Thursday, September 18, 2008

What did Darwin say about religion and God?

The Times has an interesting collection of Darwin's quotations on religion. I don't think there is any real surprise here. He was a thoughtful and polite Agnostic (close to the atheist spectrum) who respected views of others. I think it is cute(?) and modest when he says, "My theology is a simple muddle". How well will he do in the culture wars of today? What will be his reaction to the clear deception of ID-folks or to the idiocy of creationists like Ken Ham? What would he think of the strategy of the New Atheists? (actually, this answer is in his quotation #7 below). Or for that matter, what would the New Atheists think of him?

Here are the quotes (hat tip richarddawkins.net)

1. “The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic.” (Autobiography)

2. “It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist & an evolutionist.” (Letter to John Fordyce, May 7 1879)

3. “I hardly see how religion & science can be kept as distinct as [Edward Pusey] desires… But I most wholly agree… that there is no reason why the disciples of either school should attack each other with bitterness.” (Letter to J. Brodie Innes, November 27 1878)

4. “In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God.” (Letter to John Fordyce, May 7 1879)

5. “I think that generally (& more and more so as I grow older) but not always, that an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind.” (Letter to John Fordyce, May 7 1879)

6. “I am sorry to have to inform you that I do not believe in the Bible as a divine revelation, & therefore not in Jesus Christ as the son of God.” (Letter to Frederick McDermott, November 24 1880)

7. [In conversation with the atheist Edward Aveling, 1881] “Why should you be so aggressive? Is anything gained by trying to force these new ideas upon the mass of mankind?” (Edward Aveling, The religious views of Charles Darwin, 1883)

8. “Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?” (Letter to Graham William, July 3 1881)

9. "My theology is a simple muddle: I cannot look at the Universe as the result of blind chance, yet I can see no evidence of beneficent Design." (Letter to Joseph Hooker, July 12 1870)

10. “I can never make up my mind how far an inward conviction that there must be some Creator or First Cause is really trustworthy evidence.” (Letter to Francis Abbot, September 6 1871)

Read the full article here.