Darwins Gift: to Science and Religion

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Clarity of expression and vivid language make the reading facile and, indeed, thoroughly enjoyable. Defining Darwin is an important addition to the extensive Darwinian literature enriching the celebration of Darwin's two hundredth anniversary," said Francisco J.

Darwin's Gift:: To Science and Religion

National Medal of Science Ruse offers a fresh perspective on topics old and new, challenging the reader to think again about the nature and consequences of what has been described as the biggest idea ever conceived. He is the founding editor of the journal Biology and Philosophy and the author or editor of Cloning: Responsible Science or Technomadness?

Contact Prometheus Books at publicity prometheusbooks. Skip to main content? And it seems this was how Darwin himself viewed at least part of the religious implications of his evolutionary theory. This also makes it all the more understandable that Darwin was buried by the nation in Westminster Abbey in Darwin addressed the question of whether his grandfather was an atheist:.

Darwin has been frequently called an atheist, whereas in every one of his works distinct expressions may be found showing that he fully believed in God as the Creator of the universe. It is curious that this passage has not been noticed before. Diagram representing the divergence of species, from Darwin's Origin of Species.

The first occurrence is in his first book, Journal of Researches first edition of , based on his Beagle diary now known universally as The Voyage of the Beagle referring to an excursion in Australia:. A little time before this I had been lying on a sunny bank, and was reflecting on the strange character of the animals of this country as compared with the rest of the world.

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Darwin next used the term in his following book on the pollination adaptations of orchids in This treatise affords me also an opportunity of attempting to show that the study of organic beings may be as interesting to an observer who is fully convinced that the structure of each is due to secondary laws, as to one who views every trifling detail of structure as the result of the direct interposition of the Creator. Some authors have declared that natural selection explains nothing, unless the precise cause of each slight individual difference be made clear.

But this is a nearly parallel case with the objection that selection explains nothing, because we know not the cause of each individual difference in the structure of each being. The shape of the fragments of stone at the base of our precipice may be called accidental, but this is not strictly correct; for the shape of each depends on a long sequence of events, all obeying natural laws; on the nature of the rock, on the lines of deposition or cleavage, on the form of the mountain which depends on its upheaval and subsequent denudation, and lastly on the storm or earthquake which threw down the fragments.

But in regard to the use to which the fragments may be put, their shape may be strictly said to be accidental. And here we are led to face a great difficulty, in alluding to which I am aware that I am travelling beyond my proper province.

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An omniscient Creator must have foreseen every consequence which results from the laws imposed by Him. But can it be reasonably maintained that the Creator intentionally ordered, if we use the words in any ordinary sense, that certain fragments of rock should assume certain shapes so that the builder might erect his edifice? Did He ordain that the crop and tail-feathers of the pigeon should vary in order that the fancier might make his grotesque pouter and fantail breeds? But if we give up the principle in one case,—if we do not admit that the variations of the primeval dog were intentionally guided in order that the greyhound, for instance, that perfect image of symmetry and vigour, might be formed,—no shadow of reason can be assigned for the belief that variations, alike in nature and the result of the same general laws, which have been the groundwork through natural selection of the formation of the most perfectly adapted animals in the world, man included, were intentionally and specially guided.

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On the other hand, an omnipotent and omniscient Creator ordains everything and foresees everything. Thus we are brought face to face with a difficulty as insoluble as is that of free will and predestination. Belief in God—Religion. On the contrary there is ample evidence, derived not from hasty travellers, but from men who have long resided with savages, that numerous races have existed and still exist, who have no idea of one or more gods, and who have no words in their languages to express such an idea. The question is of course wholly distinct from that higher one, whether there exists a Creator and Ruler of the universe; and this has been answered in the affirmative by the highest intellects that have ever lived.

He who believes in the advancement of man from some lowly-organised form, will naturally ask how does this bear on the belief in the immortality of the soul. The barbarous races of man, as Sir J. Lubbock has shewn, possess no clear belief of this kind; but arguments derived from the primeval beliefs of savages are, as we have just seen, of little or no avail. Few persons feel any anxiety from the impossibility of determining at what precise period in the development of the individual, from the first trace of the minute germinal vesicle to the child either before or after birth, man becomes an immortal being; and there is no greater cause for anxiety because the period in the gradually ascending organic scale cannot possibly be determined.

Darwin's first diagram of an evolutionary tree from his First Notebook on Transmutation of Species Darwin himself was not entirely consistent in the language he used to describe his beliefs. And of course his views changed over the course of his life. Starting in he began writing a private autobiography for his children and grandchildren. In it he mentioned the change in his religious views.

Darwin's Gift to Science and Religion

A gradual scepticism towards Christianity and the authenticity of the Bible gradually crept over him during the late s — leaving him not a Christian, but no atheist either; rather a sort of theist. Darwin used the term in one famous passage in the autobiography:. When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist.

This conclusion was strong in my mind about the time, as far as I can remember, when I wrote the Origin of Species; and it is since that time that it has very gradually with many fluctuations become weaker. In an letter, written around the same time as the autobiography and first published in Life and Letters , he writes:. In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an Atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God.

I think that generally and more and more as I grow older , but not always, that an Agnostic would be the more correct description of my state of mind. But that is not to say that there are some things that cannot be known. One point is abundantly clear, all the surviving evidence contradicts the assertion that Darwin was an atheist. He has published four books on Darwin, including the illustrated biography: Darwin Andre Deutsch He is also founder and director of Darwin Online.

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