THE DARWIN PAPERS
VOLUME 1 NUMBER 1
THE UNTOLD STORY
will always be a shadowy web surrounding
the real Charles Darwin"
From The Nebulous Hypothesis:
A Study of the Philosophical and
Historical Implications of Darwinian Theory
© 1996 by James M. Foard
Editor and Publisher James M. Foard.
'Still Life of Dead
and Hunting Weapons'
Willem van Aelst 1660
Courtesy of WEB GALLERY OF ART
Emil Kren and Daniel Marx
"AND NIMROD WAS A
HUNTER BEFORE THE LORD"
The Darwin Papers may be freely
copied and distributed for non profit use
provided acknowledgement is made
for material written by the author.
The Darwin Papers © 2000 James Foard
© 2000 James Foard
Read about Darwin's early school days here
Read about an encounter Darwin had with
some unfortunate birds during his voyage
on the Beagle here
As human beings have wandered over the face of the earth for thousands of years and gazed up in wonder at the stars in the heavens, we have looked back into our primaeval past and pondered over the meaning of our existence: From whence did life originate, what kind of creature is man, where did he come from, and what lies in his future?
In seeking to find answers to our origins, men throughout the ages have proposed various theories to solve these universal questions. Over the past century it would seem that one theory that has gained the most prominence is the evolutionary theory. Evolutionists believe that the various diverse forms of life that we find on the earth today all descended from some common ancestor through a process of gradual adaption to environmental conditions. They claim that man is descended from apes, and that all apes were in turn descended from some common mammalian ancestor, while the mammals in turn descended from some common ancestor along with the rest of the vertebrates, and that this process continued back through millions of years until in some remote pocket of time the common ancestor of all life first appeared.
This was supposed to have been accomplished simply by random chemicals mixing together, helped along a little bit by natural laws.
Among other explanations, there is the concept that states that man was created supernaturally by an infinite, immaterial, all powerful, intelligent Being; that in some unique way man was created in His image, out of the dust of the ground, and that God breathed into man the breath of life, a divine gift, and that man was made a living soul.
find vestiges of this tradition preserved within ancient legends from among
various cultures throughout the world, as well as in the pages of the Bible, (2)where the Creator is referred to as the First
Cause by the philosophers of antiquity, El Shaddai by the ancient Semitic
peoples of the near east, and whom we in the English world refer to as the Lord
God, while elsewhere he is called the Great Spirit among North American Indians,
and Brahman (the uncreated Creator) by the Hindus. (3)
But which story is true? Are these ancient stories merely primitive man's attempts to explain life through fables and storytelling, or is there perhaps something of relevance to their ideas? Is man indeed the creation of a superior, supernatural, all-wise Intelligence who created him with inherent moral and spiritual qualities, or is man simply an animal dwelling among other denizens in this vast eco-system called planet earth?
Can we discover some clues to this mystery by sifting through the evidence, and if so, then where should we start our enquiry to find answers to this set of intriguing questions?
It would perhaps be appropriate to begin our search for man's origin by taking a look at the most notable exponent of the first viewpoint stated above, the evolutionary theory.
N o study of the science of human origins would be in any sense complete without mention being made of Charles Darwin. He has drawn ovations for over a century from the highest realms of academic, civic, and cultural establishments as the man singularly responsible for originating or at least developing the theory of evolution.
World famous paleontologists Richard F. Leakey of the National Museums of Kenya, and Glynn Isaac of the University of California, Berkeley, write in the preface to their book Human Ancestors: "Charles Darwin's 'Origin of Species' articulated an alternative to the myths and allegories that had hitherto been all but universal. This opened a new epoch in human thinking about humanity and established a new realm of scientific endeavor."
In their introduction to the book, the editors state: "Just as the voyage of Columbus opened up a new continent for European exploration, so the insight of Charles Darwin made science aware of an uncharted realm. Darwin showed that the living organisms of the modern world were each the end product of a long, long process of change."(4)
He has indeed been regarded as the man who opened up a new era in our understanding of ourselves and the universe by many if not most anthropologists and by scientists in various other fields of discipline as well.
Another typical description of Darwin comes from a noted Encyclopedia article: "The most important figure in the history of the theory of evolution, and one of the most important in the history of Human culture was Charles Darwin." (5)
This type of lavish praise for Darwin is not unusual. He is generally associated with scientific thinking, however cloudy the actual basis for this may be. For many, influenced as they are by this association of ideas, they are reminded of Darwin whenever they meet with concepts that correspond to some extent with Darwin's thoughts on natural and scientific topics. Whether or not this association is actually warranted may be debatable.
In the estimation of some he has nearly reached the status of a philosopher-sage, while his followers almost regard him as a modern day prophet, like Moses of old, who brought down to mankind his two tablets, The Origin of Species and The Descent of Man, as a new revelation on the history of life.
But how many people are familiar with the real Charles Darwin, and does he deserve such ovations as the preceding tributes would suggest? In as much as no small amount has been spoken and written on the topic of evolution for well over the past one hundred years, let us find out something about Darwin himself.
To take a look then at the life of this remarkable individual we must turn back the pages of history a little bit, to a rural English village in the early part of the nineteenth century, where the wife of a country doctor was to give birth to her second son.
* . . . . . . . . . . . . * . . . . . . . . . . . . .*
C harles Robert Darwin was born on February 12, 1809, the same date that Abraham Lincoln was born, in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England. He was the grandson of the noted Erasmus Darwin, a prominent English physician, who had close ties with the Wedgwoods, a prosperous clan of merchants and potters into which both Charles Darwin and his own father eventually married into.
Unfortunately, Darwin's family tree was marred by infidelity, untimely deaths, and drug abuse. Erasmus' first wife, Mary, was Darwin's paternal grandmother. She died in 1770 at the age of thirty from cirrhosis of the liver brought on by acute alcoholism, combined with a massive overdose of opium administered by Erasmus himself while she was intoxicated. (6)
Darwin's maternal uncle, Thomas Wedgewood, abandoned a formal career in 1792 and became an opium addict, dying from an overdose of the drug in 1805.
Erasmus' oldest surviving son, Erasmus ll, an uncle on Charles Darwin's paternal side, committed suicide, possibly due in part to depression and grief over the deaths of his mother and older brother (the first Charles Darwin), and from, as historian John Bowlby put it, "his father's lack of sympathy, impatience, and frequent unfavorable comparisons with his brilliant older brother."(7)
Within four years after his wife's death Erasmus had sired two illegitimate children by a maid-servant with whom he lived. Later he began an affair with a married woman who eventually became his second wife after the untimely death of her husband. Thus in Darwin's grandfather's practice we find unhappy wives dying while being administered vast quantities of opium, and unnecessary husbands dying to make room for Erasmus. The result of this was a large family over which Erasmus ruled, in the words of Anna Seward, like a "tyrant."
In her biography of Darwin, Janet Browne also paints a rather unflattering picture of how the Darwin and Wedgwood families accumulated their wealth, which according to her, almost amounted to slave labor: (8) "His [Charles Darwin's] fathers' fortune was built on the backs of entrepreneurial companies that exploited cheap labor-a family business sense which continued unabated in his own later endorsement of joint-stock railway companies.
"Both grandfathers also belittled the role of human labor in advancing British prosperity. Though Wedgwood's employees were in principle free to come and go, they were in practice tied to his cottages, to his insurance societies, and to his wages. In truth, with more than fifteen thousand people living at the Etruia works at the time of Wedgwood's death in 1795, the site resembled nothing so much as a displaced plantation town with its big house and separate worker's quarters . . The money-making classes of Britain perpetuated forms of human bondage which seemed to many critics merely a variant of slavery . ."
Charles Darwin's father, Robert Darwin, was also a physician of note who built up a personal fortune as a shrewd money-broker and mortgage loan specialist. He married Susannah Wedgwood, the daughter of the same prosperous family of merchant potters with whom his own father, Erasmus, had close relations with.
One biographer, (9) in discussing Robert Darwin's business acumen, did describe him as "ruthless."
He had a prodigious appetite, often carrying provisions of food for a fortnight's journey stuffed under the seat of his buggy while driving about the countryside as he visited patients, and it is in this capacity that we may gain an insight into the elder Darwin's personality. Even though he apparently neglected his own family, nevertheless during the course of his rounds as a doctor, Bowlby relates that, "He was keenly alive to the emotional problems of his patients, especially ladies, for whom he became, according to Charles, 'a sort of Father Confessor.'" (10)
Darwin's father apparently struck a chord of discomfort among the young girls of the Wedgwood family. Bowlby wrote of a young girl who had fallen ill during a combined family holiday of the Darwin and Wedgwood families and had been left behind alone with Dr. Robert, quoting one of the Wedgwood girls in relating the event: "Bessy knew all too well how she would feel in that situation and was anxious lest she might risk her health by returning to Maer precipitately: 'but as I believe she would be left tete a tete with the Doctor she certainly will come away as soon as she can' (11). . . Dread of being left alone with Dr. Robert was shared by all the Wedgwoods and Allens."(12)
One of the Wedgwood girls, in a later recollection of those early years, wrote: "Sad, sad Shrewsbury! which used to look so bright and sunny; though I did dread the Dr. a good deal." (13)
Susannah Wedgwood was to become Charles Darwin's mother. She was often to suffer the blunt of her husband's frequent outbursts of rage, and she died under slightly mysterious circumstances when Charles was eight years old; circumstances strikingly similar to those under which Charles Darwin's grandmother had died years before.
In a scene eerily reminiscent of Darwin's grandmother's passing, his mother's last fortnight on earth was characterized by vomiting and severe gastro-intestinal pain while being tended to by her husband, Dr. Robert, as he administered vast quantities of the opium derivative laudanum to her.
More than one writer has commented on the enigmatic "wall of silence" built up around the memory of Darwin's mother by his family. (14) Although his younger sister remembered their mother vividly, Charles seems to have remembered next to nothing about her, and was strangely unaffected by her loss. In fact, he remembered the funeral of a total stranger but did not recall anything about his mother's funeral. (15)
Within a day of Susannah's death the dutiful Dr. Robert was fifty miles away attending one of his patients,(16)which seems rather odd for the grieving widower, since he actually detested the practice of medicine, only becoming a doctor at his own father's insistence lest he lose his portion of the family inheritance.
He is on record as saying that the sight of blood sickened him. (17)
After Susannah's passing, the Doctor threw himself into his practice, and was frequently depressed and quite irritable, while Bowlby reported that " the Atmosphere at the Mount was one of never-ending gloom," with Dr. Robert's treatment of his household being characterized by "sarcasm and bullying." (18)
Charles Darwin once described a rather disturbing portrait of his father, where he referred to a woman possibly driven insane by an encounter with Dr. Robert, or at the very least reduced to a state of abject terror at the mere mention of his name.
We find recorded in his Autobiography: "My father possessed an extraordinary memory, especially for dates . . . and thus the deaths of many friends were often recalled to his mind . . . . Many persons were much afraid of him . . As a boy, I went to stay at the house of Major B- whose wife was insane; and the poor creature, as soon as she saw me, was in the most abject state of terror that I ever saw, weeping bitterly and asking me over and over again, 'Is your father coming?' but was soon pacified. On my return home, I asked my father why she was so frightened, and he answered he [was] very glad to hear it, as he had frightened her on purpose, feeling sure that she could be kept in safety and much happier without any restraint, if her husband could influence her, whenever she became at all violent, by proposing to send for Dr. Darwin. " (19)
Darwin's father also managed
the financial accounts of many of his patients, and this leads us to yet another
odd tale in the Darwin saga. Darwin related a strange story that was widely
circulated around Shropshire of an incident that, though later denied by his
father, and supposedly denied by the managing partner of the firm involved, at
least according to Dr. Robert, was apparently corroborated by a great many eye
"Mr. E-, a squire of one of the oldest families in Shropshire, and head partner in a Bank, committed suicide. My father was sent for as a matter of form, and found him dead . . . no inquest was held over his body. My father, in returning home, thought it proper to call at the Bank (where he had an account) to tell the managing partner of the event, as it was not improbable it would cause a run on the bank."
"Well the story was spread far and wide, that my father went into the bank, drew out all his money, left the bank, came back again, and said, 'I may just tell you that Mr. E- has killed himself,' and then departed." (20)
Although in retrospect Darwin's father seems akin to some sort of macabre, spectral figure lurking within the pages of a gothic horror novel, it would be unfair to leave the impression in the readers mind that he was nothing short of a human monster. He did encourage the education of his children, and some writers have even fondly attempted to portray him as a sort of Robin Hood among English physicians, riding throughout the countryside equally loved by rich and poor alike.
A fter the death of his mother Charles' eldest sister took charge of raising him. Early accounts of young Charles Darwin during this time describe him as a pudgy, rather thick-set, passive boy. He was afraid to fight the other schoolboys, much given to idle fancies, laziness, and desperate for the attention of his surrounding peers.(21)
Darwin also had a penchant for stretching the truth when relating some of his childhood discoveries. Sir Gavin de Beer, former Director of the British Museum of Natural History, wrote: ". . . The boy [Darwin] developed very slowly: he was given, when small, to inventing gratuitous fibs and to daydreaming; and he was passionately fond of collecting seals, franks (equivalents of postage stamps), pebbles, and minerals-an important trait in his future as a naturalist." (22)
of these traits was important to his future as a naturalist, telling fibs or
collecting pebbles or both, is
In the biographical note on Charles Darwin attached to the publication of his Origin of Species and Descent of Man, the editors state: "His childhood fantasies were concerned with fabulous discoveries in natural history; to his schoolmates he boasted that he could produce variously colored flowers of the same plant by watering them with certain colored fluids." (23)
Browne further informs us: "Lies-and the thrills derived from lies-were for him indistinguishable from the delights of natural history or the joy of finding a long-sought specimen." (24)
So we see that the boy who was later to distinguish himself with the theory of evolution had a very inauspicious beginning
One can only speculate why, if the puppy was not injured, was Darwin so haunted by the incident for many years afterward, and why he referred to it as a "crime". Was it the prompting of a guilty conscience that betrayed a more serious incident than he was ready to admit?
Darwin entered Shrewsbury school in 1818, where he was anything but an outstanding scholar. De Beer informs us: "He was a poor student, and in 1825 his father reproached him, saying, 'You care for nothing but shooting, dogs, and rat-catching, and you will be a disgrace to yourself and all your family." (26)
This is corroborated in other biographies of him, and in his own autobiography he stated that he felt incapable of learning languages and never understood algebra or mastered higher mathematics. (27)
Darwin's college educational career was not much better than his early school years. De Beer states that Darwin "was then sent to Edinburgh University to study Medicine, but that also was a failure . . ."
Perhaps like Einstein though, he had a more productive intellectual career in later years.
It is interesting that Darwin could not bear to watch an operation being preformed while in medical school, and for the rest of his life, like his father, he couldn't stand the sight of blood, nearly becoming hysterical if one of his children accidently cut themselves, (28) and yet while attending school at this time, Browne mentions a strange irony to this: " He took up shooting in earnest. The resulting bloodbath of animals-partridges, pigeons, rabbits, rats-which he killed with violent pleasure certainly put medicine into perspective . . . He could wield his own kind of power over life and death with a smoking gun. " (29)
De Beer writes: "As there was no future for Darwin in medicine, he left Edinburgh in 1827 and was sent to Cambridge to prepare for Holy Orders in the Church of England,"(Enc. Britt, op. cit.) not, by the way, because he had any particular interest in the subject, but his father felt that this would be at least an honorable vocation for him, thus avoiding the scandal of becoming an idle rake. It was widely known during that time in England that studying for the clergy was a last refuge for affluent scoundrels.
Browne relates: "Every summer and autumn was dedicated to killing birds . . . Dull non-shooting months were passed in studying handbooks about guns and in writing down useful information about the diameter of shot needed for different animals . . . . By 1828, his ambitions had well overrun his elderly equipment. He yearned for a more powerful double-barreled gun with percussion caps ." (32)
must not be too harsh in our judgement of Darwin on this account, for it has
been rumored that in later years Darwin once found a bird that had been maimed
from a previous days' shooting but was still alive, and he was stricken in
conscience by the suffering of the poor creature and renounced hunting from that
day forth (34).
Apparently though, he never recanted from his thoughts on the "beneficial" results of a genocidal race war to enhance the march of human evolution. (See also below)
There is debatable evidence that Darwin ever fully finished his studies in college, he certainly had never matriculated with anything approaching a degree in medicine or any of the strict sciences, but he had somehow managed to obtain the equivalent of a four year college degree in the theology.
At first Darwin's father objected to his going on the voyage, fearing that this would slow down his sporadic at best academic education, but he was persuaded by a relative to give his consent and at last he relented.
As far as Darwin's educational attainments before he set sail on his journey, de Beer writes: "A few weeks before he served on the"Beagle" he did not even know what science was . . . It was therefore no experienced scientist who sailed on the Beagle but an undistinguished candidate for Holy Orders." (35)
Darwin was seasick during much of the early part of his voyage on the Beagle voyage, where we get some account of his feelings for sea life from a letter he wrote to his cousin: "This is to me so much existence obliterated from the page of life,- I hate every wave of the ocean with a fervor which you . . . can never understand." (36)
Much has been said by historians of Darwin's observations of the finches on the Galapagos islands while sailing on the Beagle, but little is mentioned of another incident Darwin had with some less fortunate birds on a different island during his voyage. We have three accounts of an excursion made by Darwin and the Captain from the Beagle to St. Paul's Rocks between the Cape Verde Islands and the coast of Brazil.
First we shall read Darwin's version of the episode: " We found on St. Paul's only two kinds of birds-the booby and the noddy. The former is a species of Gannet, and the latter a tern. Both are of a tame and stupid disposition, and are so unaccustomed to visitors, that I could have killed any number of them with my geologic hammer." (37)
Browne mentioned the appalling incident in her biography of Darwin: " Uninhabited except for dense flocks of seafowl, and previously unvisited by any scientific recorder, they were an alluring target for a restless naval man and an eager friend . . . Darwin and Fitzroy had a marvelous time of it, whooping and killing birds with abandon". (38)
Fitzroy recorded the bloody scene in his personal narrative as well. According to him, one of the seamen asked if he could borrow Darwin's hammer to kill some of the birds with, to which Darwin replied, "No, no, you'll break the handle." Then, apparently struck by the novelty of this idea, Darwin himself picked up his hammer and began killing the peaceful birds in this manner, as Fitzroy related "away went the hammer, with all the force of his own right arm." (39)
Darwin's disregard for the sacredness of life was not merely confined to animals. We get an unnerving insight into Darwin's character from an entry he made in his personal ledger during his voyage on the Beagle. While he was journeying through the Argentine pampas in South America there was a bloody slaughter of the indigenous natives taking place, conducted by the rogue General Juan Manuel de Roses, a self proclaimed despot, in 1833. Indian women and children were thrust through with saber and shot down like hunted animals.
Darwin traveled through the
territory as a guest of the General, and he wrote of the war in his diary:
" . . . women who appear over twenty years of age are massacred in cold blood while the children are sold into slavery" however he was also able to write on a lighter note: "This war of extirmination (sic), although carried on with the most shocking barbarity, will certainly produce great benefits, it will at once throw open four or five hundred miles in length of fine country for the produce of cattle." (40)
Desmond and Moore wrote that "Darwin shook a hand soaked in blood" (41) when he struck up his acquaintance with General Rosas, whom he decribed as "a perfect gaucho."
Darwin was a guest of the General, who had loaned Darwin some of his horses to
go exploring on during his sojourn in Argentina, he received a correspondence
from Fitzroy back on the ship, who desired to know how Darwin's "campaign with General Rosas" was
Desmond and Moore report: "Well armed, with fresh horses and ruthless companions, he had little to fear from the hostiles. Indeed he was beginning to appreciate the 'great benefits' of General Rosas' 'war of extermination ." (Ibid, pp. 141)
not stating specifically here that Darwin took part himself in the slaughter of
the Indians (although my personal view is that the evidence tends to support
it), I will leave this for the reader to judge; however the evidence is fairly
irrefutable that he did at least condone it on the grounds that it was an
excellent way to make more grazing land for the Spaniards' cattle.
In Darwin's mind it was all fairly simple: "Less Indians => more cattle => healthier Spaniards: Survival of the fittest!" (Although the term "survival of the fittest" was not coined until the 1850's by another rogue, Herbert Spencer, founder of the modern pseudo-science of sociology and from whose work the communists and national socialists in the twentieth century built their dark machinations with, Darwin clearly had the concept buttoned down in his notes years before)
Apparently the slaughter of the Indians didn't weigh too heavily on his conscience, for Darwin boasted when describing his living conditions while riding with Rosas' men: "I . . .drink my Mattee; smoke my cigar, then lie down & sleep as comfortably with the Heavens for a canopy as in a feather bed." (42)
Darwin further wrote of the natives of Tierra Del Fuego, who lived at the tip of South America: "I believe if the world was searched, no lower grade of man could be found." (43)
To be fair to Darwin, as in the case with his father, it would not be right to leave the impression in the readers mind that he was the devil incarnate. He was by all accounts a devoted father and husband, and seems to have been a likeable fellow who won friends easily.
It would also be improper to give the reader too bleak an impression of Darwin's feelings for his fellow man. After his return home to England, when he published the account of his voyage for public consumption, he reportedly expressed shock and dismay that such events as he found in South America could take place during the auspices of a Christian culture and age.
Darwin seemed to be a walking contradiction at times. Apparently there was a struggle taking place within him between the cold, methodological champion of "the survival of the fittest" and a man whom A.E. Wilder Smith said should be admired for having strong enough character to have renounced his favorite sport, hunting, when he found a wounded bird, and who supported vivisection on the grounds that (44)"senseless, unnecessary suffering was unthinkable, but that suffering, if there was a reason behind it, must be permissible."
Wilder-Smith goes on to say that "One understands and respects him too for having supported vivisection on the grounds that the total community would profit thereby in helping man to reduce pain by the physiological knowledge gained." (45)
There were times when he was genuinely sensitive to human injustice and suffering, yet his materialistic views of survival of the fittest ultimately seemed to predominate over his more humanitarian sensibilities.
After Darwin's return to England from his trip on the Beagle, he who had formerly enjoyed great, good health, began to show within the space of a year recurrent illnesses that nearly reduced him to the state of a semi-invalid for the remainder of his life.
Doctors tried a variety of diagnosis for his illness without finding any specific physical cause, but de Beer mentions the following interesting fact: (46) "Recently, psychiatrists have claimed to account for Darwin's condition by advancing diverse (and contradictory) explanations: that he had 'poor nervous heredity on both sides,' or 'depressive obsessional anxiety and hysterical symptoms' due to 'a distorted expression of aggression, hate and resentment felt at an unconscious level by Darwin towards his tyrannical father'; that his work on evolution had killed the Heavenly Father and given him an Oedipus complex; and that his shunning of social life and acceptance of his wife's ministering care was evidence of his being a neurotic."
This is an interesting sidelight into the mind of the man who replaced "creation myths" with objective truth, so we're led to believe.
Others have said that Darwin's chronic illness was related to his being attacked by an assassin bug on his travels, the Triatoma, which causes a disease known as Chaga's disease, which is similar in it's advanced stages to lime disease, and there is good evidence that this was indeed responsible for much of his chronic illnesses, but the above opinions as to his mental state are telling.
Perhaps it may also be of some significance to mention that his cabin-mate for the five year voyage, the Captain of the Beagle, Robert Fitzroy, had been a promising and successful young naval officer before they set off, and even though he enjoyed a distinguished career afterward, during the course of their journey he had the first of his mental breakdowns which eventually led to his suicide.
When Darwin returned home he married his first cousin, Emma Wedgwood. A few years into the marriage, Desmond and Moore comment on Darwin's fears of genetic imbalance in his family tree: "Family inbreeding had long worried him. There were now four first-cousin marriages between the Darwins and Wedgwoods, with his and Emma's own. Of the ten Darwin children, two had died young from natural causes, and the signs were ominous for the rest. George was sick and home from school, Etty languished in bed every morning, Lizzy still behaved strangely, and the baby was not normal." His fears proved groundless though, seven of his children lived long lives and did quite well for themselves. (47)
We have just read a brief survey of the man whom many call the father of evolutionary theory. Some of the facts presented here may shock those who have put their trust in him as a guide for a philosophy of life. Can we separate the character of a man from his ideas and beliefs? I will leave this for the reader to judge.
From his theories that he claimed were developed during his voyage, Darwin eventually wrote his Origin of Species and The Descent of Man, which exploded into the world market over twenty years after his return home.
World Book noted, (48)". . .The study of the specimens from the voyage of the Beagle convinced Darwin that modern species had evolved from a few earlier ones. He documented the evidence and first presented his theories on evolution to a meeting of scientists in 1858 . . . Darwin's theories shocked most people of his day, who believed that each species had been created by a separate divine act. His book, which is usually called simply The Origin of Species presented facts that disputed this belief. It caused a revolution in biological science and greatly affected religious thought."
There has been a persistent rumor concerning Darwin that has been repeated by some Christians for over a century, which is that Darwin had a "deathbed repentance" and conversion to Christianity during his last few days or hours on earth.
This was circulated by a traveling evangelist during the latter part of the nineteenth century, and has been debunked by historian James Moore. His friend Huxley as well as all the surviving members of his immediate family swore to the fact that Darwin never had a conversion in his final hours.(49)
This does not mean that Darwin did not repent-he may have indeed repented.
Huxley and Darwin's family all had a vested interest in keeping the Darwin legend and legacy alive. Huxley was known for his vicious anti-Christian attitude and statements throughout his career. To have admitted to Darwin's repentance would have discredited nearly everything that he had written in life. It is very telling that evolutionists virtually to a man all vociferously deny Darwin's repentance, and that should speak volumes in itself.
Lady Hope did describe details of his room at Down, as well as the position of a summer house seen from Darwin's window. She also did not claim to have seen him literally on his deathbed, but during the last year of his life while he was in a state of convalescence. James Moore is a secular historian who might have simply discounted the rumor, but he gives credible evidence that she might have indeed visited Darwin. She claimed that Darwin was reading the book of Hebrews, and that was in fact the book in Darwin's Bible that was left with a bookmark in it.
Since the Bible says to judge nothing before the time, Christians should refrain from judging Darwin's eternal state, since Christ died for the greatest as well as for the least of sinners.
One last rumor that has been circulated about Darwin is that he died a "peaceful death" in his home at Down. For the truth concerning Darwin's last day on earth, Desmond and Moore, in their excellent historic work on Darwin, describe his last twenty four hours in excruciating detail.
Beginning late Tuesday night, April 18-19, 1882, they write: "The pain came on just before midnight. It was brutal, gripping him like a vise, tightening by the minute. He awoke Emma and begged her to fetch the amyl from the study . . . Charles, in agony, felt that he was dying but unable to cry out. As he slumped unconcious across the bed, Emma and Bessy returned. They rang for a servant and, propping him up, gave the brandy. It trickled through his beard and down his nightdress on to the quilt . . . Seconds later he sputtered and retched; his eyes flickered open . . .She sent for Dr. Allfrey, who arrived at two o'clock . . .The doctor left at eight . . .Immediately Charles started vomiting. It was violent and prolonged. When there was nothing left the nausea kept on in waves, overpowering him. His body heaved and shuddered, as if possessed by an outside force [italics mine]. An hour passed, then two. Still he gagged and retched. 'If I could but die,' he gasped repeatedly, 'If I could but die.' Emma clung to him, his skin grey and ghostlike. Blood spewed out, running down his beard. She had never seen such suffering . . .Charles awoke in a daze, and asked to be propped up . . .But the pain was excruciating in any position . . . Rising, he began to faint again . . . He lost conciousness . . .His life ended at four o'clock in the afternoon, Wednesday 19 April, 1882."(Desmond and Moore, Darwin pp. 662-663)
Thus ended the life of the author of The Origin of Species. But did the theory of evolution through natural selection really begin with Charles Darwin, as has been stated in the preceding tributes to him, or were there others before him who had already developed it?
Let us now find out if the theory of evolution itself is as "modern" as most of it's proponents have claimed it is.
We will attempt to answer some of these questions in the next two issues of The Darwin Papers.
1. Loren Eiseley, Darwin and the Mysterious Mr. X., E.P. Dutton, New York, 1979, pp.93
2. I am not equating Jehovah God of the Old Testament with the gods of the surrounding nations, but I am making a point. Although many evolutionists and skeptics, dating all the way back to the 18th century skeptic Hume, have attempted to postulate that monotheism was simply a development from more primitive polytheistic beliefs that grew out of nature worship, rather than being a direct revelation from God, historically we find that just the opposite was the case. Research shows that instead of the endless speculations that evolutionists love to tell of early man seeking to find out what the sources of various natural phenomena were, and then deifying these natural elements, which in turn became a primitive form of religion that finally developed into monotheism, we find that all ancient races and cultures had an original high, lofty notion of one God, the Creator of all things, invisible and omniscient, and that only after the course of many generations did this belief become corrupted and debased into the worship of natural forces under the guise of many gods. Hence polytheism was not the father of monotheism, monotheism was at least as ancient, and probably far older, than polytheism, and indeed probably beginning as a direct Revelation from God, as a quote from Isaac Newton later in this work reveals.
Even the Hindus, with their polytheistic worship of many hundreds of gods, once had this concept of one, universal, supreme, invisible God, whom they called Brahman. We find that three hundred years before Christ, Megasthenes, a Greek envoy to the court of the Hindu Mauryan Empire, described the early Hindu belief in one invisible Creator, which sounded remarkably like a passage from the Book of Acts, wherein Paul addressed the Greeks concerning the "unknown" God.
Megasthenes wrote: "In many points their [the Hindu's] teaching agrees with that of the Greeks-for instance that the world has a beginning and an end in time, and that its shape is spherical; that the Deity, who is its Governor and Maker, interpenetrates the whole . . ." (H.G. Rawlinson, India; A Short Cultural History, New York: D. Appleton-Century Co., Inc., 1938, pp.72; quote from Civilization: Past and Present, T. Walter Wallbank and Alastair M. Taylor, Scott Foresman and Company, 1960, pp. 168.
Only later did the Hindus fall into pantheism and polytheism. The Greeks had also fallen into rampant polytheism, yet still retained the knowledge of the one God when St. Paul addressed the Athenians on Mars Hill: "Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw that the city was wholly given over to idolatry . . . Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill, and said, "You men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are too superstitious, for as I passed by and beheld your devotions, I found an alter with the inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD."
"He whom you worship in ignorance will I now declare unto you. God who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands, neither is worshipped by [the work of ] mens hands, as though he should be in need of anything, since He gives life and breath to all, and all things, and has made of one blood all nations of men to dwell in the face of the earth, and the appointed beforehand the times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might seek after Him, and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. For in Him we live, and move, and have our being, as also certain of your own poets have said, for we are also His offspring." (Acts, 17:16; 17:22-28)
Paul preached to them on the errors of idolatry, and then of the resurrection of Christ: "Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godheaad is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's devices, and the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men every where to repent: Because he has appointed a day wherein he will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He has ordained, in that He has given assurance to all men, in that He has raised Him from the dead." (Acts, 17:29-31, The Holy Bible)
Psalm 96 states that the gods of the nations are idols, i.e. devils, the various lesser deities in later Hindu pagan worship and in the corrupted worship of other nations. After the sons of Noah and their descendants spread throughout the entire earth, the various cultures that developed gradually lost the original Revelation carried down from Adam through Seth and his offspring, and then through Noah and his son Shem and their descendants. Even before the South American Indians worshipped their bloodthirsty sun god, they had the knowledge of an invisible God Who created all things.
Apparently Balaam was a member of a pagan nation who knew and communed with God, and God appeared
and spoke to Abimelech in a dream during Abrahams sojourn in Ge'rar. Gradually
though, as has been stated, all of the pagan nations lost the knowledge of God
as Creator and Father, except the Hebrew nation, through whom the Messiah came.
There is no other way to come to know God since the advent of Christ's birth
anyhow, except through Jesus Himself. Christ said, "I am the way, and the truth,
and the life. No man comes unto the Father but by Me." Other religions can be
stepping stones to Christ. While some of them have a partial revelation of God's
truth, only in Christ can it be said "In Him all the fullness of the Godhead
If there were any pagan religions that had some remnants of truth left in them before the time of Christ, or up until the time and the place where the Gospel has been preached somewhere, then they were provisional teachings at best; they were merely meant to prepare the way for people to receive the gospel; and again, this is not a universal endorsement by any means of any or all pagan religions before the Christian era, many had become very corrupt, not every pagan religion necessarily had its roots in some ancient revelation given to Noah, some came about through human artifice and some came about through false and deceitful revelations.
Even Buddhism, with all of it's high ethical ideals and moral tradition, has no remedy for those who transgress it's precepts; they are bound by the inexorable "law" of karma to suffer the ill consequences of their misdeeds. In the Buddha's parable of the raft he said that his teaching should be used as a raft to get from one side of a stream to another, however once the raft had served it's purpose and the man continued on his journey the raft should be left by the river. It would be useless for the man to carry the raft with him as he continued over the land. So when one comes to Jesus Christ one no longer needs the teachings of the Buddha.
The heroes and founders of other religious traditions, however noble sounding and however lofty their philosophical and theological positions may sound, shall all bend their knees someday to the Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world. Scripture states "For there is one God, and one mediator between man and God, the man Jesus Christ." Christ, the Son of God, and God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, is the only hope for a lost and sinful mankind.
3. Some have made the assertion that since modern science has supposedly proven that the earth and the universe are billions of years old, then this would somehow discredit a religious outlook as a viable paradigm for contemporary, rational man, since some Christians hold to the view that the earth is only six thousand to ten thousand years old. There are more than a few problems with this line of thought. For one thing, there are many devout Christians who believe in an old earth, and there are also many credentialed scientists who believe in a young earth (for a list of some of these scientists, see Answers In Genesis on the internet, as well as The Institute For Creation Research). The idea that the universe is perhaps billions of years old is not always opposed to a religious outlook, and is not necessarily a new concept at all, nor is it solely the province of modern science either. The sixth century Christian St. Maximus stated as Orthodox tradition that there are a large number of past, present and future world ages, with some larger ages, or aeons, encompassing the consummation of smaller ages (Philokalia, Vol. 2, Faber and Faber, London, 1981) The ancient Greeks and Mayans also believed in a vast number of different ages, or cycles of creation and destruction for the universe, with the entire Mayan time cycle covering many millions of years. Cuvier, the founder of the science of paleontology, believed in the Biblical flood but also believed that there had been a series of different ages of the earth ended by great catastrophes that caused the great extinctions that have occurred on earth. Cuvier was a devout Christian who flatly rejected the evolutionary ideas floating around in his day, years before Darwin took these same evolutionary ideas and put them into his Origin. Thousands of years before modern telescopes and radiometric dating, the ancient legends of the Hindus and Buddhists stated that our universe is simply one of countless universes that exist throughout infinite space, which the Hindu scriptures describe as a vast ocean of existence, and that many of these universes have planets with life on them, even intelligent life. According to the ancient Hindu texts, our universe has gone through many vast ages of creation and destruction, called kalpas, stretching out over billions of years. Every kalpa is further divided up into smaller cycles of time called yugas, lasting for hundreds of thousands of years, with each yuga being eventually brought to a close by a world-wide catastrophe caused by fire, wind, earthquake or water that destroys most of the living things on the earth. At the end of each great kalpa there is a larger destruction, or, more accurately, a consummation, that encompasses the universe as well. Then after many billions of years there is the beginning of a new kalpa, when mankind and the rest of the living species on earth are recreated by a Supreme Being, according to Hindu legends. Interestingly enough, the last yuga was brought to a close during a great war on the earth as described in the Hindu epic Mahabharata, which corresponds to Genesis mentioning that just before the Flood of Noah the earth was filled with violence. It must be remembered that at the same time that the Greeks, Mayans, and Hindus had developed their creation legends, they also had achieved rather highly developed sciences of astronomy and mathematics. As far as life existing elsewhere in the universe, many Seventh Day Adventist Christians believe in a multiplicity of worlds with life on them also, all created by a Supreme Being. A few centuries ago some Catholic writers speculated on the existence of numerous worlds with living creatures on them. It would be perhaps a trifle egotistic to believe that God had created these numberless vast galaxies, each consisting of billions or trillions of stars, only to create life on planet earth and nowhere else. The Bible does not affirm nor deny this possibility of life on other worlds; it merely concerns itself with the creation and history of life on this earth. The Bible does describe at least three time cycles that could be compared to yugas. These would be the world prior to the Flood of Noah, the present age of the earth, and the millennium age after Christ's return. It is also rather interesting that the beginning of this current yuga or age in Hinduism, called the Kali yuga, or Age of darkness, began at 3011 B.C., roughly the same date as the beginning of Egyptian civilization, the flood of Noah according to the Bible, and nearly the exact same date as the beginning of the ancient Maya calender for the present sun, or age of the earth, 3014 B.C.
4. Richard F. Leakey and Glynn Isaac Ed., Human Ancestors, W.H. Freeman and Co., San Francisco, Ca.
5. Colliers Encyclopedia, Vol. 9, pp. 4813, MacMillan Educational Co., New York, P.F.Collier Inc., New York, 1984
6. Nora Barlow, The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809-1882, pp.223-225, 1959 Edition, London, Collins; John Bowlby, Charles Darwin: A New Life, p. 40.
7. John Bowlby, Charles Darwin: A New Life, pp.51, by W.W.. Norton & Co., New York, 1991, RPL Bowlby, RJM Bowlby & Gatling.
8. (ibid, pp.245) Browne's sources for this are Neil McHendrick, Josiah Wedgwood and Factory Discipline, Historical Journal 4:30-35, and John Mackenzie, The Empire of Nature: Hunting, Conservation and British Imperialism, Manchester University Press, Manchester, England, 1988, and Maureen Macneil on Erasmus Darwin, Manchester University Press and London, Free Association Books, 1986 and 1987.
9. Janet Browne, Charles Darwin, Alfred A. Knopf Pub., New York, 1995, pp.8.
10. Bowlby, pp. 44-45.
11. Bowlby, pp. 70. His quotation is taken from the unpublished Wedgwood archives in the library of the University of Keen.
13. Emma Darwin: A Century of Family Letters, 1792-1896, 2 Vols, edited by Henrietta Litchfield, 1915, Vol. 2, pp.184.
14. Bowlby, pp. 60. Historian Janet Browne also mentioned this mysterious silence on the death of Charles Darwin's mother.
15. ibid, pp. 22
16. The Wedgwood Circle, 1730-1897, pp.181
17. Charles Darwin, Autobiography, pp.30
18. Bowlby, pp.57
19. The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, pp. 39-40, edited by Nora Barlow, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, , 1993.
20. Autobiography of Charles Darwin, Barlow, pp.41
21. Browne, pp.14
22. Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 16, pp.1026, 1986.
23. Darwin, Biographical Note, Great Books of the Western World Series, Vol. 49, Published by William Benton Co., under the auspices of Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952.
24. Browne, pp. 14.
25. Charles Darwin, Autobiography, pp.26-27.
26. Biographical note attached to Darwin's Origin of Species, Benton edition, also Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 16, 1986.
27. The Autobiography of Charles Darwin and Selected Letters, pp. 18, Dover Publications, New York, 1958.
28. Browne, pp.62
29. (ibid), pp.64
30. Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 16, pp.1026, 1986.
31. Darwin, Autobiography and Letters.
32. Browne, pp.109-110. In light of the very damaging evidence given by Browne concerning the development of Darwin's character, it should be born in mind that she is not usually counted among his severest critics.
34. Wilder-Smith, A.E., Man's Origin, Man's Destiny, Bethany House Publishers, 1975, pp.197.
35. Encyclopedia Britannica, Vo. 16, 1986.
36. The Complete Correspondence of Charles Darwin, edited by F. Burkhardt and S. Smith, Vol. 1, pp.491, 1985-1988.
37. The Voyage of Charles Darwin, Charles Darwin, pp.10, The American Museum of Natural History, The Natural History Library, Anchor Books, Doubleday & Co., Inc., Garden City New York, 1962.
38. Browne, pp.204. See also the original, Narrative of the Surveying Voyage of H.M.S. Adventure and Beagle, Vol. 2:56.
39. Narrative of the Voyages of the Adventure and Beagle, by Admiral Fitzroy, 1839. See also Amabel Williams Ellis, "The Voyage of the Beagle, Adapted from the Narratives and letters of Charles Darwin and Captain Fitzroy, pp. 26, J.B. Lippencott Co., Philadelphia and London, 1931.
40. Beagle Diary, by Charles Darwin, edited by R.D. Keynes, 1988, pp.180-181, pp177; and The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, Vol. 1, pp.326, 1821-1861, F.H. Burkhardt and S. Smith ed., Cambridge University Press, University Library, Cambridge, 1983-1984
41. Desmond and Moore, Darwin, pp. 141.
42. Charles Darwin, The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, Vols.. 1-9, (1821-1861), Cambridge University Press, See also Browne, pp. 256-257 and Desmond and Moore, pp.141.
43. Beagle Diary, R.D. Keynes Ed., 1988.
44. Wilder-Smith, Man's Origin, Man's Destiny, pp.197.
45. (ibid) pp.217.
46. Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 16, 1986.
47. Darwin, by Adrian Desmond and James Moore, Warner Books, 1991, pp.447
48. World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 33, 1983, Scott Fetzer Co.
49. James Moore, The Darwin Legend, Baker Books Grand Rapids Michigan, 1994. Huxley also dispelled this rumor, writing on February 12, 1887: "I have the best authority for informing you that the statement which you attribute to the Revd. Mr. Mutch of Toronto that 'Mr. Darwin, when on his death bed, abjectly whined for a minister and renouncing evolution, sought safety in the blood of the Saviour' is totally false and without any kind of foundation." Ibid, pp.117, The Darwin Legend, taken from The Huxley Papers, 8;135-137, 138-139.
[I] Desmond King-Hele, Doctor of Revolution: The Life and Genius of Erasmus Darwin, Faber and Faber, London, 1977, pp.299-300