Re: Scientists becoming Christians

Allan Harvey (
Fri, 03 Apr 1998 08:25:31 -0700

At 11:36 PM 4/2/98 -0800, Steve Schaffner wrote:

>John Neal wrote:


>> Charles Darwin


>It is true that there is an often-repeated story about Darwin converting=20

>on (or close to) his death-bed; it's sometimes referred to as the "Lady=20

>Hope" story. It's _very_ unlikely to be true, at least as far as the=20

>conversion part of the story is concerned. The fullest account of the=20

>story is probably James Moore's _The Darwin Legend_, published by Baker

>(although it may already be out of print).

It was still in print as of about a year ago, and is well worth reading.=20
Those interested can read a book review I wrote at:

I'll paste in the last two paragraphs of the review, as they touch on
matters relevant to recent discussions:


<excerpt>The striking theme of this book is the way that everybody has
tried to exploit Charles Darwin. Lady Hope wove a story out of her visit
that made Darwin into a Christian at the end of his life, which he almost
certainly was not. Her story has been further distorted by others who
don't seem to mind bearing false witness as long as the result serves
their purpose. For over 100 years now, atheists have been trying to claim
Darwin's support for their philosophical extrapolations of his theories,
though he hated such efforts in his own lifetime. Even Darwin's own
descendants tried to remake him into the respectable patriarch they
wanted for their family.

Perhaps there are some lessons for us here. The first is the false lure
of the authority of celebrity. Darwin was a great scientist, but no
theologian. His opinions on religion should carry no more weight than
anyone else's. Yet, because of his celebrity, everybody has tried to
enlist his legacy for their own positions. Whether the subject is famous
or anonymous, it is wrong to distort another's views to advance your own,
especially when the subject is dead and cannot defend himself. Second, it
strikes me that at the root of this mess is the automatic association
people make between evolution and atheism. It was the atheists who first
advocated the lie that evolution implies the truth of atheism, and it is
one of the great tragedies in church history that so many Christians have
accepted this proposition, effectively playing the game by the atheists'
rules. Much of the incentive for spreading this particular legend would
vanish if we all recognized, as even Darwin did, that his explanation of
how species developed does not rule out God's status as Creator. Finally,
we should be disturbed by the way some Christians have been willing to
uncritically accept and spread such legends because they fit in with what
they want to believe. We need to be more careful about repeating stories
like this, lest we besmirch the Gospel by associating it with lies.



| Dr. Allan H. Harvey | |

| Physical and Chemical Properties Division | "Don't blame the |

| National Institute of Standards & Technology | government for what I |

| 325 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80303 | say, or vice versa." |