Is evolution above the law?
When you visit Charles Darwin’s burial place at England’s famous Westminster Abbey, it’s only a short stroll across Millbank towards the River Thames to reach the equally famous Westminster Hall.
Here in Westminster Hall every major English law trial for more than 500 years took place until the law courts were moved to the Strand in 1882. Under the hall’s vast roof, the ill-fated Sir Thomas More, King Charles I, Anne Boleyn, conspirator Guy Fawkes and a thousand others were sentenced to death.
When laws are set, even unjust laws, all must conform with them. No one is above the law.
An interesting event which connects with evolution and legal principles occurred while Darwin was being buried in Westminster Abbey in April 1882. Across the road at Westminster Hall, preparations were being made for what turned out to be the last and longest court case ever heard in the historic hall. Just about everyone involved regarded the case as fascinating from start to finish.
The case involved leading Cambridge athlete-turned-sculptor Charles Lawes, who had accused an even more prominent sculptor, Richard Belt, of being an outrageous fraud. Lawes claimed that Belt had sculpted almost nothing himself, and had used other sculptors to do work which Belt claimed as his own.
So Belt sued Lawes for libel.
Richard Belt had become the fashionable sculptor of the day. He had been commissioned to sculpt Queen Victoria and distinguished members of the Church of England. He had won a prize of Â£3,500 for his statue of the poet Byron which sat in Hyde Park. He had been paid to sculpt aristocrats. And he had two impressive sculptures of Charles Kingsley, the liberal clergyman who so admired Charles Darwin that in 1863 he wrote the first evolutionary book for children.
Belt produced 82 witnesses and a room full of sculptures to support his case that he had done his own sculpting. Lawes presented 61 witnesses for the defence who disputed or cast doubt on Belt’s creative ability. These included the president of London’s Royal Academy of Arts, and 18 other academicians.
The trial began on June 21. After a long interruption and a change of venue, the jury gave their verdict six months later on December 28. The evidence led them to decide overwhelmingly in Belt’s favour. They found that Belt was indeed the creator of the works attributed to him. Lawes had seemed to have a believable case at first, and he had mustered much expert support. But he was found to be wrong through this trial and two appeals, and was ordered to pay Â£5,000 plus costs.
Charles Darwin never had to stand trial in this way, although lawyers who have examined his theory carefully, like law professor Phillip Johnson from the University of California at Berkeley, have shown the Darwinian case to be unconvincing and seriously flawed. But you may notice some amazingly coincidental points between Darwin’s ideas about evolution and the Belt vs. Lawes case fought across the road from Darwin’s resting place.
You see, like the defendant Charles Lawes, Charles Darwin had claimed fraud on the part of his opponents. He had effectively accused God’s Word the Bible, in its account of creation in Genesis and elsewhere, of being an outrageous fraud. Where Lawes the skeptic had claimed that Richard Belt had not created work attributed to him, so Darwin the skeptical agnostic had claimed in essence that God was not the Author of creation in the way the Bible said. Darwin had proposed that all had come about slowly through evolution, not instantly through God’s creation as the Book of Genesis records.
Also, Darwin and his followers have produced experts to back their charge that all things have arisen unaided through evolution. But God has produced a mighty array of witnesses Himself to verify His miraculous work in creation—His prophets, biblical writers, Christ’s Apostles, scientists…and the Holy Spirit in the lives of all His true followers. And there is the majestic witness of the design and power of the creation itself—the ‘things that are made’ (Romans 1:20).
Belt vs. Lawes was the final and longest trial in the history of Westminster hall. The creation vs. evolution debate is also a long trial. It is taking a long time for some members of the ‘jury’ to realize that evolution does not conform with clearly demonstrable laws. As opponents of evolution often point out, evolution cannot satisfactorily explain how everything evolved from nothing. Or how living things evolved from non-living elements. Or how ‘simple’ life could have evolved into ‘complex’ life. Such ideas run against all we know about scientific and natural laws.
There are massive flaws in the evolutionary argument. Though many think evolution has a case, it simply does not stand up to scientific scrutiny. The theory of evolution should have been laid to rest with Darwin in April 1882. But this long case may have to wait for the final Lawgiver to pronounce, once and for all, that Darwin and his followers have been guilty of unsubstantiated libel against the Creator, His laws, and His Word.
Evolution is not above the laws of science. If evolution were true its mechanisms would conform with those laws. But as law professor Phillip Johnson has recently shown in his book Darwin on Trial, it has simply failed to prove its case.