Charles Darwin's Religious Beliefs

Term Paper:

Throughout history, many have inquired into Charles Darwin’s religious beliefs and have come up with a wide variety of answers. Why are his personal beliefs important when dealing with a matter of science that Darwin researched? Darwin excluded the question of a Creator from his works because it was irrelevant to his scientific research, and the debate regarding Darwin’s faith arises due to his conflicting accounts of his personal faith as well as the way his early childhood and teenage years shaped his religious views at different times and provided a foundation for his revolutionary research.

The source of much controversy in Darwin’s faith arises in his account of his upbringing. Charles Darwin was born February 12th, 1809 in Shrewsbury, England to Robert and Susannah Darwin. His parents were not particularly devout in their religious practices as he grew up, but they trained him in other ways for his future career. His father was a doctor, and would take young Darwin out to patient visits with him and explain the causes of the ailments and their treatments. From his father, Darwin saw how observations could lead to a theory (Darwin, p. 37).

His grandfather, Dr. Erasmus Darwin, was a revolutionary scientist of his day who published a work called Zoönomia in which he looked at adaptations in the human body without regards to the commonly held belief that the purpose of the Creator’s works was to immediately benefit the human race (Barlow p. 150). Darwin accounts in his autobiography that during his early years he had read his grandfathers writings “without [them] producing any effect on me. It is probable that the hearing rather early in life such views maintained and praised may have favored my upholding the...

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...too important as it seemed to me to be admitted as the usual inaccuracies of eye-witnesses…I gradually crew to disbelieve in Christianity as divine revelation” (Darwin, p. 86). So, while the historical inaccuracies frustrated him, and led him towards disbelief, he later states that he was “very unwilling to give up my belief” and found himself trying to imagine evidence to convince himself. However “gradually disbelief crept over [him] at a very slow rate, but was at last complete” (Darwin, p. 86-87). He does not say when in his life this transformation took place, but by May of 1878 in a letter, he writes “I think that generally (and more so as I grow older) but not always, that an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind” (Life and Letters, p. 55).

As even Darwin himself describes his theology as a “simple muddle” (Life and Letters)
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