The man most often pinpointed as the root of the clashes between atheist evolutionists and Christian creationists was actually a life-long defender of Christian missionary works, reminded the author of a recent report.
Charles Darwin, best known as the father of the evolution theory, was not anti-religion as many nowadays believe, but rather he had planned to be an Anglican priest and was moved by missionary efforts to reach uncivilized people.
"I don't think Darwin would recognize his defenders today and probably wouldn't understand his attackers," said cultural historian Mark Graham of Grove City College in Pennsylvania to USA Today.
Graham is the author of the report "'The Enchanter's Wand': Charles Darwin, Foreign Missions, and the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle" found in the latest issue of the Journal of Religious History.
The report addresses Darwin's transformation from an uninterested person in religion into an outspoken proponent of missions during his famed voyage around the world on the H.M.S. Beagle where he visited sites like the Galapagos Islands and the Great Barrier Reef, leading him to develop his theory of evolution.
As part of the H.M.S. Beagle voyage, Darwin came in contact with mission activities already taking place at some of the ship's stops. He was impressed by the good works performed by the missionaries who greeted the members of the ship and became convinced missionaries helped natives to become civilized.
In addition, one of the purposes of the H.M.S. Beagle journey was to return native Fuegians – people from an archipelago off the southernmost tip of South America –trained in England as missionaries to their homeland as a Christianization effort.
Grove City's Graham pointed out that Darwin's first publication after his 1831 and 1836 voyage was a defense of missionary work in the Pacific, according to USA Today.
"The march of improvement, consequent on the introduction of Christianity, through the South Seas, probably stands by itself on the records of the world," Darwin wrote in 1836 about the sea voyage.
However, his evolution theory has continued to spark opposition more than a century later from many Christians who believe that the Bible's creation story should be interpreted to mean man and animal have always been in their present form.
However, other Christians, such as prominent geneticist Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Project, argue that there is nothing contradictory in believing in evolution and the Bible's creation story.
Collins, like many other theistic evolutionists, believes evolution is part of God's creation process. He points to the Bible, highlighting that the same science evolution process in terms of formation chronology is found in the Bible.
"Is evolution really the enemy of faith?" questioned Collins during a recent speech at the famed Washington National Cathedral. "I don't think so at all! ...Who are we to say that we wouldn't have done it in quite that way?"
Darwin, despite his support for missionary work, died an agnostic that was never antagonistic towards religion. His wife and children attended church without his objection, according to Graham.