Thursday, February 05, 2009

Darwin's beliefs

Here is Darwin's letter to John Fordyce, in which he states his position on religion. More importantly, he stresses that his views on this matter should not be of concern to anyone but except himself. Do we listen to him? No - of course not. We look at his letters and publish them on blogs.

Here is his letter to John Fordyce, dated May 7, 1879:

Down Beckenham | Kent

May 7th 1879


Dear Sir

It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist & an evolutionist.— You are right about Kingsley. Asa Gray, the eminent botanist, is another case in point— What my own views may be is a question of no consequence to any one except myself.— But as you ask, I may state that my judgment often fluctuates. Moreover whether a man deserves to be called a theist depends on the definition of the term: which is much too large a subject for a note. In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God.— 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.

Dear Sir | Yours faithfully | Ch. Darwin

His personal religious views aside, he does not see a problem with someone being a theist and accepting evolution at the same time. Of course, it rules out certain conceptions of God (especially a personal and an intervening God) - but perhaps it leaves open the possibility of some form of Deism. But Darwin was clearly an agnostic.

Here is the link to the Darwin Correspondence Project.