Sunday, 15 November 2009

When Charles Darwin Took a Wrong Turn

Joel Kontinen

Steven Austin, PhD in geology, explains why Charles Darwin’s view of geology is wrong:

In 1834 H.M.S Beagle arrived at the coast of Argentina. At some stage, Charles Darwin who was on board the ship climbed up a rocky slope and looked down at the Santa Cruz river that meandered in a valley six miles or almost ten kilometres wide. Seeing the valley and the huge boulders, he assumed they were evidences of slow processes that over time had changed the landscape dramatically.

On board the ship Darwin had read Charles Lyell’s book Principles of Geology. Lyell (1797-1875) was a lawyer who was one of the pioneers of uniformitarianism or the view that slow geological processes over a long time explain the features we see today.

Charles Darwin, who was 25 years old at the time, concluded that the river had slowly and gradually carved the huge valley.

Steven Austin, who has a PhD in geology, lectured on Darwin’s erroneous interpretation in the Darwin Was Wrong Conference on November 13.

Dr.Austin, who for instance has done research on the nautiloids in the Grand Canyon, followed in Darwin’s footsteps in Argentina and discovered that he could not possibly have been right.

The Santa Cruz river clearly speaks of a major catastrophe. The river valley is ten times as wide as the river itself. Only massive amounts of water or ice could have formed such a huge valley and brought boulders from tens or hundreds of kilometres away.

Dr. Austin says that there are probably three reasons why Darwin was so wrong about the geology of Patagonia:

1 He was blinded by his presuppositions.
2 He had been reading the wrong book, i.e. Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology.
3 He was developing an incorrect methodology.

Darwin made a grave error. The assumption that present slow processes could over millions of years form the river valley might have prompted him to apply the same approach to biology.


Austin, Steven A. 2009. Darwin’s First Wrong Turn. Acts & Facts 38:2, 26-27 (February 2009).

Austin, Steven A. 2009. Darwin Was Wrong about Geology. Lecture in the Darwin Was Wrong Conference (13 November).