Following are some discussions as to
the Religious Beliefs of Charles Darwin

Darwin a Christian?

The Autobiography of Charles Darwin


With original omissions restored Edited with
Appendix and Notes by his grand-daughter Nora
Barlow. (1958)

During these two years[1] I was led to think
much about religion. Whilst on board the
Beagle I was quite orthodox, and I remember
being heartily laughed at by several of the
officers (though themselves orthodox) for
quoting the Bible as an unanswerable
authority on some point of morality. I
suppose it was the noveltry of the argument
that amused them. But I had gradually come,
by this time, to see that the Old Testament
from its manifestly false history of the
world, with the Tower of Babel, the rainbow
at sign, etc., etc., and from its attributing
to God the feelings of a revengeful tyrant,
was no more to be trusted than the sacred
books of the Hindoos, or the beliefs of any
barbarian. The question then continually rose
before my mind and would not be banished, --
is it credible that if God were now to make a
revelation to the Hindoos, would he permit it
to be connected with the belief in Vishnu,
Siva, etc, as Christianity is connected with
the Old Testament. This appeared to me
utterly incredible.

By further reflecting that the clearest
evidence would be requisite to make any sane
man believe in the miracles by which
Christianity is suppoted, -- that the more we
know of the fixed laws of nature the more
incredible do miracles become, -- that the
men at that time were ignorant and credulous
to a degree almost incomprehensible by us, --
that the Gospels cannot be proved to have
been written simultaneous with the events, --
that they differ in many important details,
far too important as it seemed to me to be
admitted as the usual inaccuracies of
eyewitnesses; -- by such reflections as
these, which I give not as having the least
noveltry or value, but as they influenced me,
I gradually came to disbelieve in
Christianity as a divine revelation. The fact
that many false religions have spread over
large portions of the earth like wild-fire
had some weight on me. Beautiful as is the
morality of the New Testament, it can hardly
be denied that its perfection depends in part
on the interpretation which we now put on
metaphors and allegories.

But I was very unwilling to give up my
belief; -- I feel sure of this for I can well
remember often and often inventing day-dreams
of old letters between distinguished Romans
and manuscripts being discovered at Pompeji
or elsewhere which confirmed in the most
striking manner all that was written in the
Gospels. But I found it more and more
difficult, with free scope given to my
imagination, to invent evidence which would
suffice to convince me. Thus disbelief crept
over me at very slow rate, but was at last
complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no
distress, and have never since doubted even
for a single second that my conclusion was
correct. I can indeed hardly see how anyone
ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if
so the plain language of the text seems to
show that the men who do not believe, and
this would include my Father, Brother and
almost all of my friends, will be everlasting

And this is a damnable doctrine[2]

Although I did not think much about the
existence of a personal God until a
considerably later period of my life, I will
here give the vague conclusions to which I
have been driven. The old argument of design
in nature, as given by Paley, which formerly
seemed to me so conclusive, fails, now that
the law of natural selection has been
discovered. We can no longer argue that,

for instance, the beautiful hinge of a bivalve
shell must have been made by an intelligent
being, like the hinge of a door by man. There
seems to be no more design in the variability
of organic beings and in the action of
natural selection, than in the course the
wind blows. Everything in nature is the
result of fixed laws. But I have discussed
this subject at the end of my book on the
Variation of Domestic Animals and Plants[3],
and the argument there given has never, as
far as I can see, been answered.

But passing over the endless beautiful
adaptions which we everywhere meet with, it
may be asked how can the generally
beneficient arrangement of the world be
accounted for? Some writers indeed are so
much impressed with the amount of suffering
in the world that they doubt if we look to
all sentinent beings, whether there is more
of misery or of happiness; -- whether the
world as a whole is a good or a bad one.

According to my judgement happiness decidedly
prevails, though this would be very difficult
to prove. If the truth of this conclusion be
granted, it harmonises well with the effects
which we might expect from natural selection.
If all the individuals of any species were
habitually to suffer to an extreme degree
they would neglect to propagate their kind;
but we have no reason to believe that this
have ever or at least often occured. Some
other considerations, moreover, lead to the
belief that all sentinent beings have been
formed so as to enjoy, as a general rule,

Everyone who believes, as I do, that all the
corporeal and mental organs (excepting those
which are neither advantegous or
disadvantegous to the posessor) of all beings
have been developed through natural
selection, or the survival of the fittest,
together with use or habit[4], will admit
that these organs have formed so that their
possessors may compete succesfully with other
beings, and thus increase in number. Now an
animal may be led to pursue that course of
action which is the most beneficial to the
species by suffering, such as pain, hunger,
thirst, and fear, -- or by pleasure, as in
eating and drinking and in the propagation of
the species, &c. or by both means combined,

as in the search for food. But pain or
suffering of any kind, if long continued,
causes depression and lessens the power of
action; yet is well adapted to make a
creature guard itself against any great or
sudden evil. Pleasurable senseations, on the
other hand, may be long continued without any
depressive effect; on the contrary they
stimulate the whole system to increase
action. Hence it has come to pass that most
or all sentinent beings have been developed
in such a manner through natural selection,
that pleasurable sensations serve as their
habitual guides.

We see this in the pleasure from exertion,
even occasionally from great exertion of the
body or mind, -- in the pleasure of our daily
meals, and especially in the pleasure derived
from sociability and from loving our families.
The sum of such pleasures as these, which are
habitual or frequently recurrent, give, as I can hardly
doubt, to most beings an excess of happiness
over misery, although many occasionally
suffer much. Such suffering is quite
compatible with the belief in Natural
Selection, which is not perfect in its
action, but tends only to render each species
as successful as possible in the battle for
life with other species, in wonderfully
complex and changing circumstances.

That there is much suffering in he world no
one disputes. Some have attempted to explain
this in reference to man by imagining that it
serves for his moral improvement. But the
number of men in the world is as nothing
compared with that of all other sentinent
beings, and these often suffer greatly
without any moral improvement. A being so
powerful and so full of knowledge as a God
who could create the universe, is to our
finite minds omnipotent and omniscient,

and it revolts our understanding to supose that
his benevolence is not unbounded, for what
advantage can there be in the suffering of
millions of the lower animals throughout
almost endless time? This very old argument
from the existence of suffering against the
existence of an intelligent first cause seems
to me a strong one; whereas, as just
remarked, the presence of much suffering
agrees well with the view that all organic
beings have been developed through variation
and natural selection.

At the present day the most usual argument
for the existence of an intelligent God is
drawn from the deep inward conviction and
feelings which are experienced by most
persons. But it cannot be doubted that
Hindoos, Mahomadans and others might argue in
the same manner and with equal force in
favour of the existence of one God, or of
many Gods, or as with the Buddists of no God.
There are also many barbarian tribes who
cannot be said with any truth to believe in
what we call God: they believe indeed in
spirits or ghosts, and it can be explained,
as Tyler and Herbert Spencer have shown, how
such a belief would be likely to arise.

Formely I was led by feelings such as those
just referred to, (although I do not think
that the religious sentiment was ever
strongly developed in me), to the firm
conviction of the existence of God, and of
the immortality of the soul. In my journal I
wrote that whilst standing in the midst of
the grandeur of a Brazilian forest, 'it is
not possible to give an adequate idea of the
higher feelings of wonder, admiration, and
devotion which fill and elevate the mind.' I
well remember by conviction that there is
more in man than the mere breath of his body.
But now the grandest scenes would not cause
any such convictions and feelings to rise in
my mind. It may be truly said that I am like
a man who has become colour-blind, and the
universal belief by men of the existence of
redness makes my present loss of perception
of not the least value as evidence.

This argument would be a valid one if all men of
all races had the same inward conviction of
the existence of one God; but we know that
this is very far from being the case.
Therefore I cannot see that such inward
convictions and feelings are of any weight as
evidence of what really exists. The state of
mind which grand scenes formerly excited in
me, and which was intimately connected with a
belief in God, did not essentially differ
from that which is often called the sence of
sublimity; and however difficult it may be to
explain the genesis of this sence, it can
hardly be advanced as an argument for the
existence of God, any more than the powerful
though vague and similar feelings excited by

With respect to immortality[5], nothing shows
me how strong and almost instinctive a belief
is, as the consideration of the view now held
by most physicist, namely that the sun with
all the planets will in time grow too cold
for life, unless indeed some great body
dashes into the sun and thus gives it fresh
life. -- Believing as I do that man in the
distant future will be a far more perfect
creature than he now is, it is an intolerable
thought that he and all other sentinent
beings are doomed to complete annihilation
after such long-continued slow progress. To
those who fully admit the immortality of the
human soul, the destruction of our world will
not appear so dreadful.

Another source of conviction in the existance
of God connected with the reason and not the
feelings, impresses me as having much more
weight. This follows from the extreme
difficulty or rather impossibility of
conceiving this immense and wonderful
universe, including man with his capability
of looking far backwards and far into
futurity, as the result of blind chance or
necessity. When thus reflecting I feel
compelled to look at a first cause having an
intelliegent mind in some degree analogous to
that of man; and I deserve to be called a

This conclusion[6] was strong in my mind
about the time, as far 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. But then
arises the doubt -- can the mind of man,
which has, as I fully believe, been developed
from a mind as low as the possessed by the
lowest animal, be trusted when it draws such
a grand conclusions? May not these be the
result of the connection between cause and
effect which strikes us as a necessary one,

but probably depends merely on inherited
experience? Nor must we overlook the
probability of the constant inculcation in a
belief in God on the minds of children
producing so strong and perhaps an inherited
effect on their brains not yet fully
developed, that it would be as difficult for
them to throw off their belief in God, as for
a monkey to throw off its instinctive fear
and hatred of a snake.[7]

I cannot pretend to throw the least light on
such abstruse problems. The mystery of the
beginning of all things is insoluble to us;
and I for one must be content to remain an

A man who has no assured and ever present
belief in the existence of a personal God or
of future existence with retribution and
reward, can have for his rule of life, as far
as I can see, only to follow those impulses
and instincts which are the strongest or
which seem to him the best ones. A dog acts
in this manner, but he does so blindly. A
man, on the other hand, looks forwards and
backwards, and compares his various feelings,

desires and recollections. He then finds, in
accordance with the verdict of all the wisest
men that the highest satisfaction is derived
from following certain impulses, namely the
social instincts. If he acts for the good of
others, he will recieve the approbation of
his fellow men and gain the love of those
with whom he lives; and this latter gain
undoubtely is the highest pleasure on this
earth. By degrees it will become intolerable
to him to obey his sensuous passions rather
than his higher impulses, which when rendered
habitual may be almost called instincts.

His reason may occasionally tell him to act in
opposition to the opinion of others, whose
approbiation he will then not recieve; but he
will still have the solid satisfactionof
knowing that he has followed his innermost
guide or conscience. -- As for myself I
believe that I have acted rightly in steadily
following and devoting my life to science. I
feel no remorse from having committed any
great sin, but have often and often regretted
that I have not done more direct good to my
fellow creatures. My sole and poor excuse is
much ill-health and my mental constitution,
which makes it extremely difficult for me to
turn from one subject or occupation to
another. I can imagine with high satisfaction
giving up my whole life to philantropy, but
not a portion of it; though this would have
been a far better line of conduct.

Nothing[8] is more remarkable than the spread
of scepticism or rationalism during the
latter half of my life. Before I was engaged
to be married, my father advised me to
conceal carefully my doubts, for he said that
he had known extreme misery thus caused with
married persons. Things went on pretty well
until the wife or husband became out of
health, and then some women suffered
miserably by doubting about the salvation of
their husbands, thus making them likewise to

My father added that he had known
during his whole long life only three women
who were sceptics; and it should be
remembered that he knew well a mutitude of
persons and possessed extraordinary power of
winning confidence. When I asked him who the
three women were, he had to own with respect
to one of them, his sister-in-law Kitty
Wedgwood, that he had no good evidence, only
the vaguest hints, aided by the conviction
that so clear-sighted a woman could not be a
believer. At the present time, with my small
acquaintance, I know (or have known) several
married ladies, who believe very little more
than their husbands. My father used to quote
an unanswerable argument, by which an old
lady, a Mrs Barlow, who suspected him of
unorthodoxy, hoped to convert him: --
"Doctor, I know that sugar is sweet in my
mouth, and I know that my redeemer liveth."


Notes marked F.D., were written for the
original edition by Charles Darwin's son
Francis Darwin. N.B. indicates a note added
by his grand-daughter Nora Barlow for the
re-edition with original omissions restored.

1.October 1836 to January 1839. -- F.D.

2.Mrs Darwin annotated this passage (from
"and have never since doubted"... to
"damnable doctrine") in her own handwriting.
She writes: -- "I should dislike the passage
in brackets to be published. It seems to me
raw. Nothing can be said too severe upon the
doctrine of everlasting punishment for
disbelief -- but very few now wd. call that
'Christianity,' (tho' the words are there.)
There is the question of verbal inspiration
comes in too. E.D." Oct 1882. This was
written six months after her husband's death,
in a second copy of the Autobiography in
Francis's handwriting. The passage was not
published. -- N.B.

3.My father aks whether we are to believe
that the forms are preordained of the broken
fragmentsof rock which are fitted together by
man to build his houses. If not, why should
we believe that the variations of domestic
animals or plants are preordained for the
sake of the breeder? "But if we give up the
principle in one case, ... 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." --
Variations of Animals and Plants, 1st Edit.
vol. ii. p. 431 -- F.D.

4."together with use or habit" added later.
The many corrections and alterations in this
sentence show his increasing preoccupation
with the possibility of other forces at work
besides Natural Selection. -- N.B.

5.Addendum added later to end of paragraph --

6.Addenum of four lines added later. In
Charles MS. copy the interleaved addition is
in his eldest son's hand. In Francis's copy
it is in Charles own hand -- N.B.

7.Added later. Emma Darwin wrote and asked
Frank to omit this sentence when he was
editing the Autobiography in 1885. The letter
is as follows: --

"Emma Darwin to her son Francis 1885.

My dear Frank,

There is one sentence in the Autobiography
which I very much wish to omit, no doubt
partly because your father's opinion that all
morality has grown up by evolution is painful
to me; but also because where this sentence
comes in, it gives one a sort of chock -- and
would give an opening to say, however
unjustly, that he considered all spiritual
beliefs no higher than hereditary aversions
or likings, such as the fear of monkeys
towards snakes.

I think the disrespectful aspect would
disappear if the first part of the conjecture
was left without the illustration of the
instance of monkeys and snakes. I don't think
you need to consult William about this
omission, as it would not change the whole
gist of the Autobiograohy. I should wish if
possible to avoid giving pain to your
father's religious friends who are deeply
attached to him, and I picture to myself the
way that sentence would strike them, even
those so liberal as Ellen Tollett and Laura,
much more Admiral Sullivan, Aunt Caroline,
&c., and even the old servants.

This letter appeared in Emma Darwin by
Henrietta Litchfield in the privately printed
edition from the Cambridge University Press
in 1904. In John Murray's public edition of
1915 it was omitted. -- N.B.

8.This paragraph has a note by Charles: --
"Written in 1879 -- copied out Apl. 22,
1881." Probably refers also to previous
paragraph. -- N.B.

As Darwin's fame grew, Captain Robert Fitzroy
of the Beagle became convinced that he was to
blame for the anti-Christian influence of the
Origin of Species, since he had not refused
Darwin passage on the Beagle, where Darwin
had served as naturalist from 1831 until
1836. It was during this trip that Darwin had
become convinced of the validity of the
theory of evolution, and had begun collecting
specimens in support of the theory. After the
theory of evolution became widely accepted,
Captain Fitzroy, blaming himself, committed
suicide, slitting his own throat.

With respect to Christianity, Charles Darwin
appears to have been a man of wavering
convictions. 5 In 1873, he wrote:

Lyell is most firmly convinced that he has
shaken the faith in the deluge far more
effectively by never having said a word
against the Bible than if he had acted
otherwise. . . . I have lately read Morley's
Life of Voltaire and he insists strongly that
direct attacks on Christianity (even when
written with the wonderful force and vigor of
Voltaire) produce little permanent effect:
real good seems only to follow the slow and
silent side attacks.6

However, in 1879, he wrote, "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."7 In the
same year, he wrote, "for myself, I do not
believe that there ever has been any
revelation. As for a future life, every man
must judge for himself between conflicting
vague probabilities."8

Lady Hope, of Northfield, England, was at
Darwin's bedside before he died. She reported
as follows:

It was on a glorious Autumn afternoon when I
was asked to go and sit with Charles Darwin.
He was almost bedridden for some months
before he died. Propped up with pillows, his
features seem[ed] to be lit up with pleasure
as I entered the room. He waved his hand
towards the window as he pointed out the
beautiful sunset seen beyond, while in the
other he held an open Bible which he was
always studying.

"What are you reading now?" I asked.

"Hebrews," he answered, "still Hebrews. The
Royal Book, I call it. . . ." Then he placed
his finger on certain passages and commented
upon them.

I made some allusions to the strong opinions
expressed by many unbelievers on the history
of the creation and then their treatment of
the earlier chapters of the book of Genesis.
He seemed distressed, his fingers twitched
nervously and a look of agony came across his
face as he said, "I was a young man with
unformed ideas. I threw out queries,
suggestions, wondering all the time over
everything. And to my astonishment the ideas
took like wildfire. People made a religion of
them." Then he paused and after a few more
sentences on the holiness of God and the
grandeur of this Book, looking at the Bible
which he was holding tenderly all the time,
he said:

"I have a summer house in the garden which
holds about thirty people. It is over there
(pointing through the open window). I want
you very much to speak here. I know you read
the Bible in the villages. Tomorrow afternoon
I should like the servants on the place, some
tenants and a few neighbours to gather there.
Will you speak to them?"

"What shall I speak about?" I asked.

"Christ Jesus," he replied in a clear
emphatic voice, adding in a lower tone, "and
His salvation. Is not that the best theme?
And then I want you to sing some hymns with
them. You lead on your small instrument, do
you not?"

The look of brightness on his face I shall
never forget, for he added, "If you take the
meeting at 3 o'clock this window will be
opened and you will know that I am joining
with the singing."9

Although some people have doubted the
authenticity of this account, it should be
recognized that as a youth, Darwin had felt a
call to Christian ministry.

In the late 1820s, he read theological books
for a while, and in 1828, he decided to attend
Christ's College, Cambridge, in preparation for
Anglican orders. When he completed his
studies in 1831, it was only the opportunity
to become naturalist aboard the Beagle that
prevented him from taking his ordination.

By the time the ship returned in 1836, his
preference was to pursue the career of a
naturalist. The above account of Darwin's
dying days bears a striking degree of
similarity to the accounts of others who,
just before the time of death, have suddenly
experienced an awakening of Christian faith.

5 Davidheiser, p. 66.

6 Ibid., p. 67, quoting from Gertrude
Himmelfarb, Darwin and the Darwinian
Revolution (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and
Co., 1959), p. 368.

7 Francis Darwin, ed., Charles Darwin, new
ed. (London: John Murray, 1902), p. 55.

8 Ibid., p. 57. 9 Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Dyer,
eds., Bombay Guardian, 25 March 1916, as
quoted by H. Enoch, Evolution or Creation
(London: Evangelical Press, 1966), pp.

Darwin was expected to follow his father and
become a doctor and in 1825, at the age of
sixteen, his father removed him from
Shrewsbury and entered him in the University
of Edenburgh to study medicine. He found all
of his classes except chemistry dull. After
two years at Edenburg, he quit school and
went to live with his Uncle Josiah Wedgewood.
After he abandoned medicine, his father urged
him to attend Cambridge University to study
to be a clergyman. In 1827 Darwin enrolled at
Christ's College, Cambridge to study theology
- a subject he did not really enjoy studying
- but did manage to pass the BA (Hons)
examinations in 1831. On leaving, a good
friend - Rev. John Henslow , Cambridge - had
recommended him for a position aboard a
British Navy survey ship. As a consequence,
Darwin joined the HMS Beagle under Captain
Fitzroy when it sailed for South America on
27th December 1831 in the position of
"..naturalist and gentleman companion.."

Darwin wrote in Note number 252 of Notebook B
"but who with the face of the earth covered
with the most beautiful Savannahs and forests
dare say that intellectuality is the only aim
of the world."



At the time of the publication of Darwin's
Origin of Species, most scientists were
creationists. In 1973, Harvard, Cambridge,
and Oxford jointly published a book, Darwin
and His Critics, containing reprints of
sixteen reviews by scientists of Darwin's
Origin of Species which came out shortly
after its publication in 1859.1 Ernst Mayr
writes concerning this book:

Even though the present volume limits itself
to sixteen reviews by scientists, the defence
of the view that the world is the result of
creation and governed by finalistic laws is
prominent in each of the twelve reviews
critical of Darwin.2

Mayr, one of the leading evolutionary
biologists of our day, was impressed by the
quality and relevance of these reviews:

One might well ask whether a collection of
the reviews of Darwin's Origin of Species,
written shortly after 1859, could still be of
any interest. Even a quick perusal of this
volume answers this question in the
affirmative; it shows how fascinating these
reviews are and how amazingly pertinent to
the present day. Even though written by
scientists--contemporary reviews by clergymen
are not included--they deal not only with
questions of scientific evidence but raise a
number of timeless problems such as the
relation between science and a belief in the

When Darwin proposed the theory of evolution,
his views were not new, but the time was
quickly becoming ripe for science to accept a
viewpoint consistent with the idea of a
materialistic universe. Ruth Moore has

Darwin did not invent the concept. But when
he started his career, the doctrine of
special creation could be doubted only by
heretics. When he finished, the fact of
evolution could be denied only by an
abandonment of reason. . . . Darwin gave
modern science a rationale, a philosophy.4

While Darwinism offered another world view,
or framework within which to interpret the
data, it offered very little in the way of
evidence. Ernst Mayr writes:

One must grant Darwin's opponents the
validity of two of their objections. First,
Darwin produced embarrassingly little
concrete evidence to back up someof his most
important claims. This includes the change of
one species into another in succeeding
geological strata, or the production of new
structures and taxonomic types by natural

However, despite its lack of evidence,
Darwinism was attractive for the very reason
that it offered an alternative world view.
Mayr observes:

The Darwinian revolution occupies a unique
position among scientific revolutions
because, far more than any others, it caused
a dramatic upheaval in the thinking of man. .
. . The Darwinian revolution was not merely
the replacement of one scientific theory by
another, as had been the scientific
revolutions in the physical sciences, but
rather the replacement of a world view, in
which the supernatural was accepted as a
normal and relevant explanatory principle, by
a new world view in which there was no room
for supernatural forces. . . . To shift over
the Darwin's radically new thinking was
obviously difficult for anyone who had been
raised in an era of creationism and

Even now, according to Michael Polanyi, it is
because Darwinism offers an alternative world
view, not because there is much evidence for
it, that it is accepted by the scientific

Neo-Darwinism is firmly accredited and highly
regarded by science, though there is little
direct evidence for it, because it
beautifully fits into a mechanistic system of
the universe and bears on a subject--the
origin of man--which is of the utmost
intrinsic interest.7

When Darwin published his views, the time was
ripe. Marvin L. Lubenow writes:

Many of the truly great scientists doing the
most basic and long lasting work were devout
Christians--Newton, Kepler, Boyle, Lord
Kelvin, Faraday, Morse, Pasteur, Maxwell.
Their work was based on creation postulates.
However, there must have been many other
scientists at that time who were not
Christians. They were working on creation
postulates only because they had no other
world view that was at all scientifically
respectable. Then came Darwin. And for the
first time . . . the [secular] scientist had
a world view that was to his
liking--naturalistic, materialistic, and
mechanistic. Whether it was as factual as one
would like to have it was not the point. It
was a conceptual framework that was a
legitimate substitute for creationism. . . .
It was inevitable that evolution would be
accepted because the natural heart demanded
it. No amount of creationist erudition and
learning--of which there was plenty--could
have stemmed the tide.8

Prior to the time Darwin proposed the theory
of evolution, there had been many earlier
proposals of the same ideas, but due to the
Christian consensus among scientists, they
met with little success. Darwin himself
mentions many of the ancient attempts to
propose evolution in the opening pages of his
Origin of Species.

About one hundred years prior to the
publication of the Origin of Species, Pierre
Louis Moreau de Maupertuis anticipated most
of what Charles Darwin proposed with respect
to evolution. According to Bentley Glass,
Maupertuis included within his theory of
evolution the idea of the survival of the
fittest.9 Glass also stated that the reason
Maupertuis proposed evolution through natural
selection was that he had considered, and
desired to refute, the argument for the
existence of God from the apparent order and
design seen in nature, just as Darwin's
argument's were an attempt to refute Paley's
teleological arguments.10

Charles Darwin's grandfather, Erasmus Darwin,
was another champion of the theory of
evolution. However, public sentiment turned
against him during his lifetime because of
the growing evangelical movement of his day
led by John Wesley.11

In 1844, Robert Chambers published his
Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation,
but, in order to protect himself from public
censure, he concealed his identity as the
author. However, suspicion that he had
written the book was strong enough to prevent
him from realizing his political ambition to
become Lord Provost of Edinburgh in 1848.

Most scientists of the day were critical of
Chambers' theory, including T. H. Huxley, who
later became one of Charles Darwin's
champions. According to Arthur Lovejoy of
Johns Hopkins University, Huxley became
prejudiced against the Vestiges because of
certain errors that it contained which were
of minor significance. According to Lovejoy,
Chambers' Vestiges presented sufficient
evidence that it should have convinced the
scientists of that day of the truth of
evolution, but that is did not do so
indicates that "even in the minds of acute
and professedly unprejudiced men of science,
the emotion of conviction may lag behind the
presentation of proof."12

During the 1830s, Darwin became convinced of
the validity of the theory of evolution, but
he was fearful of making his views known,
because he knew they would not be favorably
received at that time. He read the Vestiges
soon after its publication, and although he
was favorably impressed with it, the
devastating criticism it received from the
scientific world caused him to wonder whether
he should ever make public his own views:

He had every reason to believe that his book,
if ever he wrote one, would be treated no
less harshly than the Vestiges. Sometimes he
thought that it would be wiser not to proceed
with the project at all. . . . But no sooner
had he all but made up his mind accordingly,
than the conviction would come over him
irresistibly that, sooner or later somebody
would enjoy the distinction for the discovery
of evolution. What a shame it would be if
that somebody stole his thunder.13

Darwin admitted that his object in life was
to be esteemed by his fellow naturalists, and
due to his fear of censure, he did not make
public his views for many years. Then, in
June of 1858 he received a letter from A. R.
Wallace asking for advice on a manuscript
that he had enclosed. This manuscript was a
perfect summary of his own views, and he was
goaded into action. A long paper jointly
authored by Darwin and Wallace was read
before the Linnean Society and published
before the end of 1858, and The Origin of
Species was published the following year. The
publisher, John Murray, remarked that he
found its thesis "as absurd as though one
should contemplate a fruitful union between a
poker and a rabbit."14

Darwin's book was largely ignored at first,
and it attracted much less attention than did
the Vestiges fifteen years previously. For
several years, it was totally ignored by some
of the best scientific journal of his day. T.
H. Huxley later stated that, in 1860, "The
supporters of Mr. Darwin's views were
numerically extremely insignificant. There is
not the slightest doubt that if a general
council of the Church scientific had been
held at that time, we should have been
condemned by an overwhelming majority."15

One of Darwin's strongest opponents was
Richard Owen, the greatest living anatomist.
Owen was a man of unrivalled knowledge and
experience in research. He wrote a lengthy
attack on the Origin of Species in the
Edinburgh Review, throwing against it all the
weight of his anatomical and paleontological
knowledge. He felt that the book left "the
determination of the origin of species very
nearly where the author found it," pointing
out that since variations are not normally
transmitted at all, it was difficult to see
how Darwin's suggested theory could hold

At the end of June, 1860, the British
Association met at Oxford, where, among other
things, Darwin's views were discussed. While
many of the speakers were unfavorable, T. H.
Huxley spoke in Darwin's defense. Over the
course of the next decade, Darwin's
supporters in scientific circles grew from an
insignificant minority to a majority.

In his youth, Darwin was an orthodox
Christian. He recollected this is 1876:

Whilst on board the Beagle I was quite
orthodox, and I remember being heartily
laughed at by several of the officers (though
themselves orthodox) for quoting the Bible as
an unanswerable authority on some point of

. . . . But I had gradually come by
this time, i.e., 1836 to 1839, to see that
the Old Testament was no more to be trusted
than the sacred books of the Hindoos. . . .

But I was very unwilling to give up my
belief; I feel sure of this, for I can well
remember often and often inventing day-dreams
of old letters between distinguished Romans,
and manuscripts being discovered at Pompeii
or elsewhere, which confirmed in the most
striking manner all that was written in the
Gospels. But I found it more and more
difficult, with free scope given to my
imagination, to invent evidence which would
suffice to convince me. Thus disbelief crept
over me at a very slow rate, but was at last
complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no
distress. . . .

The old argument from design in nature, as
given by Paley, which formerly seemed to me
so conclusive, fails, now that the law of
natural selection has beendiscovered.21

However, Charles Darwin wavered a great deal
with resect to the Christian faith. In the
last year of his life, Darwin spoke with the
Duke of Argyll, who wrote in his book, Good
Words (April 1885, p. 244):

In the course of that conversation I said to
Mr. Darwin, with reference to some of his own
remarkable works on the Fertilisation of
Orchids, and upon The Earthworms, and various
other observations he made of the wonderful
contrivances for certain purposes in
nature--I said it was impossible to look at
these without seeing that they were the
effect and the expression of mind. I shall
never forget Mr. Darwin's answer. He looked
at me very hard and said, "Well, that often
comes over me with overwhelming force; but at
other times," and he shook his head vaguely,
adding, "it seems to go away."22


1 David L. Hull, Darwin and His Critics
(Harvard University; Cambridge; Oxford
University: London, September 1973).

2 Ernst Mayr, "Evolution and God," Nature 248
(22 March 1974): 285.

3 Ibid.

4 Ruth Moore, Evolution, Life Nature Library
(New York: Time, Incorporated, 1964), p. 10.

5 Mayr, p. 285.

6 Ibid.

7 Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge Towards
a Post-Critical Philosophy (New York: Harper
and Row, 1964), pp. 135-136.

8 Marvin L. Lubenow, "Progressive
Creationism: Is It A Biblical Option?" paper
presented to the Midwestern Section of the
Evangelical Theological Society, Twentieth
General Meeting, March 21-22, 1975, Trinity
Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield,
Illinois, p. 10.

9 Bentley Glass, ed., Forerunners of Darwin
1745-1859 (The Johns Hopkins Press, 1959), p.

10 Bolton Davidheiser, Evolution and
Christian Faith (Nutley, N.J.: Presbyterian
and Reformed Publishing Co., 1969), p. 46.

11 Garrett Hardin, Nature and Man's Fate
(Reinhart and Co., 1959), p. 7.

12 Arthur O. Lovejoy, "Robert Chambers," in
Bentley Glass, ed., Forerunners of Darwin,
1745-1859 (The Johns Hopkins Press, 1959), p.

13 Robert E. D. Clark, Darwin: Before and
After (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966), p. 56.

14 Quoted by Ibid., p. 59.

15 Quoted by Ibid., p. 63.

16 Ibid., p. 64.

17 Davidheiser, p. 66.

18 Ibid., p. 67, quoting from Gertrude
Himmelfarb, Darwin and the Darwinian
Revolution (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and
Co., 1959), p. 368.

19 Francis Darwin, ed., Charles Darwin, new
ed. (London: John Murray, 1902), p. 55.

20 Ibid., p. 57.

21 Ibid., pp. 58, 60.

22 Ibid., p. 64.

23 Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Dyer, eds., Bombay
Guardian, 25 March 1916, as quoted by H.
Enoch, Evolution or Creation (London:
Evangelical Press, 1966), pp. 166-167. #The
Origin of Life: A Critique of Current
Scientific Models

The recent discovery of fossil algae and
stromatolites from as early as the
Precambrian, have reduced the time for
development of the first cell as much as
tenfold. Together with implications of this
for the oxidative state of the primitive
atmosphere, these developments will force
researchers to rethink many fundamental ideas
pertaining to current models of the origin of
life on Earth

In his autobiography, when he was sixty-five,
he wrote this:

Disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate,
but was at last complete.... I can indeed
hardly see how anyone ought to wish
Christianity to be true; for if so, the plain
language of the text seems to show that men
who do not believe, and this would include my
Father and Brother, and almost all my best
friends, will be everlastingly punished. And
this is a damnable doctrine.

So he left the world of the Bible, closed the
door, slammed it behind him, and stepped out
into a new world, the world of scientific
experiment and knowledge. The interesting
thing to notice is that he took with him the
climate of the world he left behind. This
invariably happens when a man moves from one
world to another.
More on Darwin