No, Scientists in Darwin’s Day Did Not Grasp the Complexity of the Cell; Not Even Close
by Casey Luskin
Recently a reader of ENV wrote to me asking whether it’s true that in Darwin’s day, scientists thought that the cell had a simple structure. The reader had argued on an Internet forum that back then, scientists vastly underappreciated the complexity of the cell — especially compared to what we know today. Some Darwin-defenders responded to him by claiming that Darwin believed the cell was indeed “complex,” and quoted Darwin as saying:
A cell is a complex structure, with its investing membrane, nucleus, and nucleolus, a gemmule, as Mr. G. H. Lewes has remarked in his interesting discussion on this subject (Fortnightly Review, Nov. 1, 1868, p. 508), must, perhaps, be a compound one, so as to reproduce all the parts.
|‘Like’ The Poached Egg on Facebook!||Follow @ThePoachedEgg||Join the TPE Support Team!|
This quotation of Darwin was then followed by the customary attacks on ID proponents, calling us ignorant, deceitful, or worse, for claiming that scientists of Darwin’s era misunderstood and/or dramatically misunderstimated the complexity of the cell. I suppose that somehow this is supposed to bolster the ability of Darwinism to explain the complexity of the cell.
Well, let’s take a closer look at that quote from Darwin. He said that the cell is “complex,” in part, because it has a “membrane, nucleus, and nucleolus.” It’s no surprise that Darwin knew about these cellular components, because they were visible to microscopes of that time. But does this mean he really appreciated or anticipated the complexity of the cell?
The answer is a resounding no. Consider the article that Darwin approvingly cites in that quote, the one by G.H. Lewes in Fortnightly Review. Lewes serves as Darwin’s authority for the claim that the cell is “complex,” so let’s start by looking at what Lewes said about the protoplasm in that very article…
RECOMMENDED APOLOGETICS RESOURCES FOR FURTHER READING: