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The scientists have embarked on a journey to the Galapagos Islands, the same island chain Darwin visited during the voyage of the HMS Beagle in 1835. Many scholars today agree that the animals and plants Darwin saw on those islands contributed greatly to his becoming an evolutionist.
Convinced that different species had evolved from common ancestors, Darwin began forming his theory of evolution within two years of the ship’s return to England in 1836. His 1859 book “On the Origin of Species” became the impetus for persuading many members of the scientific community to accept evolution in the 1860s.
But upon returning to the very spot Charles Darwin arrived 174 years ago, the Christian scientists have examined the same unusual creatures Darwin saw – and they’ve documented their findings in a 90-minute Vision Forum Ministries film titled, “The Mysterious Islands: A Surprising Journey to Darwin’s Eden.” The documentary was shot and directed by award-winning Jon and Andy Erwin of Erwin Brothers Motion Pictures.
Their mission: Determine whether the Galapagos Islands, resting above vast tectonic plates, are a laboratory for evolution as Darwin believed – or a truly magnificent showcase of God’s creation.
Charles Darwin goes to the Galapagos Islands
Doug Phillips, executive producer of the film, explained that prior to leaving on the HMS Beagle with Capt. Robert FitzRoy, Darwin had served as a student at seminary where he was studying to be a clergyman. Though he had no formal training in naturalism, Darwin took on the position of a naturalist on the five-year journey that would take him around the world and culminate in a visit to the Galapagos Archipelago.
The Galapagos Islands, located 600 miles off the coast of South America, contain some of the most exotic creatures and land formations found anywhere in the world.
“When he reached the Galapagos Islands, Darwin was already settled in his mind on a number of important issues,” Phillips told WND. “He had become very much a cynic and a skeptic of Christianity and the Bible. In his autobiography he specifically said that he viewed the Bible as a book of mythology that was closer to the history that would come from ‘barbarians’ than actual truth.”
By the time Darwin arrived at the Galapagos Islands, he had finished reading “Principles of Geology” by Charles Lyell and had learned to interpret the world through the lens of “millions” of years, Phillips said. Through the combination of Darwin’s distrust for the Bible and acceptance of Lyell’s concepts, Darwin sought a unified theory of origins that would explain where mankind originated, he argues.
“Darwin shot and collected more than 30 different types of birds, finches and mocking birds, although he didn’t know what they were at the time,” Phillips said. “He noted that the animals were very similar to the animals he found in South America, but they had some distinctions.”
Darwin began to question why the animals would look so similar to animals in South America and yet have such clear distinctions. He took notes on the variations.
Galapagos tortoise (photo: Vision Forum Ministries)
“It wouldn’t be for about 25 years later that he took all his experiences from the Galapagos Islands and synthesized them with the help of men like Thomas Malthus, who was a population control theorist. With Malthus and the influences of others, he began to formulate a theory of evolution,” Phillips said. “His presuppositions had changed in a very atheistic, agnostic way, and he was looking for answers to try to come up with a theory that would explain life apart from Scripture and apart from Christian worldview.”
‘Everything from shells’
Phillips pointed out that Darwin did not invent the idea of evolution. His grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, wrote a book titled “Zoönomia,” arguing that everything has evolved from lower life forms. Erasmus gave the Darwin family a motto translated as “Everything from shells.”
“So Darwin grew up believing in evolution,” Phillips said. “He didn’t come up with evolution. What made him special was that he was the first guy to give a mechanism for a unified theory of evolution in which all of life evolved from a simple-cell organism. And the mechanism he gave was this concept of natural selection, an idea that was sparked at the Galapagos Islands.”
Galapagos crab (photo: Vision Forum Ministries)
Meanwhile, Phillips notes, Capt. FitzRoy had served as a naturalist on his ship alongside Darwin, collecting more animals than Darwin had and properly labeling them.
“FitzRoy saw the same things but he came to vastly different conclusions,” he said.
“The Mysterious Islands” revisits an 1860 debate between Darwin disciple Thomas Huxley and Samuel Wilberforce, the son of William Wilberforce, the man who led the fight to abolish slavery in Great Britain. The two fiercely debated Darwin’s book.
“In the middle of the debate, Robert FitzRoy stood up, carried a Bible over his head and said, ‘You must believe in God before man,'” Phillips explained. “He said, ‘I saw what Darwin saw. I was there where Darwin went, and I reached completely different conclusions.'”
He continued, “I would say that is the thesis of our film, that two people can look at the very same facts and they can reach radically different conclusions because they bring to the table different lenses through which they interpret those facts.”
The following is a trailer for “The Mysterious Islands,” available on DVD and IMAX in select cities:
“The Mysterious Islands” team documents the Galapagos journey and highlights exotic animals such as the salt-sneezing marine iguana, Galapagos tortoise, dive-bombing blue-footed boobies, white-tip sharks, flightless cormorants and many other exotic creatures.
Phillips said there are 21 species of cormorants in the world, and only one of them cannot fly: the one on the Galapagos Islands. He said Darwin saw their inability to fly and believed the birds may have been evolving into some other kind of bird.
“We believe that God created different kinds of animals, and we believe that all these animals have the ability to adapt because of the incredible genetic potential that’s been built into each animal,” Phillips said. “For example, we have poodles, Great Danes, chihuahuas, German shepherds, but they are all dogs. Humans can be tall, small, dark or fair, but they never become anything but humans, just as cormorants never become anything but cormorants.”
Galapagos tortoise (photo: Vision Forum Ministries)
DNA disagrees with Darwin
He explained that Darwin accepted homology and morphology, believing common origins would be evident from similar body traits.
“The idea is that a man has a head, arms and legs and an ape has a head, arms and legs, so that shows similar ancestry and, therefore, a common lineage,” Phillips said. “That was one of the fundamental bases of Darwinian thinking that came from the Galapagos.”
However, he said even evolutionists don’t believe that anymore because DNA has proven it’s utterly false.
“We have eyeballs with retinas and rods and corneas, but so do giant squid – just like humans,” he said. “Nobody thinks we came from the same common lineage. Creationists argue that it’s because we have a common Designer, not a common evolutionary ancestry.”
Galapagos salt-sneezing marine iguana (photo: Vision Forum Ministries)
Another concept that came from Darwin’s Galapagos adventure was Lamarckism, something Phillips said is “the cornerstone of evolutionary thinking.”
“The concept is, for example, if a giraffe stretches its neck, builds its neck muscles and develops a longer neck, it will pass on that trait to baby giraffes. Their necks are expected to be a little bit longer and stronger because of the practices of the parents,” he said. “Lamarckism is the laughingstock of the scientific community because if I run a marathon and develop strong leg muscles and excellent cardio, does that mean my children will benefit from that? Absolutely not. That’s ridiculous.”
He continued, “We know that now because we understand genetics, and Darwin didn’t have access to genetics.”
Galapagos (photo: Vision Forum Ministries)
Darwin also believed scientists would inevitably see transitional forms in the fossil record, Phillips said.
“He said we would see fossil examples of animals going from one kind to another,” he explained. “It’s our contention that not one transitional form has ever been found.”
Denying a Creator God
While Phillips argues that most of the arguments Darwin used to sustain his theory are rejected even by evolutionists today, he said there is still strong adherence to the theory because Darwinists refuse to accept a Creator God.
“They must either believe in evolutionary scientific explanations of the origins of the world or people are forced to accept what they believe is a religious explanation,” he said. “That is absolutely intolerable to the evolutionists.”
Galapagos birds (photo: Vision Forum Ministries)
Phillips said there is a “war of the worldviews” between Darwinists and creationists. But, he confidently asserted, “Darwin got it wrong.”
“The Mysterious Islands” explores scientific errors, problems and prejudices that Darwin brought along with him on his journey. It also discusses the implications of Darwinism.
“That’s where things really get hot,” he said. “That’s where they get controversial.”
Phillips said Darwin’s disciples applied his line of thinking to social theory.
“It’s because of Darwinism that we have eugenics, the belief that we should manipulate the gene pool to get a higher form of human being,” he said. “This was adopted by Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood and the leading eugenicist thinker of her time period. It was adopted by Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, Josef Stalin and others.”
He explained that many of these people believed it was wrong to help handicapped and sick people and that the world should let them die because they are inhibiting the evolutionary progress of the species.
“This view was maintained by many people, and it was a hateful view,” Phillips said. “The modern world has been largely shaped by the application of Darwin’s basic premises to social theory.”
Crew heads to Galapagos Islands to film “The Mysterious Islands” (photo: VIsion Forum Ministries)
The documentary follows Phillips, his son, 16-year-old Joshua Phillips, and a team of scientists and investigators as they reveal “where Darwin went wrong.”
“Today people look to the Galapagos, and evolutionists and Darwinists see it in the same way that Christians look to Jerusalem and Muslims look to Mecca,” Phillips said. “They really embrace the evolutionary faith. In our film, we insist that evolution is, in fact, a faith. It’s a worldview based on unprovable assumptions that are accepted by faith.”