The British Evolution Protest Movement
A brief history
The Evolution Protest Movement (EPM) was forged in the fires of controversy about Darwin’s theory which raged in England during 1932. Another English movement, The Victoria Institute, had provided a forum for scientific discussion about creation and evolution since 1865, but early members of the Evolution Protest Movement evidently believed a new organization was necessary.
The following letter, from EPM’s first circular, best reveals the purpose of its beginning:
Dear Sir (or Madam),
The public is conscious that the country is in a critical state and that subversive doctrines are undermining every aspect of our national life. There must, therefore, be some fundamental fallacy operating in the mind of the country as a whole.
We believe this fallacy to be the acceptance, as true, of the theory of Evolution and its employment as the spring of action in all spheres. Professor F.A.E. Crew, an evolutionist, admits this when he says ‘The Evolutionary concept has been applied to religion and philosophy’ and ‘has shaken the whole edifice of social tradition.’ Economics and politics now conform to the same concept.
Christianity sanctifies the individual and the home; Evolution glorifies the herd and is the parent of Socialism and Communism. In Russia the theory of Evolution has supplanted Christianity. Darwin is the new Messiah.
We feel the public are being deceived. Evolution propaganda does not present the facts impartially; it dwells upon those which favour the theory, while suppressing those which oppose it. Such are not the methods of true, but of false, science.
Few people realise that the tactics which Evolution employs would be regarded as ‘special pleading’ in a Court of Law; and that many scientists have declared that Evolution is both unproved and unprovable.
It is significant that the preachers of the theory are reluctant to meet the objections of dissenting scientists or to answer the challenge of leaders of traditional Christian thought. The aims and methods of our Movement are set out overleaf. If you approve of our aim your active assistance is invited.
This leaflet was signed by EPM’s advisory board members which included Captain B. Acworth, D.S.O.,R.N.,F.R.A.I., (chairman of the Liberty Restoration League), Dr Basil Atkinson, Phil.D., (under-Librarian, Cambridge University), Douglas Dewar, Esq., F.Z.S.,B.A., The Rev. Dr Dinsdale Young, D.D., Sir John Latta, Bart., The Rev. Hugh Miller (Principal of the London School of Bible Studies), Dr James Knight, M.A.,D.Sc.,F.R.S.E., (vice-president of the Royal Philosophical Society).
These were well-educated men, prominent in public affairs. Douglas Dewar1 used his skill in legal knowledge and in science with great energy and dedication. Sir Ambrose Fleming, who discovered the diode valve and had been president of The Victoria Institute for the previous five years, joined the new movement as its first president. He served nine years in that role, greatly encouraging his fellow members by his outstanding work and witness.
However, the driving force behind EPM was the deep concern in the heart of one man, Captain Bernard Acworth. On a fishing trip to Scotland he became interested in the flight of birds and insects and through this study saw something of the ‘extraordinary fallacies into which the theory of Evolution had led post-Darwinian naturalists and biologists.’
He was the son of an Anglican clergyman whose career in the Navy included four years’ service in the torpedo division during which time he worked on the development of a sonar device for underwater detectors. He became the movement’s first chairman, and speaking of him after his death in 1963, a member (Mr Tilney) said of him:
“It was his insight, his initiative, his understanding of the Faith, his perception of the spread of error in logic and thought, in morals and economics, and not least in politics, and his inspiration of a band of colleagues including Sir Ambrose Fleming and particularly Douglas Dewar, that set on foot a unique and worldwide movement, which now under God, is getting into its stride, exposing the false pretensions of scientism, and providing confirmation of the Faith that is in deadly danger everywhere, especially among defenceless youth.”
Douglas Dewar, Captain Acworth’s close friend and associate in the work, added scientific knowledge to his legal skills to become a formidable opponent in debates. It was he who produced the great bulk of the literature distributed over many years. His work was so sound that his facts could not be challenged although his conclusions were always criticised. The Victoria Institute (of which he was a vice-president) published his book Man: A Special Creation in three editions, besides other papers refuting the theory of evolution. As a keen debater Douglas Dewar was fearless in challenge; and as a brilliant barrister he was undeterred by threats of legal action by the famous Sir Julian Huxley.2
Among the society’s presidents over its first 50 years of ministry were such outstanding scientists as Sir Ambrose Fleming (1932–1941), Sir Charles Martin (1941–1946), Dewar and Acworth, previously referred to, and Sir Cecil Wakeley (1962–1979).
Scientists, writers, and educators continued to serve the movement, and famous names appear as supporters, including Dr Eric Hutchings, Ll.D.,A.C.I.I., Professor Henry Morris, Ph.D., D.B. Gower, D.Sc.,Ph.D.,C.Chem.,F.R.I.C.,F.I.Biol., and the Rt Rev. Bishop D.A. Thompson. The famous war-time Governor of Malta, Sir William G.S. Dobbie, G.C.M.G.,K.C.B.,D.S.O.,Ll.D., was one who served as a vice-president.
The nature of EPM’s witness had been largely through literature, but there had been exciting debates and meetings held in churches, colleges, and universities. However, with the increasing demand for creationist books through Christian bookshops from the 1970s, the movement’s literature distribution had not been so heavy. Because EPM had been largely an anti-evolution movement rather than a pro-creationist movement it never had clearly defined views on creation, particularly on the age of the earth. Members included those who accepted: the long day-age, successive creations, gap theory and a young earth. Because of this variety, their emphasis varied with time. Dewar and other pioneers took the long day-age standpoint and accepted the classical geological periods. Their great concern was the effect on society of the theory of evolution. Tilney defended the gap theory and his book Without Form and Void was published in 1970.
Because of increasing impetus towards a literal six-day creation and young earth, EPM developed into a more positive pro-creationist stance in comparison to its early negative position. As a result the group decided to abandon its title Evolution Protest Movement and adopt the more positive label of the Creation Science Movement (CSM) in 1980.
Dr V. Wright, Professor in the University of Leeds, and President of the Creation Science Movement when it celebrated 50 years of ministry in 1982, wrote hopefully in his Introduction to A Jubilee of Witness:
“What a remarkable change in thinking about origins has occurred in recent years! The trumpets celebrating the centenary of Charles Darwin’s death have given a most uncertain sound. Christopher Booker wrote in The Times of April 19, 1982, on the theory of natural selection: ‘It was a beautiful and attractive theory. The only trouble was that, as Darwin himself was at least partly aware, it was full of colossal holes … The truth is that a century after Darwin’s death, we still have not the slightest demonstrable or even plausible idea of how Evolution really took place’ … ”
The current vision of the Creation Science Movement in the United Kingdom is encapsulated in Prof. Wright’s final paragraph:
“It is good to know that those who believe the Bible have their feet on a solid rock. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and all that therein is. This has profound implications for all men—we must continue to propound its truth and to accept the responsibilities it brings.”
References and notes
- An American branch of the EPM was formed and it was in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in 1957 that De Hoff Publications printed the 306 pages of Dewar’s The Transformist Illusion, a compilation of several pieces of writing, with tables and index, and an introduction by James D. Bales, the then secretary of the movement in the United States. Return to text.
- An Englishman who was a biologist just as his grandfather Thomas H. Huxley had been. T.H.Huxley was known as Darwin’s bulldog. Return to text.