Carnivore Dreams – Charles Darwin

Fascinating guy. Planned to go into the clergy as a young man. Was a Unitarian, then part of the Anglican Church, then agnostic (but never atheist).

“When Brodie Innes sent on a sermon by E. B. Pusey, Darwin responded that he could “hardly see how religion & science can be kept as distinct as he desires, as geology has to treat of the history of the Earth & Biology that of man.— But I most wholly agree with you that there is no reason why the disciples of either school should attack each other with bitterness, though each upholding strictly their beliefs. You, I am sure, have always practically acted in this manner in your conduct towards me & I do not doubt to all others. Nor can I remember that I have ever published a word directly against religion or the clergy.”[78] In response to an enquiry about the same sermon from the botanist Henry Nicholas Ridley, Darwin stated that “Dr Pusey was mistaken in imagining that I wrote the Origin with any relation whatever to Theology”, and added that “many years ago when I was collecting facts for the Origin, my belief in what is called a personal God was as firm as that of Dr Pusey himself, & as to the eternity of matter I have never troubled myself about such insoluble questions.— Dr Pusey’s attack will be as powerless to retard by a day the belief in evolution as were the virulent attacks made by divines fifty years ago against Geology, & the still older ones of the Catholic church against Galileo”.[79] Brodie Innes deplored “unwise and violent” theological attacks on his old friend, for while they had disagreements, “How nicely things would go if other folk were like Darwin and Brodie Innes.”

In a letter to a correspondent at the University of Utrecht in 1873, Darwin expressed agnosticism:

I may say that the impossibility of conceiving that this grand and wondrous universe, with our conscious selves, arose through chance, seems to me the chief argument for the existence of God; but whether this is an argument of real value, I have never been able to decide. I am aware that if we admit a first cause, the mind still craves to know whence it came from and how it arose. Nor can I overlook the difficulty from the immense amount of suffering through the world. I am, also, induced to defer to a certain extent to the judgment of many able men who have fully believed in God; but here again I see how poor an argument this is. The safest conclusion seems to me to be that the whole subject is beyond the scope of man’s intellect; but man can do his duty.[80]

Wikipedia (not always to be trusted — a jumping off place — but imagine these quotes are accurate.)

3 thoughts on “Carnivore Dreams – Charles Darwin

  1. Darwin does get credit for an attack upon religion that, as I understand his works, he did not intend. He did study for the clergy, give up on that, and after that his naturalist pursuits beginning in earnest. He was dismayed by the reactions to his theories based on religion. As he got older, he became more despondent regarding how his efforts and insights were used. I grew up in a church that appreciated the harmony between religious and scientific pursuits. Regarding Darwin’s agnosticism, I think that’s where he was quite honestly. I’ve known many agnostics whom I admire, at least one of whom I’m related to.

  2. When I was younger, I was agnostic as is my father. My mother was a Methodist and my grandmother as I said, unitarian. She was once a scientologist I think, but got smart pretty fast there. Yes, I always write about how science and “religion” or spirituality are not incompatible and almost seem to need one another. Science cannot exist without faith and that is what many of their theories and assumptions are based upon. And it seems almost ludicrous that religious people can deny science. Einstein talked about this a lot as well.

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