Of Snails and Salvation: The Theological Construction of John Thomas Gulick’s Theory of Evolution

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Abstract

The Christian missionary John Thomas Gulick (1832–1923) has long been recognized as an important evolutionary theorist. Most recently, his scientific contributions have been commended by biologists skeptical of the sufficiency of pan-adaptationist accounts of evolution. While Gulick’s scientific work has been noticed, his theological and metaphysical commitments have been largely dismissed, ignored or downplayed. This paper argues that this not only marginalizes what for Gulick was of central importance but has distorted historical accounts of his theory of evolution. In the portrait drawn here, Gulick’s understanding of evolution emerges as a significant example of the creative interplay between theological and evolutionary ideas and explanations in the early twentieth century. Gulick’s intellectual influences, his theological vision and his opposition to fatalism combined to form a lifelong quest to understand both snails and salvation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHistorical Studies in the Natural Sciences
Volume51
Issue number5
Publication statusAccepted - 14 Jul 2021

Keywords

  • John Thomas Gulick, evolutionary theory, theology, metaphysics, organisms, agency, religion and science

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