Darwin, Design and the Brain


By David A. DeWitt, Director for Creation Studies, Liberty University

Evolutionists often assert that one of Charles Darwin’s main contributions
was to explain the apparent design in nature without appealing to a
designer.(1) The theory of
evolution by means of natural selection provided a completely naturalistic
explanation for the variety of living creatures on earth. They compare the
contribution of Darwin to that of Copernicus. Copernicus and others showed that
the earth moved around the sun and thus was not at the center as most believed.
In a similar fashion, it was commonly believed that man was at the center or
pinnacle of creation—that man alone among all creatures was special. In arguing
that common descent and natural selection account for the origin of man from
lower life-forms, Darwin proposed a natural law to explain the origin of man
without a creator.

Prior to Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, the argument from design
for the existence of a Creator was considered quite compelling. Indeed, while at
Cambridge, Darwin was required to study Paley’s Natural Theology. To
creationists, the argument from design seems no less compelling today. The
amazing complexity and variety of living things does strongly point to a
Creator. It is difficult to account for it all by chance and natural law.
Darwinian proponents, of course, disagree.

Surprisingly, Darwin acknowledged the strength of the design argument long
after Originwas published. In his autobiography, Darwin wrote:

"Another source of conviction in the existence of God, connected with
the reason and not with the feelings, impresses me as having much more weight.
This follows from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving
this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking
far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity.
When thus reflecting, I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an
intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be
called a Theist.(2)

We should not get too enthusiastic about this because he continues:

"This conclusion was strong in my mind about the time, as far as I
can remember, when I wrote the Origin of Species, and it is since that
time that it has very gradually, with many fluctuations, become weaker. But then
arises the doubt—can the mind of man which has, as I fully believe been
developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animals be trusted
when it draws such grand conclusions."

This statement is quite ironic. Darwin’s evidence that the design argument
was flawed was because he couldn’t trust the conclusions of a brain derived from
ape-like ancestors. However, if that were true, why should Darwin trust that
same brain when it concludes that evolution took place? His argument completely
falls apart and is without any basis. Why should the “brain derived from apes”
be doubted only when it sees and interprets the evidence for creation and not
when it sees evolution?

Evolutionists are often critical of creationists for starting with a
conclusion (that the Bible is true and that God made everything in six days). In
this case, however, it is Darwin who is starting with the conclusion. Follow
Darwin’s logic: since man evolved from an ape-like ancestor, his mind cannot be
trusted, and, therefore, the conclusion that the universe is designed must be
wrong. Darwin is starting with the conclusion—that man evolved from lower
forms—and applies circular reasoning to refute design. In other words, Darwin’s
belief that man evolved is assumed correct and therefore provides the rationale
for rejecting creation.

This is not the only time that Darwin wrote on the same idea:

"But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the
convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower
animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the
convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a

Darwin applied the same faulty logic. If indeed our minds should not be
trusted because they are evolved from lower animals, then why should they be
trusted for anything?

Perhaps we should look at this in a different way. Darwin was really showing
the significant gulf that exists between the mind of man and that of the lower
animals. One would certainly not ask a gorilla for financial advice or an
orangutan for medical care, but we do get such help from people. Maybe we should
view the gulf between the mind of man and that of the lower animals as providing
evidence that we should trust the obvious conclusion that we were made by a

Dr. David
is the Director of the Center for Creation Studies and a
professor of biology at Liberty
. He is the author of Unraveling the
Origins Controversy


1. Francisco J. Ayala, “Darwin’s Greatest Discovery:
Design without a Designer,” Proceedings of the National Academy of
104 (2007):8567–8573.

2. Charles Darwin, The Autobiography of Charles
(Cambridge, U.K.: Icon Books, Ltd., 2003), p. 149.

3. Ibid., p. 153


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