anderson
(1841–1918), A Doubter’s Doubts about Science and
Religion.71 Torrey included this book within the
“Montrose Library,” which was a collection of recommended books routinely promoted in Biola’s organizational monthly, The King’s Business.72 Anderson’s
book thus gives us additional insight into Torrey’s
own views about science and religion.
After discussing the meager evidence in favor of
Darwin’s theory of the origin of species, Anderson
suggested that “the first and greatest question
relates, not to the phenomena of life, but to its
origin.”73 Interacting with some of the published
remarks of Charles Darwin, T. H. Huxley, and
Herbert Spencer, Anderson argued that no theory
of the origin of life enjoyed significant support at
that time. Even so, Huxley is quoted as saying that
“at some time or other abiogenesis musts have taken
place. If the hypothesis of evolution be true, living
matter must have arisen from non-living matter.”74
Such a conclusion, however, merely assumes the
very naturalistic philosophy in question. Anderson
aptly characterizes Huxley’s abiogenesis assertion
as “boundless credulity.”75
Returning to Darwin’s theory proper, which pertains to the origin of species, not the origin of life,
Anderson comments that “it claims a hearing on
its merits. And viewed in this light, no one need
denounce it as necessarily irreligious.” He then
argues that intelligently guided human evolution
would be “a far more amazing act of creative power
than the Mosaic account of the genesis of man
supposes.”76 But “base materialism” is powerless
to explain the origin of human religious consciousness.77 In the end, Anderson concludes that the
available evidence does not substantially support
Darwinian evolution. It is “merely a philosophical
theory” that is “unnecessary, except of course with
those scientists who cling to any plank that will
save them from having to acknowledge God.”78
Anderson’s analysis of Darwinism and naturalistic
Volume 62, Number 1, March 2010
philosophy is reflected in Torrey’s occasional
remarks on the subject, including his earlier diary
entries analyzed above.
Despite his partial uncertainty about evolution,
Torrey consistently advocated the design argument
in his sermons and publications. His clearest exposition of the basic structure of the design inference
surfaced in his book Practical and Perplexing Questions Answered.79 Here he describes a conversation
with an “inquirer” that he would redirect by pulling
out his watch. A series of questions would help
the inquirer recognize his own ability to make the
design inference without having seen either the act
of design or the designing intelligence. The first
peak of this conversation comes in this sentence:
“The watch shows the marks of intelligent design,
thus proving it had an intelligent maker.” Torrey
would then inquire, “What about your own eye?
Is it not as wonderful a piece of mechanism as
a watch? Did it not then have a Maker?” He would
apply this insight to other features of the universe
that display “symmetry, order, beauty, law, [and]
adaptation of means to an end,” which “prove the
existence of an intelligent Creator and Designer.”
This is the classic teleological argument for God’s
existence. Evolution, “even if true, would not take
away any of the force of the argument from design
in nature,” because of the need for a “power of
development” imposed on nature by a designer.
Here is an echo of Dana, Torrey’s geology professor,
whose Yale lectures contained similar perspectives.
A portion of the cover of R. A. Torrey, Practical and Perplexing
Questions Answered (Chicago: Moody Press, 1908).
Darwinism, Fundamentalism, and R. A. Torrey
Prepared by a Yale and German theological and
liberal arts education, by several decades of pastoral
and Bible institute leadership, and by a number of
prayer-bathed revivals in America, Torrey was
eager for revival on a larger scale. From 1902 to
1905, Torrey and singer Charles Alexander (1867–
1920) saw nearly 100,000 conversions in meetings
held in Japan, China, Australia, India, and Great
Britain.80 Upon returning to America, Torrey turned
increasingly to full-time evangelistic work (leaving
MBI in 1908), until he accepted the call to Biola’s
deanship in 1912, having preached to a total of about
15 million people on four continents.81 Within three
years after the completion of his unprecedented
evangelistic crusades in 1905, Torrey had published
his main apologetic works,82 which included many
of his musings on evolution and intelligent design.
Beginning in 1909, he joined forces with other evangelicals in a joint publication project, The Fundamentals, which helped identify a new breed of evangelicals: the fundamentalists.
The cover of R. A. Torrey, Difficulties and Alleged
Errors and Contradictions in the Bible (Chicago, IL:
The Bible Institute Colportage Association, 1907).
Fundamentalism, and Christian
Worldview Thinking: 1889–1915
Besides his role as a leading turn-of-the-century
evangelical revivalist, Torrey was one of the editors
and authors of The Fundamentals (1910–1915). This
publication series not only helped define fundamentalism, but it also disseminated James Orr’s explicit
articulation of Christianity as a “worldview”—a
project Orr had begun in about 1889 (the same
year Torrey began writing Bible institute curricula).83
We will focus on how Torrey and Orr contributed
to the sort of Christian worldview analysis that
informed early fundamentalism in regard to science
and Christianity.
What are evangelicalism, fundamentalism, and
Christian “worldview” thinking? Evangelicals are
best defined as Christians affected by the eighteenthcentury revivals led by people such as Jonathan
Edwards and John and Charles Wesley, who were
committed to biblical authority, Christ’s substitutionary atonement (and a few other major doctrines), a conversion experience, and transformation
of the world through evangelism and social action.84
Christian fundamentalism has been a movement
within evangelicalism since the early twentieth
century. It opposed liberalism and defended the
truths of Christianity more actively than many
evangelicals had done previously. Christian worldview thinking (explicitly using the term “worldview” or Weltanschauung) has been a project, within
both evangelicalism and the Reformed tradition
since the late nineteenth-century, to develop a comprehensive account of reality that is rooted in the
Bible and clearly distinguished from non-Christian
views of the world. This project was largely initiated
in about 1889 by the Scottish Presbyterian theologian James Orr (1844–1913)—who was also a leading author of The Fundamentals—and (in the mid1890s) by the Dutch Reformed polymath Abraham
Kuyper (1837–1920).85
When Moody died in 1899, Torrey succeeded him
as a leading world evangelist. Torrey later became
a central figure in the fundamentalist movement.
Moody himself had been a proto-fundamentalist,
according to Marsden.86 The main fundamentalist
ingredient that Moody lacked—the passion and
educational background to fight liberalism—Torrey
possessed in abundance. In fact, Torrey’s chief
Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
Michael N. Keas
disagreement with Moody was precisely concerning
this issue of fighting the intellectual idols of the age.
“Christ and His … disciples … attacked error,”
Torrey wrote. It is not enough to “simply teach the
truth,” he argued in 1899, delineating his position
in contrast to that of Moody.87 Although the term
“fundamentalist” did not appear in print until 1920,88
fundamentalism had been in the works for at least
a few decades prior. The worldwide dispersal of
the pamphlets called The Fundamentals provided the
root of the name and some of the momentum that
gave fundamentalism its public face.
What initiated The Fundamentals project in 1909?
Oil prospector Lyman Stewart had long dreamed
of funding the wide circulation of a scholarly defense of mere evangelical Christianity with a minimum of sectarian content.89 Soon after his Union
Oil Company of California had multiplied its worth
five times between 1900 and 1908,90 Lyman and his
brother Milton decided to advance God’s kingdom
anonymously with a proclamation of basic Christianity. They were the “two Christian laymen” on
the title page of each of the undated twelve volumes
of The Fundamentals that appeared from 1910 to 1915.
The preface to the last volume states that “over
2,500,000 copies of the twelve volumes have been
published and circulated,”91 leading some to believe
that this referred to the number of copies of each
volume. The total copies of all twelve volumes is
what the preface actually intended to report, a number that grew to nearly three million according to
the next sentence of the preface (this included
reprints of back copies).
an opposition of detail, but of principle. The circumstance necessitates an equal extension of
the line of defense. It is the Christian view of
things in general which is attacked, and it is by
an exposition and vindication of the Christian
view of things as a whole that the attack can
most successfully be met.93
Orr’s participation in The Fundamentals promoted
this sort of Christian worldview analysis on a massive scale (owing to the large distribution of those
volumes). Orr expresses his views about science and
Christian worldview thinking in his essay “Science
and Christian Faith” (vol. 4). He declares that natural law “in the Bible is never regarded as having
an independent existence. It is always regarded as
an expression of the power or wisdom of God.” This
clarification undercuts a class of arguments later
known as “god of the gaps,” according to which
God is implicated in nature only when we fail to
explain something by means of natural laws and
natural events. Orr also argued that when someone
Orr was one of the most influential essayists
in The Fundamentals, particularly because he had
already established his reputation as a founding
father of Christian “worldview” thinking.92 In his
magnum opus, The Christian View of God and the
World as Centering in the Incarnation (1897), he had
The opposition which Christianity has to
encounter is no longer confined to special doctrines or to points of supposed conflict with
the natural sciences—for example, the relations
of Genesis and geology—but extends to the
whole manner of conceiving of the world, and
of man’s place in it, the manner of conceiving
of the entire system of things, natural and
moral, of which we form a part. It is no longer
Volume 62, Number 1, March 2010
The Fundamentals (1910–1915) were issued as twelve separate volumes (about two per year). Nearly three million of these
volumes (about 250,000 of each volume) were mailed around
the world.
Darwinism, Fundamentalism, and R. A. Torrey
lifts their arm, they do not “abolish the law of gravitation but counteract or overrule its purely natural
action by the introduction of a new spiritual [nonmaterial] force.”94 What scientific materialists would
need to justify in their approach, Orr suggests, is
“not simply that natural causes operate uniformly,
but that no other than natural causes exist …”
He concludes, “Miracles stand or fall by their evidence, but the attempt to rule them out by any a priori
dictum as to the uniformity of natural law must inevitably fail.”96 Orr skillfully avoids both extreme
presuppositionalism and exclusive evidentialism in
his articulation of a Christian worldview as compared with rival worldviews.
Digging yet deeper into the worldview level of
analysis, Orr concluded,
In this same essay, Orr dismantled the DraperWhite97 warfare thesis of science and Christianity
by means of the overall harmony that is evident
in the history of science and Christianity. Historians
of science, particularly since World War II, have
resoundingly discredited the warfare thesis along
similar lines (but to little effect as the warfare image
still has popular currency). Furthermore, Orr displays a remarkably accurate grasp of the limited
extent to which conflict has appeared in the history
of science and Christianity, namely when either nature or Scripture was misinterpreted. For example,
Orr—echoing Augustine, Calvin, Galileo, and many
others—observes that the Bible is not a scientific
textbook, but is written using the common language
of how things appear from earth.98 Admittedly,
“Galileo was imprisoned by the church,” but “truth
The real question at issue in miracle is not
natural law, but Theism. It is to be recognized
at once that miracle can only profitably be discussed on the basis of a theistic view of the
universe. It is not disputed that there are views
of the universe which exclude miracle.95
He mentions atheism, pantheism, and deism as
examples of worldviews that preclude miracles. But
then he “marvels” at those theists (especially theistic
evolutionists) who presume that “for the highest
and holiest ends in His personal relations with
His creatures, God can work only within the limits
which nature imposes; that He cannot act without
and above nature’s order if it pleases Him to do so.”
The Fundamentals, volume 1 (1910). R. A. Torrey served as a writer and one of the editors of the project.
Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
Michael N. Keas
prevailed, and it was soon perceived that the Bible,
using the language of appearances, was no more
committed to the literal moving of the sun round the
earth than are our modern almanacs, which employ
the same forms of speech [e.g., ‘sunrise’].” Similarly,
Orr argues that the “great divine ‘week’ of work”
is itself part of the “symbolic setting of the picture”
in Genesis 1, and not intended to teach creation
in six solar days.99 In fact, none of the essays in
The Fundamentals advocated a young earth. Orr also
concluded that Noah’s flood was anthropologically
universal, but geographically local.100 Many of the
errors of fundamentalism became pervasive only
later in the history of the movement, after the influence of giants like Orr had faded.
After the demise of fundamentalism among most
evangelicals in the generation after the Scopes trial,
some aspects of its earlier strengths were later revived. For example, Carl F. H. Henry (who was
born in 1913, the year Orr died) read Orr’s The Christian View of God and the World in a Wheaton College
senior course on theism, which (Henry later recalled) “did the most to give me a cogently comprehensive view of reality and life in a Christian
context.”101 Henry revived careful Christian worldview analysis in the tradition of Orr, but he and
his Wheaton classmate Billy Graham also shed the
tainted “fundamentalist” label in their intellectual
and revivalist renewal of evangelicalism during the
second half of the twentieth century.
In his “Science and Christian Faith” essay, Orr
also proposed a resolution to the apparent conflict
between biological evolution and the Bible. Significant evidence points to “some form of evolutionary
origin of species—that is some genetic connection of
higher with lower forms,” but he thought that this
change was limited (without specifying how limited).102 He also argued that God directs the mechanisms of evolution toward purposeful ends.
“Evolution,” he concludes, “is coming to be recognized as but a new name for ‘creation’ …” Orr also
asserts that the origin of life is inexplicable by
“purely mechanical and chemical agencies” and
that the origin of traits such as consciousness and
morality similarly require the operation of “spiritual powers” or a “special act of the Creator.”103
Orr’s views here are in line with the Dana-Torrey
trajectory analyzed earlier.
The Fundamentals (1910–1915) displayed a range
of opinion on evolution that did not become focused
Volume 62, Number 1, March 2010
political resistance among fundamentalists until the
1920s. Although some essayists in The Fundamentals
clearly rejected universal common ancestry, others
accepted it (with the exclusion of the special case of
humans). The most qualified author on evolution
among the essayists was theologian (and amateur
geologist) George Frederick Wright (1838–1921),
who was professor of the “Harmony of Science and
Revelation” at Oberlin College in Ohio. Wright argued that “modern evolutionary speculations have
not made much real progress over those of the
ancients.” He especially noted the lack of success of
Darwin’s proposed mechanism of natural selection
acting on random variations, which, indeed, historians of late have shown to have been temporarily
eclipsed by neo-Lamarckian and other goal-directed
mechanisms around the turn of the twentieth century.104 Wright concluded that “design” is still detectable in evolutionary change, but he was vague
about how much common ancestry he deemed to be
well documented (he also changed his mind about
this subject a few times during his career).105
Furthermore, Wright made the case (like Orr and
design theorists today) that humans are known
to act routinely as intelligent agents in breeding
animals and fashioning technology—or even in just
moving their arm, as Orr had illustrated. Thus,
“we cannot banish God from the universe without
stultifying ourselves and reducing man’s free will
to the level of a mere mechanical force. But man
is more than that; and this everyone knows.” Even
though Wright was correct about the strong human
intuition that validates our status as volitional
beings who retain personal identity through time
(unlike material objects), he might be surprised by
the degree to which materialists subsequently have
attempted to reduce humans to material entities.
In the preface to the last volume of The Fundamentals, which appeared in 1915, under Torrey’s editorial oversight, readers were urged to subscribe to
The King’s Business published by Biola (also edited
by Torrey), which was offered as a continuation
of The Fundamentals. The first eleven volumes of
The Fundamentals had spurred 200,000 letters to the
publisher, half of which had requested more.106
Torrey was happy to comply by sending a complimentary issue of The King’s Business to each reader
in the hope that many would continue by subscription.107 The oil money of the Stewart brothers
was behind all these projects: The Fundamentals,
Darwinism, Fundamentalism, and R. A. Torrey
The King’s Business, and Biola itself.108 The King’s
Business focused on “fundamental Christianity” and
Sunday school lessons, including background reading and editorial comments about current events.
Other than a high profile presence of mail-order
offers from the Biola Book Room, Biola’s selfpromotion was kept to a minimum. This monthly
connection with an instant international constituency helped put Biola on the religious world map,
particularly as the periodical was also known for its
editor, the renowned world evangelist R. A. Torrey.
The King’s Business (1910–1970) was one of the most
influential fundamentalist periodicals of the first
half of the twentieth century.109 Christianity Today
(1956– ), the brainchild of Billy Graham and Carl F.
H. Henry, became the leading evangelical journal
(and chief defender of orthodoxy in the wake of
fundamentalism’s decline) of the second half of the
twentieth century.110
Science, Religion, and the
Great War: 1914–1918
While Orr had argued against the alleged war
between science and Christianity in The Fundamentals (as had Torrey in his revival messages and Bible
school curriculum), Torrey’s monthly editorials in
The King’s Business often addressed the war in
Europe that soon drew America into overseas combat. Torrey maintained a pacifist position through
the first half of World War I, which had begun in
August 1914. But in his April 1917 editorial (written
February 15, two weeks after Germany had begun
unrestricted submarine warfare), Torrey made an
about face. “Ought Christians to go to war?” he
asked. “They certainly should,” he answered. “But
what war should they go to?” First, he gave the spiritual answer: “The war against Satan (Eph. 6:12, 13);
the war against sin and unbelief and error in all its
countless forms.” Then Torrey suggested the necessity of physical warfare:
There seems to be no possibility of America’s
being kept out of this most appalling war in all
the world’s history. The course being pursued
by Germany has no shadow of excuse in international law or humanity. In their desperation
that nation and its rules seem to have gone
mad. It looks as if there was nothing left to be
done but to utterly crush the nation, to bring it
to its senses.111
Indeed, the USA entered the war on April 6, 1917.
In the same April 1917 issue of The King’s Business,
Torrey penned another article about the spiritual
war over the authority of Scripture. He suggested
that the “most dangerous enemies of the Bible today
are college professors and principals of high schools,
and even theological professors, who … are …
attempting to show that the Bible is full of errors
and not in accord with the assured results of modern
science and history.”112 Later in this article, however,
Torrey proclaimed,
The greatest scientist that America produced
in the nineteenth century, my own friend and
beloved instructor in geology, Prof. Dana, said,
“The grand old book of God still stands, and
this old earth the more its leaves are turned and
pondered, the more will it sustain and illustrate
the sacred word.”113
Courtesy of Biola University Archives.
In the February 1918 issue of The King’s Business,
Torrey addressed the spiritual and Darwinian
Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
Michael N. Keas
dimensions of the Great War. First, he celebrated
the “taking of Jerusalem by the English forces” as
a fulfillment of prophecy.114 Then he launched five
pages that blamed Darwinian evolution for the war.
There can be no question that the present war
and some of the most horrible features of German ‘frightfulness’ are the direct outcome of
the evolutionary hypothesis, which has had so
great a sway in German universities and in
German scientific thought.115
Torrey documented how numerous German intellectuals and military leaders had justified German
military aggression based on Darwinian principles in
early twentieth-century publications.116 Although
recent scholarship has shown that authors like Torrey
and William Jennings Bryan (of the Scopes trial) overestimated the direct line of influence from Darwinism
to the outbreak of World War I,117 there remains a
substantial case for social Darwinism as one of the
significant factors that led to the war. Torrey did not
recognize one glaring counterexample to his thesis:
some Darwinists were pacifists. But, ironically, the
reason for such pacifism usually hinged upon the
objection that, in modern wars, the wrong people
were being killed—Europeans rather than allegedly
inferior non-European races.118
Though Darwin himself opposed militarism as
a deliberate policy,119 he judged the “war of nature”
to be the source out of which morality itself originated. A tribe with more altruistic behavior would
out-compete (in the “battle for life”) those lacking
such selfless behavior, he reasoned.120 Those superior in battle were also those on the high moral
ground (as an alleged consequence of natural history). Torrey, making many of these same points
about Darwinism and military aggression, quipped,
“This may sound like Darwinian evolution gone
mad, but it is really the evolutionary hypothesis
carried to its logical issue.”121 Historian Richard
Weikart has recently documented a more nuanced
version of Torrey’s assessment (and connected it to
both World Wars) in his book From Darwin to Hitler
In the same editorial analyzed above, Torrey
shows how some of the leading German scholars of
biblical higher criticism tarnished their reputations
by publicly voicing support for German militarism.
For example, he profiles statements from Gustav
Adolf Deissmann, professor of New Testament
Volume 62, Number 1, March 2010
exegesis at Berlin. Deissmann proclaimed the Great
War to be “our holy war,” which has strengthened
religion: “I say it [i.e., the present war] has steeled
[i.e., strengthened] it [i.e., religion] … This is not
relapse to a lower level, but a mounting up to God
himself.” Torrey, perhaps recalling his own experience studying theology in Germany, responded,
“Who will desire to study New Testament theology
under a man who is capable of such an infamous
and Satanic utterance as this[?]”123 Torrey concludes his editorial with these words, “It makes
for the progress of true thought that they and their
theories are necessarily discredited by these recent
Some evangelical leaders had defended theistic
evolution up to World War I,124 but this support
dwindled among evangelicals and fundamentalists
after the Great War. Although evangelicals had long
argued that higher criticism in the hands of liberal
theologians (those assuming naturalism in varying
degrees) had corrupted our understanding of the
book of God’s words (the Bible), now there was
a growing concern that scientific naturalism had degraded our knowledge of the book of God’s works
(nature). There was also increasing evidence that
the domain of the two books significantly overlapped, particularly in disputes about the value
(or repudiation) of war and of the sanctity of each
individual human life.
Torrey not only opposed America entering the
war (until it appeared necessary), but he also helped
advertise a pamphlet in The King’s Business that
opposed the war against “inferior” Americans by
eugenicists who were campaigning to create a master race through human breeding.125 Beginning in
December 1912, The King’s Business advertised this
fourteen-page “small book” by Philip Mauro (1859–
1952)126 entitled “Eugenics” A New “Movement” (of
which no copies are known to exist today).127
The advertisement for Mauro’s five-cent treatise announced that it “tells of another new movement
instigated by Satan.” Mauro, the New York lawyer
who contributed several essays to The Fundamentals,
and who later wrote the brief that William Jennings
Brian used in the Scopes trial, was a popular Christian apologist. Mauro opposed eugenics, which was
the attempt to guide human evolution by regulating
human procreation. Although Darwin himself provided some of the rationale for improving humanity
through breeding in his Descent of Man (1871),128
Darwinism, Fundamentalism, and R. A. Torrey
eugenics did not become a popular social movement
until about the time of Mauro’s conversion to Christianity near the turn of the century.
As a lawyer, Mauro might have been familiar
with some of the eugenics-based compulsory sterilization laws that were passed beginning in 1907.129
By the early 1930s, thirty states had enacted such
laws and over 12,000 Americans had been sterilized
under their guidance (a total of over 60,000 compulsory sterilizations had taken place by 1958).130
Most of those sterilized were deemed insane or
“feebleminded.” With hindsight, the “feebleminded”
designation was often quite dubious, including,
in many cases, merely financially underprivileged
people. Although conservative evangelicals and
fundamentalists typically opposed eugenics, liberal
preachers typically supported the movement.131
R. A. Torrey and the
Organization of Fundamentalism
before the Scopes Trial:
The Baptist minister Harry Emerson Fosdick—a theistic evolutionist and ambivalent supporter of eugenics132—became the best known “liberal” critic of
fundamentalism through his widely distributed
sermon “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?”133 In this
sermon delivered in May of 1922, Fosdick affirmed
“genuine liberals” within Christianity who combine
“new knowledge and the old faith,” and who might
“say that the virgin birth is not to be accepted as
a historic fact.” He warned that fundamentalists
“have actually endeavored to put on the statute
books of a whole state binding laws against teaching
modern [evolutionary] biology,” referring to the first
such attempts in 1921.134 “If they had their way,
within the church, they would set up in Protestantism a doctrinal tribunal more rigid than the pope’s,”
he predicted concerning his increasingly mobilized
fundamentalist opponents. Given that eugenics was
routinely taught as part of evolutionary biology at
this time135 (including in the textbook at issue in
the 1925 Scopes trial),136 Fosdick probably felt compelled to support eugenics despite his doubts about
some of its aims. Indeed, he was one of three
Christian ministers who were charter members of
the American Eugenics Society Advisory Council,
which formed in 1923 (the year following his sermon
against fundamentalism).137
How did the fundamentalists get organized before the 1920s, the decade in which their movement
became a national sensation? Much of the answer
comes from a look at a flurry of activity centered
on Torrey, whom emerging fundamentalists recognized as the leading evangelical revivalist. Although Torrey was theologically open to certain
forms of evolution, he had argued extensively in
the February 1918 issue of The King’s Business that
Darwinism was the main cause of World War I.
Fundamentalists took note of this. The pillars of
Christian civilization seemed to be crumbling under
the influence of Darwinism and higher criticism (see
cartoon below). Defenders of Christendom needed
to get organized.
At the fourth annual meeting of the World’s
Christian Fundamentals Association (WCFA), which
was held in the 4,564-seat auditorium of the Bible
Institute of Los Angeles in 1922, Minneapolis pastor
William B. Riley began the convention by telling
the story of the birth of the WCFA and its aim of
combating the two main components of modernism:
evolution and higher criticism. He explained how
the WCFA was conceived in the summer home138
The King’s Business 13 (July 1922): 642.
Courtesy of Biola University Archives.
Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
Michael N. Keas
of Torrey, Biola’s dean, at a meeting in 1918, called
by Riley and the editor of the first five volumes of
The Fundamentals, A. C. Dixon.139 Riley encouraged
fundamentalists to fight modernism in colleges and
seminaries. To document this need, he summarized
the results of the survey published by James Leuba
in Belief in God and Immortality (1916): “… more than
half of those teaching biology, geology and history
have discarded a belief in a personal God and a personal immortality.”140 Riley then turned to the
“fruit” of this unbelief in American academic leadership, noting that a higher percentage of freshman
students in colleges believe in the Christian faith
than do upperclassmen. Leuba’s study indicated to
Riley that the “camouflage of Christianity, so long
worked by modernist instructors, is now removed,
and for the first time since the conflict began the
army of Modernism is in the open and under direct
fire.”141 Historian Edward Larson has recognized
the WCFA as a leading organization behind the
political activation of fundamentalism.142 However,
Torrey’s biographer, Roger Martin, concludes that
Torrey withdrew from the WCFA soon after the
Los Angeles meeting for two reasons: its overemphasis on fighting evolution and its “subsequent
divisiveness and improper spirit.”143 Martin suggests that Torrey thought the inerrancy of Scripture
should be the primary focus of organized attempts
to renew Christianity.
Indeed, Torrey’s emphasis on biblical inerrancy
spans the chronological range of his publications.144
In 1899, he compared acceptance of inerrancy in the
face of apparent errors in the Bible to the acceptance
of Copernican astronomy before Galileo’s discovery
of the phases of Venus. “So we see,” he concluded,
that according to the common-sense logic recognized in every department of science (with
the exception of Biblical criticism, if that be
a science), if the positive proof of a theory is
conclusive it is believed by rational men, in
spite of any number of difficulties in minor
details. He is a shallow thinker who gives up
a well-attested truth because of some facts
which he cannot reconcile with that truth.
And he is a very shallow Bible scholar who
gives up the divine origin and inerrancy of the
Bible because there are some supposed facts
that he cannot reconcile with that doctrine.
Unfortunately we have many shallow thinkers
of that kind, even in our pulpits.145
Volume 62, Number 1, March 2010
Biblical inerrancy, set within science and religion
methodological dialogue, makes a prominent
appearance in Torrey’s 1907 book that answers the
most frequent questions asked during his 1902–1905
world evangelism tours, which resulted in about
100,000 conversions. Torrey opens his book with
“a general statement” about alleged biblical errors
in which he notes that there is “scarcely a doctrine
in science generally believed today that has not had
some great difficulty in the way of its acceptance.”
Appealing to the early years of Copernican astronomy, he writes,
When the Copernican theory, now so universally accepted, was first proclaimed, it encountered a very grave difficulty. If this theory were
true, the planet Venus should have phases as
the moon has, but no phases could be discovered by the best glass then in existence. But the
positive argument for the theory was so strong
that it was accepted in spite of this apparently
unanswerable objection. When a more powerful glass was made, it was found that Venus
had phases after all. The whole difficulty arose,
as most all of those in the Bible arise, from man’s
ignorance of some of the facts in the case.146
Torrey reinforced the same point by reviewing the
acceptance of the nebular hypothesis (of the solar
system’s origin) despite anomalous data.
The nebular hypothesis is commonly accepted
in the scientific world today. But when this
theory was first announced, and for a long time
afterward, the movements of the planet Uranus
could not be reconciled with the theory. Uranus
seemed to move in just the opposite direction
from that in which it was thought it ought to
move in accordance with the demands of the
theory. But the positive arguments for the theory were so strong that it was accepted in spite
of the inexplicable movements of Uranus.147
In 1922, six years before his death, he identified inerrancy and Jesus’ bodily resurrection as the two most
pressing issues of the day, despite the recent flurry
of talk about evolution, which he deemed comparatively “not so fundamental and vital.” Debate about
evolution was marked by
great confusion of thought both upon the part
of the Conservatives and on the part of the
Liberals. Neither side define [sic] with accuracy
just what they mean by “Evolution,” and the
ardent advocates of Evolution, having given
Darwinism, Fundamentalism, and R. A. Torrey
what they consider conclusive proof of the fact
of an Evolution of a certain character, at once
assert that they have proved the doctrine of
Evolution in an entirely different sense. There is
a similar confusion, though not so frequent or
so gross, on the part of those contending against
Evolution. No one should write either for or
against Evolution without a careful definition
of just what he means by Evolution.148
Torrey offered this assessment of evolution on the
eve of the 1925 Scopes trial with the observation that
an adequate book on the topic had yet to be written.
He had the “hope” that “a man” he had in mind
would do the job. This man’s identity remains a
Conclusion: R. A. Torrey and
Issues in Science and
Christianity before 1925
Fundamentalist leader R. A. Torrey offered evangelical Christians insightful approaches for dealing with
Darwinism and naturalism before his death in 1928.
These insights, some of which Torrey derived from
Yale’s president Noah Porter and Yale’s geologist
J. D. Dana, might inspire a better relationship between science and Christianity today. How important was Dana to a nineteenth-century assessment of
Darwinian evolution? Darwin himself wrote Dana
a letter a few years before the Origin of Species
appeared in 1859, in which he confided, “but when
I shall publish, Heaven only knows, not I fear for
a couple of years, but when I do the first copy shall
be sent to you.”149 Indeed, in a letter from Darwin
to Dana dated November 11, 1859—subsequently
found inserted into Dana’s copy of the Origin of Species—Darwin announced the fulfillment of his promise and challenged Dana with these words: “I know
too well that the conclusion, at which I have arrived,
will horrify you, but you will, I believe & hope, give
me credit for at least an honest search after the truth.
I hope that you will read my Book.”150 Dana apparently read it, honestly evaluated it, and then rejected
the cornerstone of Darwinism: the claim that natural
selection acting on random variations has the creative power to make all life from simple beginnings.
Torrey followed a similar course.
In 1889, two important evangelical projects were
initiated: Torrey began creating a model Bible
curriculum for ordinary Christian workers as the
superintendent of Moody’s new Bible Institute in
Chicago, and Orr began writing his Kerr lectures
that embodied the first explicit articulation of Christianity as a “worldview.” These two projects reinforced each other and became part of the larger
fundamentalist movement to defend Christianity
against modernism, as argued in The Fundamentals
(1910–1915). The writers of The Fundamentals, including Orr and Torrey, proposed harmony between science and Christianity by accepting the
standard geological ages and by offering at least
some critique of Darwinism. Biola advanced the
work of The Fundamentals through its monthly
periodical, The King’s Business (1910–1970), which
Torrey designated as the successor to The Fundamentals in the final volume of that series. Torrey could
do this because he was editor of both publications,
and the funding for both came from the same
millionaire brothers—Lyman and Milton Stewart.
Although Torrey offered occasional critiques of
Darwinism in The King’s Business and in his books
and sermons, he urged evangelicals and fundamentalists to focus more on biblical inerrancy and a critique of naturalism in all academic fields, rather
than on the details of how God’s creative acts unfold
in time. While Biola University and most other
evangelical institutions today no longer accept the
tainted “fundamentalist” label, there is much to be
emulated from early fundamentalism before it flung
itself into the humiliation of the 1925 Scopes trial—
a disastrous move that Torrey did not support.151
M. Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture,
2d ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 260.
The second edition leaves the original edition of 1980
unchanged, other than an additional chapter about recent
fundamentalism. Marsden is both a leading historian of
evangelicalism and fundamentalism, as well as an influential advocate of Christian worldview thinking in academia
today—particularly since the publication of his book
The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1997). After declaring the Society of
Christian Philosophers the premier role model of Christian
thought, Marsden also favorably mentions the American
Scientific Affiliation in Outrageous Idea, 102.
2As president of Biola and its primary donor, Lyman Stewart
built Los Angeles’ tallest building (thirteen floors), which
was mostly completed in 1914 to house the young interdenominational evangelical Bible Institute. See www.
talbot.edu/about/history.cfm (accessed July 28, 2009).
3Torrey’s family burned his letters and diaries after his
death in 1928, according to Kermit L. Staggers, “Reuben A.
Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
Michael N. Keas
Torrey: American Fundamentalist, 1856–1928” (PhD diss.,
Claremont Graduate School, 1986), i. However, some of
Torrey’s diaries and other unpublished materials have
surfaced in various archives. For a review of these materials, see www.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/Papers/Torrey/
papers.html (accessed July 28, 2009). Many of Torrey’s
published works are available at www.freewebs.com/
ratorrey/index.htm (accessed July 28, 2009).
4“Perry Miller, the grand expositor of the New England
mind and founder of the Yale edition of The Works of
Jonathan Edwards, described Edwards as the first and
greatest homegrown American philosopher,” according
to the Yale Divinity School’s Jonathan Edwards Center,
“Jonathan Edwards: Biography,” http://edwards.yale.edu/
about-edwards/biography Yale University, 2006 (accessed
December 18, 2007). While Edwards contributed substantially to theological and philosophical reflection on natural
philosophy (science), Torrey commented sparsely on the
science of his day. Edwards helped define early evangelicalism by defending the rationality and authenticity of the
recent revivals. Similarly, Torrey fortified the foundations
of evangelicalism by modeling and defending the legitimacy of intellectually responsible revivals.
5George W. Pierson, Yale College: An Educational History,
1871–1921, vol. 1 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press,
1952), 69–71. Many of these courses in the senior year were
only a few weeks long.
6www.yale.edu/chaplain/yalehistory.html (accessed July 30,
8R. A. Torrey, Revival Addresses (Chicago, IL: Fleming H.
Revell, 1903), 149–50.
9George M. Marsden, The Soul of the American University:
From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994).
10Ibid., 126.
11Noah Porter, “The American Colleges and the American
Public, Part IV,” New Englander 28 (October 1869): 753–60,
as quoted in Marsden, The Soul of the American University,
12Staggers, “Reuben A. Torrey,” 45.
13Marsden, The Soul of the American University, 22–3.
14Noah Porter, “Herbert Spencer’s Theory of Sociology,”
Princeton Review, ser. 4, no. 6 (September 1880): 295, as cited
in Marsden, The Soul of the American University, 131.
15Staggers, “Reuben A. Torrey,” 51–7.
16Marsden, Fundamentalism, 129.
17See Biola’s centennial timeline at http://100.biola.edu/
timeline/index.html for dates and photographs.
18Cecilia Rasmussen, “Oilman Leaves a Lasting L. A. Legacy,” Los Angeles Times, March 2, 2008; http://articles.
latimes.com/2008/mar/02/local/me-then2?pg=2 (accessed July 28, 2009).
19Ibid., 128.
20Marvin N. Olasky, The Tragedy of American Compassion
(Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1992).
21Christine Rosen, Preaching Eugenics: Religious Leaders and the
American Eugenics Movement (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 2004).
22R. A. Torrey, What the Bible Teaches (Chicago, IL: Fleming H.
Revell, 1898), 1. Emphasis is in the original. In a later
Bible study curriculum, Torrey offered the same approach:
Volume 62, Number 1, March 2010
“It is the method of modern science; first a discovery
of the facts, and then a classification of the teachings,”
R. A. Torrey, Studies in the Life and Teaching of Our Lord
(Los Angeles, CA: Biola Book Room, 1909), i, available at
(accessed July 28, 2009).
23Marsden, Fundamentalism, 55–62, 214–6.
24Robert Millikan, A Scientist Confesses His Faith (Chicago, IL:
American Institute of Sacred Literature, 1923), as cited in
Edward B. Davis, “Science and Religious Fundamentalism
in the 1920s,” American Scientist 93 (May–June 2005): 258.
Millikan won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1923, for isolating the electron and measuring its charge. In 1923 and 1924,
Millikan used two prestigious award acceptance speeches
to communicate to a wider scientifically literate audience
a description of the nature of science that is consistent with
the one quoted above. In October 1923, he expressed his
appreciation to the American Institute of Electrical Engineers for awarding him the Edison Medal, despite the lack
of immediate technological significance of his pioneering
work with the electron. He remarked:
in behalf of all workers in what is called the field of pure
science, all those who are spending their lives in trying
merely to ferret out nature’s secrets and to better man’s
understanding of her laws, I wish not only to express
my appreciation to the Institute for the award, but also
to compliment it upon the breadth of its own vision and
the service to science which it has done in recognizing
before the public the value of this other field. For, in
the final analysis, the thing in this world which is of
most supreme importance, indeed the thing which is of
most practical value to the race, is not, after all, useful
discovery or invention, but that which lies far back of
them, namely, “the way men think”—the kind of conceptions which they have about the world in which they
live and their own relations to it. It is this expanding of
the mind of man, this clarifying of his conceptions
through the discovery of truth which is the immediate
object of all studies in the field of pure science. (Robert
A. Millikan, Science and Life [Boston, MA: The Pilgrim
Press, 1924], 2–3)
On page 86 of this 1924 book, Millikan republished the
1923 statement on science and religion that also appeared
in his pamphlet A Scientist Confesses His Faith, which
includes this declaration: “The purpose of science is to
develop without prejudice or preconception of any kind
a knowledge of the facts, the laws, and the processes of
nature.” He indicates that the larger 1923 statement was
“published widely in the press of the United States in
June 1923,” under the title of “A Joint Statement upon the
Relations of Science and Religion by a Group of Scientists,
Religious Leaders and Men of Affairs.” This 1923 statement
reappeared in Popular Astronomy: A Review of Astronomy
and Allied Sciences 48 (1940): 425–6, at the end of the article
“Astronomy and Religion” by Louise E. Ballhaussen—
with the journal editor’s explanatory note that its ethos
had become “generally accepted by educated, thoughtful
persons”—which suggests that many early twentiethcentury scientists accepted this characterization of science.
The 1923 statement also appeared as appendix A in The
Autobiography of Robert A. Millikan (New York: Prentice
Hall, 1950). Although Millikan’s Nobel Lecture presents
Darwinism, Fundamentalism, and R. A. Torrey
a more nuanced description of the nature of science, it does
not conflict with the assessment of science voiced above.
Millikan writes,
The fact that Science walks forward on two feet, namely
theory and experiment, is nowhere better illustrated
than in the two fields for slight contributions to which
you have done me the great honour of awarding me
the Nobel Prize in Physics for the year 1923. Sometimes
it is one foot which is put forward first, sometimes the
other, but continuous progress is only made by the use
of both—by theorizing and then testing, or by finding
new relations in the process of experimenting and then
bringing the theoretical foot up and pushing it on beyond, and so on in unending alternations. ( Robert A.
Millikan, “The Electron and the Light-Quant from
the Experimental Point of View,” Nobel Lecture,
May 23, 1924, p. 1), www.huwu.org/nobel_prizes/
(accessed December 26, 2009)
In Millikan’s most significant scientific monograph, he
offers a similar description of science:
A science, like a planet, grows in the main by a process
of infinitesimal accretion. Each research is usually a
modification of a preceding [sic] one; each new theory is
built like a cathedral through the addition by many
builders of many different elements. This is preeminently true of the electron theory. (Robert A. Millikan,
The Electron, Its Isolation and Measurement and the Determination of Some of Its Properties [Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1917], 5)
Curiously, Millikan’s numerous science textbooks are
largely devoid of general characterizations of the nature
of science.
25Torrey’s critical realism is seen in his characterization of
his systematic theology as an “an attempt” at unbiased
inductive Bible study (he recognized human fallibility in
the interpretive process). Torrey, What the Bible Teaches, 1.
Another example of his critical realism is found in one of
Torrey’s revival addresses from his worldwide tour at
the turn of the twentieth century. He presented the basic
argument of what C. S. Lewis would later popularize as
the trilemma:
There is no question that Jesus Christ claimed to be
divine; no competent student will deny that He claimed
to be divine. Well, then, He was one of three things;
He was either divine, as He claimed to be, or else He
was the most audacious impostor the world has ever
seen, or else He was the most helpless lunatic the world
has ever seen. He must have been one of these three.
(Torrey, Revival Addresses, 176–7)
This is a historical argument for the reality of Jesus’ divinity. Although Lewis coined the term “trilemma,” the argument itself appears to go back to the patristic period.
26Davis, “Science and Religious Fundamentalism,” 255–9.
See also Edward B. Davis, “Robert Andrews Millikan
(1868–1953): His Religious Life and Thought,” in Nicolaas
A. Rupke, Eminent Lives in Twentieth-Century Science and
Religion, 2d ed. (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2009),
253–74. Davis estimates that Millikan was the second most
famous scientist in the United States (after Einstein) in the
27Higher criticism
often aimed to “demythologize” the Bible,
which was the attempt to reconstruct Christianity with
little or no acceptance of the supernatural actions of God
in human history.
28See the classic book on this topic: Peter Lipton, Inference
to the Best Explanation, 2d ed. (London: Routledge, 2004).
For an application of Lipton’s characterization of scientific
methodology to contemporary origins issues, see Stephen
C. Meyer, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (New York: HarperOne, 2009), 155–9, 343–4.
29Marsden, Fundamentalism, 55–62, 214–6.
30Forest Ray Moulton, An Introduction to Astronomy (London: Macmillan, 1906), 2. For an account of how the
Chamberlin-Moulton “planetesimal hypothesis” temporarily eclipsed the Laplacian “nebular hypothesis” in the
early twentieth century, see Ronald L. Numbers, Creation
by Natural Law: Laplace’s Nebular Hypothesis in American
Thought (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press,
1977), 75–6. Moulton was a prominent astronomer at the
University of Chicago and later served as secretary of the
American Association for the Advancement of Science,
according to the Moulton obituary by F. C. Leonard, Journal
of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada 47 (1953): 84.
31Forest Ray Moulton, “Astronomy,” in H. H. Newman, ed.,
The Nature of the World and of Man (Chicago, IL: University
of Chicago Press, 1933), 3–4. The first edition of this comprehensive science textbook was published in 1926, the
second edition appeared in 1927, and the third (and last)
“star” edition in 1933. Its preface indicates that the textbook
contains the lectures for a “survey course,” offered annually at the University of Chicago, “to a group of selected
first-year students of superior intelligence.” The preface
also reports that the sixteen authors met as a group over
sixteen weeks to review each author’s contribution.
32William Stanley Jevons, The Principles of Science: A Treatise
on Logic and Scientific Method (London: Macmillan, 1900),
33Bertrand Russell, The Scientific Outlook (London: George
Allen and Unwin, 1931), 33.
34Eric M. Rogers, Physics for the Inquiring Mind: The Methods,
Nature, and Philosophy of Physical Science (Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, 1960), 285.
35Eric M. Rogers, Brenda Jennison, and Jon Ogborn, Wonder
and Delight: Essays in Science Education in Honour of the
Life and Work of Eric Rogers 1902–1990 (Bristol: Institute of
Physics, 1994).
36Torrey, What the Bible Teaches, 294–5.
37The term “progressive creationism” was most influentially
promoted in Bernard Ramm’s The Christian View of Science
and Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1954), a book
based upon lectures in Ramm’s 1946–1951 Biola apologetics class.
38For an assessment of Dana’s prominent role in American
science, see Numbers, Creation By Natural Law, 94–100. For
example, Dana was the principal editor of the leading
American scientific periodical of the time, The American
Journal of Science and Arts. Torrey referred to Dana often in
his sermons and publications as a friend and as an authority
on the harmony of science and theology. For example, in his
book that answers the questions most frequently asked
Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
Michael N. Keas
during his revivals around the globe, he cites Dana (and
Lord Kelvin) to substantiate the harmony between the
order of creation in Genesis and the order established by
geology. He also advocated the gap theory (a gap of time
between Gen. 1:1 and 1:2) as a way of accepting an old earth,
and suggested that the nebular hypothesis gives us scientific reasons to believe in the origin of “light” before the
origin of our sun—thus reconciling days one and four of
the creation “week” with modern science. R. A. Torrey,
Difficulties and Alleged Errors and Contradictions in the Bible
(Chicago, IL: The Bible Institute Colportage Association,
1907), 29–32.
39James D. Dana, Manual of Geology, 2d ed. (1874; reprint,
New York: Ivison, Blakeman, Taylor, 1876), 603–4. The
identical language appears in the third edition (1880) of this
book on the same pages. The final (1895) edition of this
book, which was copyrighted in 1894, was Dana’s last
major work before his death in 1895. Here he revised and
enlarged this section, as we shall see below.
40James Dwight Dana, “Lectures on Evolution,” Dana Family
Papers, Yale University Library. Dana’s lecture manuscripts are located in box 4, folders 119–26, which are on
reel 4 of the microfilm collection of Dana’s papers. On
a page just prior to the first lecture, Dana indicated the
years he delivered each of his lectures and when he expanded an older lecture into two new ones. Each lecture
lasted about sixty minutes according to his notations.
When lecture material expanded much beyond this limit,
he would split that ancestor lecture into two descendant
lectures. Thus, Dana expanded his initial three lectures of
1871 into a total of eight lectures by 1879 (or 1880; there is
some ambiguity in his chronological notation). The entire
series of eight lectures is continuously paginated, often
with letter suffixes appended to page numbers to signify
inserted pages in the growing lecture series. In 1883 and
1885, he printed outlines (not complete transcripts) of his
eight-lecture sequence. These two outlines are virtually
identical, thus indicating the mature and stable nature of
their content in the 1880s. He records having delivered
these lectures at Yale up through 1890.
41Dana, “Lectures on Evolution,” lecture seven, p. 74, assesses the state of evolutionary theory in the late 1870s:
The causes appealed to will be found to be insufficient—even including that which has been accepted as
so potent—Darwin’s natural selection. But if convinced
that natural causes have acted, the review of them will
help the open mind to understand how they have acted.
This thought is repeated in slightly different language in
his 1895 Manual of Geology, p. 1034. In lecture seven, p. 85
(the last page of that lecture), Dana writes (my italics are
underlined words in Dana’s manuscript both here and
in the other citations below):
Natural selection is the survival at least of those that
survive, if not of always the fittest; and hence action
under this principle has determined through all time,
in connection with physiological law, the kind of plants
and animals that have survived and that thus have
come to live together and make up the various associations of species in this land & over the globe; that is it
has determined the faunas and floras of the present and
past time. This result, not the Origin of species, is the
chief result under the Darwinian Principle.
Volume 62, Number 1, March 2010
In lecture eight, p. 99, he writes,
But the preeminent importance of the principle of
Natural Selection, otherwise called the Survival of the
Fittest, in species-making I have questioned. A favorable variation is likely to be perpetuated; and those
individuals that cannot adapt themselves to changing
conditions or new emergencies are likely to succumb,
so that the fittest is most sure to survive and perpetuate
its kind. This far the principle cannot be questioned.
But this survival of the fittest and the origin of the fittest
are very different subjects.
42Dana, “Lectures on Evolution,” lecture eight, on an unpaginated sheet located between p. 100 and 100A.
43Ibid., p. 100A. Dana was impressed by the non-Darwinian
implications of the numerous sudden appearances of biological novelty on the higher taxanomic levels (he refers in
this quotation to levels in the vicinity of what we now
would call phyla), especially as in the case of what is now
called the Cambrian explosion. See also Dana, “Lectures on
Evolution,” lecture one, p. 2, in which he considers the possibility of a polyphyletic view of origins in which common
ancestry is far from universal, but rather a scenario in which
there are separate origins for each of “the seemingly distinct tribes or families of species.” For a recent review of this
trajectory of paleontological interpretation, see Stephen C.
Meyer, Scott Minnich, Jonathan Moneymaker, Paul A.
Nelson, and Ralph Seelke, Explore Evolution: The Arguments
for and against Neo-Darwinism (London: Hill House, 2007).
To visualize this kind of argument, view Illustra Media’s
film “Darwin’s Dilemma” (2009).
44Dana, Manual of Geology (1895), 1032–5, emphasis is in
the original. Dana also advocated, as did Darwin, a limited
role for neo-Lamarckian evolutionary mechanisms, but
concluded that, for the most part, the origin of variation
was “without explanation.”
45Ibid., 1029–30. See also Dana, “Lectures on Evolution,”
lecture one, p. 24A, in which Dana writes,
Agassiz, in view of the evidence, always spoke of the
system of progress—which he illustrated in his lectures
with great force and enthusiasm—as a development
of God’s plan, an expression of the thoughts of God.
And yet Agassiz held until his death that species came
into existence through special creative acts. All the
new facts about the succession of species that geology
brought to light in the later years of his life only
enhanced to his mind the beauty & wisdom of the
divine plan.
Although Dana first delivered this initial lecture of his
series in 1871, at least this portion of the lecture must
post-date Agassiz’s death in 1873. All of his lectures display
numerous revisions and expansions from 1871 to 1890, as
he crossed out material, inserted phrases, and added many
new paragraphs and whole pages to previous lectures.
46Ibid., 1030, emphasis is in the original.
47The difference between Agassiz and Dana hinged on the
number of instances of detectable intelligent causation in
nature’s history. See Louis Agassiz, “Evolution and Permanence of Type,” Atlantic Monthly (1874), 92–101. Here
Agassiz writes,
The most advanced Darwinians seem reluctant to
acknowledge the intervention of an intellectual power
in the diversity which obtains in nature, under the plea
Darwinism, Fundamentalism, and R. A. Torrey
that such an admission implies distinct creative acts for
every species. What of it, if it were true? Have those
who object to repeated acts of creation ever considered
that no progress can be made in knowledge without
repeated acts of thinking? And what are thoughts but
specific acts of the mind? Why should it then be unscientific to infer that the facts of nature are the result of
a similar process, since there is no evidence of any other
cause? The world has arisen in some way or other.
How it originated is the great question, and Darwin’s
theory, like all other attempts to explain the origin of
life, is thus far merely conjectural. I believe he has not
even made the best conjecture possible in the present
state of our knowledge.
48James D. Dana, The Genesis of the Heavens and the Earth and
All the Host of Them (Hartford, CT: Student Publishing,
1890), 46–7. Unlike Agassiz, Dana thought that all nonhuman species-level differences arose by means of God’s
general providence over natural variations, rather than
by “special divine acts” (p. 18). In this thin monograph,
Dana mostly restates what he wrote in his essay “Creation;
or, the Biblical Cosmogony in the Light of Modern Science,”
Bibliotheca Sacra, 42 (1885): 201–24, especially on p. 212.
Dana did not revoke his assertion of multiple divine interventions in life’s history in his 1895 Manual of Geology, and
so remained what we might call a progressive creationist
for this reason and others given in my analysis of Dana.
49Dana, The Genesis of the Heavens, 45
50Dana, Manual of Geology (1895), 1036.
51Ibid. Dana also ends his Yale evolution lectures with this
same paraphrase of A. R. Wallace, the co-discoverer of
natural selection: Dana, “Lectures on Evolution,” lecture
eight, p. 125. The actual words of Wallace read,
it does not seem an improbable conclusion that all force
may be will-force; and thus, that the whole universe is
not merely dependent on, but actually is, the WILL of
higher intelligences or of one Supreme Intelligence.
Alfred Russel Wallace, Contributions to the Theory of Natural
Selection: A Series of Essays (London: Macmillan, 1870), 368.
For a recent treatment of Wallace in regard to his invocation
of intelligent causation in biology, see Michael A. Flannery,
Alfred Russel Wallace’s Theory of Intelligent Evolution (Reisel,
TX: Erasmus Press, 2009).
52Dana, Manual of Geology (1895), 1033–4.
53A quite different argument for the conservative effect of
natural selection is well supported today. See Meyer et al.,
Explore Evolution, 90–6.
54Dana, “Lectures on Evolution,” lecture one, p. 1.
55Ibid., p. 10A (there are several pages marked “10A”; this
one is two pages prior to p. 11). Dana writes here in his
first (1871) lecture in the eight-lecture s…

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Social Darwinism


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