Darwin in Distress
This one forms part of my nature-of-religion-and-other-curiosities-department. Darwin, himself a priest, closed his seminal work “On the Origin of Species”, with the following agents with the following words :
“There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”
By the 3rd Edition though , the book had generated so much controversy in society that this paragraph had to be modified ever so slightly.
“There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”
This unfortunate phrase has led to gross misconceptions and propagation of false beliefs that Darwin himself was a believer. Darwin was clearly on the fence, as we seen in a letter he wrote in 1860 to Asa Gray :
“With respect to the theological view of the question: This is always painful to me. I am bewildered. I had no intention to write atheistically, but I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars or that a cat should play with mice… On the other hand, I cannot anyhow be contented to view this wonderful universe, and especially the nature of man, and to conclude that everything is the result of brute force. I am inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of what we may call chance.”
Viral ideas….funny how they work…but perhaps that is why every scientist thinks so highly of Darwin. While the influence of religion in early age shapes even the minds of scientists, the rational workings of the world that they discover makes them question and puts them (forgive the expression) squarely on the fence. We all face Darwin’s dilemma.