The Words of the Wells Family

Unification Though versus Darwinian Evolution

Jonathan Wells
November 2004

Excerpted from a paper presented at the 16th International Symposium on Unification Thought, in Sofia, Bulgaria, in November 2004


According to Darwin's theory of evolution, all living things are modified descendants of one or a few original forms that lived in the distant past, and the principal means of modification has been natural selection, or survival of the fittest. Although Darwin acknowledged the possibility that God designed the universe, he was convinced that the process

of descent with modification through natural selection is inherently random. In other words, from the viewpoint of Darwinian evolution, living things in general -- and human beings in particular -- are undesigned. According to Unification Thought, however, living things in general -- and human beings in particular -- are designed by God and created in His image, while all other things were created in our likeness. There is thus a fundamental contradiction between Darwinian evolution and Unification Thought. Yet Darwinism, despite the claims of its defenders, is inconsistent with the scientific evidence and the inconsistencies are mounting. The critique of Darwinism in Unification Thought is basically sound.


According to Unification Thought, the world is entering a stage in history when heaven on earth can finally be realized. Heaven on earth has both spiritual and physical dimensions. The spiritual dimension involves making God the center of the individual, the family, and society; while the physical dimension involves overcoming natural obstacles to human health, safety and happiness. Although technological advances have now made the latter seem attainable, the former often seems to be as far away as ever. How can God become the center of our existence if so many people -- especially Western intellectuals -- are persuaded that God doesn't exist?

Freud, Marx and Darwin are often regarded as the three pillars of modern "scientific" atheism. According to Freudianism, sex is the driving force of psychology and people are merely products of unconscious urges conditioned by early childhood experiences.

According to Marxism, class warfare is the driving force of history and people are merely the result of material relations of production. According to Darwinism, survival of the fittest is the driving force of biology and the people are merely accidental by-products of unguided natural processes. All three ideologies treat people as material beings and God as an illusion.

The influence of Freudianism and Marxism reached a peak in the mid-twentieth century. The former had largely succumbed to critical scrutiny by 1990, however, and the latter declined after the collapse of the Soviet Empire in 1991. Although Freudianism and Marxism still enjoy limited popularity among some academics, Darwinism is now by far the most influential intellectual justification for atheism. It is thus a serious impediment to the establishment of heaven on earth. In the words of the Unification Thought Institute: "Humankind today is entering an era when the ideal world can come to be realized; but what's posing the greatest obstacle on our path is precisely the theory of evolution."

It is important to note that "evolution" has many meanings. In the broadest sense it can refer simply to development, or change over time. Evolution in this sense is completely uncontroversial; no sane person denies the reality of change over time. For most people, and for Unification Thought, controversy arises primarily when "evolution" refers to the materialistic doctrine that living things in general, and human beings in particular, originated without any purpose or design.

Darwinian Evolution

Charles Darwin called his theory "descent with modification." He wrote in The Origin of Species, "I view all beings not as special creations, but as the lineal descendants of some few beings" that lived in the distant past. The reason living things are now so different from each other, Darwin believed, is that they have been modified by natural selection, or survival of the fittest. "I am convinced," he wrote, "that Natural Selection has been the most important, but not the exclusive, means of modification."

Darwin did not pretend to understand the origin of life, though he speculated that it might have started in "some warm little pond" that contained all the ingredients necessary to make a living organism. Descent with modification presupposes the existence of one or a few organisms, and purports to explain how a great variety of living things evolved from them.

No one doubts that descent with modification occurs within existing species in the course of ordinary biological reproduction. The question is whether descent with modification accounts for the origin of new species -- in fact, of every species. Like change over time, descent with modification within a species is utterly uncontroversial. But Darwinian evolution claims much more. In particular, it claims that descent with modification explains the origin and diversification of all living things after the first.

As the name "descent with modification" implies, Darwinian evolution actually consists of two related but distinguishable theories: the theory of universal common ancestry, and the theory of natural selection or survival of the fittest. Although Darwinists occasionally acknowledge that the second is still somewhat controversial (since various other factors besides natural selection might be operating in evolution), they generally claim that universal common ancestry is supported by such overwhelming evidence that it can be called a "fact." Darwinists justify this very strong claim on two grounds: (a) all living things share certain similarities, and the degree of similarity is assumed to indicate the degree of biological relatedness; and (b) the most likely alternative to common ancestry would be common design (and thus a designer), and naturalistic science (based on assumption that nature is all there is) excludes this alternative.

According to Darwin's theory of natural selection, all living things exhibit minor variations. If some variations render organisms more "fit" in the struggle for limited resources, those organisms will leave more offspring; they will be naturally selected. As a result, the fittest variations will become more widespread, and the population will change over the course of generations.

Although Darwin compared natural selection to an architect, he repeatedly denied that he intended to attribute conscious agency to it. In his view, "natural selection means only the preservation of variations which independently arise." Although he did not know the origin of variations, Darwin was convinced that they are not designed by God, but arise randomly with respect to the needs of the organism and the direction of evolution. Thus "there seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings, and in the action of natural selection, than in the course which the winds blow."...

Nevertheless, Darwin affirmed his "inward conviction" that "the Universe is not the result of chance." This put him in "a simple muddle; I cannot look at the universe as the result of blind chance, yet I can see no evidence of beneficent design, or indeed of design of any kind, in the details." Although he feared that the issue might ultimately be incomprehensible, he was "inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of what we may call chance."

In other words, Darwin was willing to acknowledge that God may have designed the universe and natural laws, but he was convinced that the laws of evolution could not produce designed results. From the viewpoint of Darwinian evolution, no form of life is designed, and human beings -- as the latest outcome of an inherently directionless process -- are the least designed of all.

With the advent of neo-Darwinism and molecular genetics in the twentieth century, many biologists finally felt they understood the origin of variations.

According to modern neo-Darwinism, genes consisting of DNA are the carriers of hereditary information; information encoded in DNA sequences directs the development of the organism; and new variations originate as mutations, or accidental changes in the DNA.

If variations originate in molecular accidents, as neo-Darwinism claims, then the evolutionary process is at least as random as Darwin thought. As molecular biologist Jacques Monod said in 1971, DNA is "the secret of life," and "with the understanding of the random physical basis of mutation that molecular biology has provided, the mechanism of Darwinism is at last securely founded, and man has to understand that he is a mere accident."

So three central claims of Darwinian evolution that are relevant to this discussion are:

1. All living things are modified descendants of one or a few original forms;

2. They have been modified primarily by an unguided process of natural selection acting on random variations; and

3. The specific results of this process are undesigned, and human beings (as the latest product of an unguided process) are the least designed of all.

Unification Thought

The Unification Thought view of biological origins is laid out in Fundamentals of Unification Thought (Lee, 1991). It is repeated in summary form and combined with a critique of Darwinian evolution in From Evolution Theory to a New Creation Theory (Lee, 1996). What follows is a brief overview of the relevant points in those two books:

According to Unification Thought, human beings were created in the image of God. As images of God, human beings have dual characteristics of sungsang and hyungsang (roughly translated as internal character and external form) as well as yang (plus) and yin (minus) that reflect analogous characteristics in God Himself. God's most fundamental characteristic is love, and human beings were created as His children, to enjoy a loving relationship with Him.

God intended human beings to be the center of creation, so He conceived of them first. Only then did God conceive the ideas of all other things, living and non-living, in the likeness of human beings. God "abstracted and transformed" the idea of human beings in order to conceive the ideas of animals, plants and non-living things, in that order. The process of creation, however, operated in the reverse order, from non-living matter to plants and animals, with human beings coming last. In this way, God prepared a suitable environment before placing human beings in it.

Since God conceived the ideas of all things in our likeness, the human being is a microcosm and shares certain similarities with all other beings. Thus, from the viewpoint of Unification Thought, the obvious similarities between us and other living things are a result of common design -- not common ancestry, as Darwinian evolution claims.

The process of creation also followed a certain pattern, which Unification Thought describes in terms of the "four-position base." The first position is purpose. All beings exist because God has a purpose for them, and this is their ultimate origin. In the act of creating, God's dual characteristics of sungsang and hyungsang engage in a subject-object relationship of "give and receive action" (the "division" stage), and it is through this action that the result is formed (the "union" stage).

As the four-position base indicates, all things (including living organisms) originate in a purpose, which is to say, a plan or ideal. Furthermore, in the division stage it is always sungsang, or internal character (Logos), that leads the hyungsang, or external form -- though the reciprocal arrows indicate that the latter also provides feedback to the former. As the foundation of Unification Ontology, the four-position base describes God's nature and is reflected in all beings, from humans down to atoms. In individual human beings, the origin (purpose) is shimjung -- that is, heart. The spiritual (subject) and physical (object) represent the division stage, and these unite to form the complete person (result).

In addition to sungsang and hyungsang, all beings (from God down to atoms) have dual characteristics of yang and yin. In human beings these are manifested as masculinity and femininity. In Unification Thought, male and female thus originate in God's own nature. This is in contrast to Darwinian evolution, which has no adequate explanation for the origin of sex. Obviously, it is much more efficient for one organism simply to divide, as bacteria do, rather than depend on another organism for its reproduction. Biologists have discovered no fitness advantage sufficient to explain sexual reproduction from a Darwinian perspective. In September 1998, the journal Science reported that biologists "haven't solved the mystery of sex yet.... How sex began and why it thrived remain a mystery." It is not a mystery, however, in the context of Unification Thought.

In Unification Thought, the process of creation took time. The six days of creation in the Book of Genesis are regarded as symbolic rather than literal, and there is no conflict between Unification Thought and Darwinian evolution over the geological time scale.

Unification Thought maintains that God created Adam and Eve, our first human ancestors. They were not biologically descended from other animals, though they were immediately preceded by ape-like creatures that according to Unification Thought "were required in the course of creating human beings." One reason for this may have been that Adam and Eve, like all other human beings, had to start out as infants and grow to adulthood. Ape-like creatures could have provided the care and support that two human infants obviously would have needed.

So four central claims of Unification Thought that are relevant to this discussion are:

1. Human beings were created in the image of God, the result of a divine plan rather than an accidental byproduct of unguided natural processes;

2. Humans and other creatures are similar not because the former evolved from the latter, but because the latter were created on the pattern of the former;

3. The dualities of sungsang/hyungsang and yang/yin are rooted in God's nature and reflected in all created beings; in humans, these take the form of spiritual/ physical and masculine/feminine.

4. Adam and Eve were specially created by God, not biologically descended from ape-like animals -- though the latter were a step in the creation of human beings.


Unification Thought and Darwinian evolution stand in fundamental contradiction to each other. While the latter maintains that living things in general, and human beings in particular, are accidental by-products of natural processes, the former maintains that God planned human beings from the beginning, and then designed all other things to resemble us to varying degrees.

There continues to be controversy over this aspect of Darwinism, with some people insisting that evolution is compatible with design. Whatever these people mean by "evolution," however, it is not what Charles Darwin meant. It is clear from the writings of Darwin himself that he regarded every specific outcome of the evolutionary process -- from structures and organs to entire species and kingdoms -- as undesigned. Anyone who claims to see design in evolution is taking a position other than Darwin's.

This point has been forcefully made by many of Darwin's modern followers. For example, Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins has written, "All appearances to the contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics, albeit deployed in a very special way. A true watchmaker has foresight: he designs his cogs and springs, and plans their interconnections, with a future purpose in his mind's eye. Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind."

As the phrase "we now know" reveals, Dawkins considers the case closed. "It is absolutely safe to say," he wrote, "that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that)." Thus, "the theory of evolution by cumulative natural selection is the only theory we know of that is in principle capable of explaining the existence of organized complexity." It also clear that this has theological implications for Dawkins: "Although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist."

Tufts University philosopher Daniel Dennett makes similar points. "Darwin's dangerous idea," he wrote in 1995, "cuts much deeper into the fabric of our most fundamental beliefs than many of its sophisticated apologists have yet admitted, even to themselves.... Darwin's idea [bears] an unmistakable likeness to universal acid: it eats through just about every traditional concept, and leaves in its wake a revolutionized world-view." Thus, "evolutionists who see no conflict between evolution and their religious beliefs have been careful not to look as closely as we have been looking, or else hold a religious view that gives God what we might call a merely ceremonial role to play."

According to Dennett, this means that society has a duty to teach our children that traditional religious views (such as theism) are false. "Those whose visions dictate that they cannot peacefully coexist with the rest of us we will have to quarantine as best we can.... If you insist on teaching your children falsehoods -- that the Earth is flat, that 'Man' is not a product of evolution by natural selection -- then you must expect, at the very least, that those of us who have freedom of speech will feel free to describe your teachings as the spreading of falsehoods, and will attempt to demonstrate this to your children at the earliest opportunity. Our future well-being -- the well-being of all of us on this planet -- depends on the education of our descendants. What, then, of all the glories of our religious traditions? They should certainly be preserved, as should the languages, the art, the costumes, the rituals, the monuments. Zoos are now more and more being seen as second-class havens for endangered species, but at least they are havens, and what they preserve is irreplaceable.... What will happen, one may well wonder, if religion is preserved in cultural zoos, in libraries, in concerts and demonstrations?"

The fundamental contradiction between Unification Thought and Darwinian evolution on the issue of God and design leads to a reversal in the order of causation. In Unification Thought, living things originate in God and His purpose. Then a give-and-receive relationship between internal form (in the subject position) and external form (in the object position) produces the organism. In Darwinian evolution, the organism comes first, and its sole "purpose" is survival. The external environment (struggle for survival in the face of limited resources) then acts on internal constraints (random variations, with new ones arising from genetic mutations) to produce something new. The only role God might play in the Darwinian scheme is as a product of human imagination, which is itself an accidental by-product of the evolutionary process. From a Darwinian perspective God is not the creator of man, man is the creator of God...

So, Darwinian evolution fundamentally contradicts Unification Thought. Both cannot be true. Disproving one of two contradictory views cannot, of course, validate the other; but if one view is confirmed by scientific evidence, the other view is untenable. Darwinists claim that their view is confirmed by overwhelming evidence.

If so, then Unification Thought must be rejected. So we need to ask whether the scientific evidence confirms Darwinian evolution.

Evidence against Darwinian evolution

Universal common ancestry: Universal common ancestry is the claim that all living things are modified descendants of one or a few original forms. Limited common ancestry is not in dispute: No one doubts, for example, that all human beings are modified descendants of some original human beings. The question is not whether members of an existing species are related through descent with modification, but whether all species are so related. ...

According to Darwin, features in different organisms are homologous' because they were inherited from a common ancestor. The biologists who described homology a decade before Darwin, however, attributed it to construction or creation on a common archetype or design. How can one determine whether homology in living things comes from common ancestry or common design?

Simply pointing to the similarities themselves won't do, as biologist Tim Berra inadvertently showed when he used different models of Corvette automobiles to illustrate descent with modification in his 1990 book, Evolution and the Myth of Creationism. Berra wrote that "descent with modification is overwhelmingly obvious" in Corvettes, but we all know that automobile similarities are due to common design rather than common ancestry. Only by demonstrating that a Corvette can morph into another model by natural processes could someone rule out the need for a designer. Analogously, the only scientific way to demonstrate that similarities in living things are due to common ancestry would be to identify the natural mechanism that produced them.

Natural selection: Clearly, natural selection occurs; but there is no observational evidence that it can produce new species. The evidence for genetic mutations as the raw materials for natural selection is no better.

The most abundant evidence for genetic mutations comes from research on bacteria, because their small size and short generation times make it easy to experiment with many organisms, and because they can be exposed to potent mutagens and strong selection. Rare beneficial mutations do occur, but these are strictly biochemical changes affecting only single molecules. There are no known beneficial mutations that produce new structures, organs, or body plans, and no mutations have ever been observed to produce new species.

Bacteriologist Alan Linton wrote in 2001, "But where is the experimental evidence [for Darwin's theory]? None exists in the literature claiming that one species has been shown to evolve into another. Bacteria, the simplest form of independent life, are ideal for this kind of study, with generation times of twenty to thirty minutes, and populations achieved after eighteen hours. But throughout a hundred and fifty years of the science of bacteriology, there is no evidence that one species of bacteria has changed into another in spite of the fact that populations have been exposed to potent chemical and physical mutagens and that, uniquely, bacteria possess extrachromosomal, transmissible plasmids. Since there is no evidence for species changes between the simplest forms of unicellular life, it is not surprising that there is no evidence for evolution from prokaryotic to eukaryotic cells, let alone throughout the whole array of higher multicellular organisms."

Jonathan Wells graduated from Unification Theological Seminary in 1978. He subsequently earned a PhD. in theology from Yale University (1986) and a PhD. in biology from the University of California at Berkeley. He is the author of Charles Hodge's Critique of Darwinism (Edwin Mellen Press, 1988) and Icons of Evolution: Why Much of What We Teach about Evolution is Wrong (Regnery Publishing, 2000). 

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