01 August, 2006

My Heroes: (6) Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin 1809-1892
This post is not about the 'creationist' versus 'evolutionary science' debate but rather about Darwin himself and his personal qualities. Some will be surprised to learn that Darwin was deeply religious and as a young man studied at Cambridge University to become a clergyman but it is fair to say that as he developed his theories throughout his life his doubts continued to grow. Although he lost his Christian faith he insisted that he was an agnostic rather than an atheist, never dismissing the idea of a supreme intelligence over-riding creation. He was a sensitive and deeply caring man. His closeness to his children was distinctly un-Victorian in the way he dedicated so much of his time to them.
On the Origin of Species was published in 1859, many years after it was written, because Darwin was aware of what the reaction would be in Victorian England. He was right because public ridicule was the immediate reaction and the popular misconception that we 'are descended from the apes' is still an often-held view today. What he wanted to show was that we are descended from a common ancestor. That work is now considered the most important science book that the world has known.
Darwin was an unassuming and kind man who was pleasant and sincerely modest. For much of his adult life he suffered from an undiagnosed illness, possibly picked up during his voyage on the Beagle but he remained committed to the candid exploration of the natural and scientific world for the rest of his life. When he died in 1882 he was buried in Westminster Abbey.


Blogger Raj said...

Hi Mr. Bazza,

Thank you for commenting on my Blog. I share your concern for the people who get affected in such horrific acts of violence. I wish, the people who are behind such acts undestand this.

Your Blog is also very interesting and informative. By the way your grand children are very cute. Best of luck to you.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006  
Blogger tom sheepandgoats said...

What intrigues me is that Darwin started life reasonably religious and steadily lost his faith. Not just because of discoveries in Galapagos and elsewhere. But because of dumb things that religion did to him.
When favorite child Annie died, did they tell him that God was picking flowers? There are few analogies more slanderous to God. It's enough to kill a lot of faith.

Saturday, August 05, 2006  
Blogger Bazza said...

Raj - thanks for your kind words.

Tom - Hi, Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I have read your blog and found what you say interesting. I am sorry to say I know little about JW's but I have learnt something interesting today.
I feel that organized religion has a lot to answer for when it comes between people and their personal faith. I don't know what Darwin was told when his daughter died but there are two important points: (1) Charles Darwin was a well educated and intelligent man and would have come to his own conclusions. (2) In the mid-nineteenth century, although not long ago, things were very different to how they are today. Religious faith was much more wide spread and much less often challenged therefore it is hard to judge how his tragic circumstances would have affected him.
Incidentally I tried to post on your blog - does one have to register in order to post?

Saturday, August 05, 2006  
Blogger jim said...

There is much confusion even these days about his theories and him.

I assume you know about the Cain/gorilla concept.

The common ancestor seems too difficult for some to imagine.

I agree with you about him coming to his own faith and beliefs without needing help. I think that is exactly the way it is meant to be done. The organized thing just takes over a person, but some need that I guess.

Friday, August 11, 2006  
Anonymous tom sheepandgoats said...

Yes, as you say, Darwin was an intelligent and educated man. I’m not suggesting he would have been hoodwinked by the flower picking analogy. Rather, he may well have concluded once and for all, that religion had nothing to offer. Quite a journey for a man who once trained to be a clergyman.

Of course, I don’t know either what he was told. But the flower picking analogy is used all the time when young children die & it is almost a necessary consequence of the immortal soul teaching…that when you die, you don’t really die, for some ethereal part of you lives on. If, when a child dies, you don’t say God was picking flowers, what do you say? That God is simply mean? That was the point of my post. What the Bible really teaches about death isn’t such a kick in the teeth to bereaved parents. Coupled with other Bible teachings such as why we grow old and die & why God permits suffering, the Bible becomes a book appealing to the reasonable mind, not just the emotional one.

Had those reasonable Bible explanations not been long ago abandoned by religions in favor of nonsense, Darwin’s interpretation of fossils, rocks, and finches may well have produced different conclusions.

Saturday, August 19, 2006  
Blogger Rob said...

I vaguely remember a BBC drama about Darwin's life that was broadcast in the seventies.

I can't imagine Darwin's feelings when he realised what a can of worms he had opened!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006  
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