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On the Origin of Species 1

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When Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859, many liberal Christians accepted evolution provided they could reconcile it with divine design. The clergymen Charles Kingsley (1819–1875) and Frederick Temple (1821–1902), both conservative Christians in the Church of England, promoted a theology of creation as an indirect process controlled by divine laws. Some strict Calvinists welcomed the idea of natural selection, as it did not entail inevitable progress and humanity could be seen as a fallen race requiring salvation. The Anglo-Catholic Aubrey Moore (1848-1890) also accepted the theory of natural selection, incorporating it into his Christian beliefs as merely the way God worked. Darwin's friend Asa Gray (1810-1888) defended natural selection as compatible with design.

Darwin himself, in his second edition of the Origin (January 1860), had written in the conclusion:

I believe that animals have descended from at most only four or five progenitors, and plants from an equal or lesser number. Analogy would lead me one step further, namely, to the belief that all animals and plants have descended from some one prototype. But analogy may be a deceitful guide. Nevertheless all living things have much in common, in their chemical composition, their germinal vesicles, their cellular structure, and their laws of growth and reproduction. We see this even in so trifling a circumstance as that the same poison often similarly affects plants and animals; or that the poison secreted by the gall-fly produces monstrous growths on the wild rose or oak-tree. I should infer from analogy that probably all the organic beings which have ever lived on this earth have descended from some one primordial form, into which life was first breathed by the Creator.

— Chapter XIV: "Conclusions", page 428.

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