Re: Darwin and theism

David Campbell (
Mon, 20 Apr 1998 11:10:46 -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

Thanks for the correction. Do you know anything about Wallace's religious
beliefs? I'd heard that they were influenced by Eastern religions.

Many early advocates of an old earth were theists if not orthodox
Christians. Interestingly, they are often cited approvingly by
young-earthers who apparently believe that anyone before 1859 or anyone who
seems to have questioned evolution believed what they do.

David C.