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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Creation and design in the thought of Sir William Dawson Ballantyne, Edmund Chattan

Abstract

In 1859 Darwin's On the Origin of Species presented a compelling argument for evolution that was to challenge the fundamental beliefs of Christianity. It was incompatible with the idea of a supernatural, designing, and providential God; and it raised doubts about the Bible's inspiration by contradicting the Genesis account of creation. Some Christians reconciled their faith to the theory of evolution, while others rejected it as atheistic. This thesis examines the reaction of Sir William Dawson (1820-1899), the Canadian natural historian and Christian apologist, who rejected evolution as atheistic and spent the latter part of the 19th century campaigning against it. Dawson was a Paleyite who believed in the designing God and the literal word of Genesis. He found evolution incompatible with this belief and countered it by constructing a scientific theory of creation. This study explores the nature of his Paleyism and how it led him to defend the doctrine of creation as a theory which preserved belief in the designing God and corroborated the Genesis cosmogony. It also places his reaction to evolution in the context of Canadian thought on this issue.

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