Darwin and theism

Ted Davis (TDavis@mcis.messiah.edu)
Fri, 17 Apr 1998 15:21:05 -0400

David Campbell wrote:

" In this context, it is worth noting that evolution by natural
selection was proposed before Darwin as a way God had created life.
Darwin, and more flagrantly Huxley, had rejected Christianity prior to
adopting an evolutionary viewpoint, so it's not surprising that their
philosophies colored their presentation."

This needs some comment. Agreed, this may still be the generally received
view of Darwin, theism, and evolution, and still has substantial support
among Darwin scholars, such as (I think it is accurate to say) David Kohn.
However -- and this is a very important "however" -- this may be changing.
James Moore and Adrian Desmond argue, convincingly in my opinion (and John
Greene's opinion, which counts much more), that Darwin lost whatever was
left of his Christianity c. 1850, in response to the deaths of his daughter
and father, neither of whom was "saved" but both of whom he viewed as highly
moral persons. And this was several years after he first wrote out a
version of the Origin of Species (which he did first in 1842 and again in
1844), and long after he had begun investigating the "species question." On
this interpretation, then, Darwin was a theist (perhaps a Christian) when he
wrote the first versions of the Origin, and only later on gave it up. One
can see immediately why this is important, if correct: it flies in the face
of the "warfare" view of religion and science generally, and of evolution

Ted Davis