The standard, long held view of the connection between Darwin’s religion and his theory is wrong. Supposedly he was a Christian who studied at Cambridge to become a minister. But then, during his voyage around the world on the Beagle, the scientific facts persuaded him to believe in evolution and give up his Christian faith. However, an examination of the various influences upon the youthful Charles Darwin reveals an entirely different story.
Charles’ grandfather, Erasmus, a successful and wealthy physician in the 18th century, wrote the book, Zoonomia (Laws of Life), which portrays a pantheistic world in which all life and species evolved. Erasmus’ close friend, industrialist Josiah Wedgwood I, embraced Unitarian theology. Erasmus’ son and Charles’ father, Robert Darwin, also a wealthy physician, probably an atheist, married Susannah Wedgwood. Other marriage ties between the two families followed. Not surprisingly, Darwin males generally were freethinkers, following the Unitarian, pantheistic and atheistic views of their principal sires.
The Son, His Father and His Wife.
Charles Darwin, was born in 1809. His dominant, atheistic father, Robert, advised him to conceal his unorthodox beliefs from his wife. Should he predecease her this would spare her from unnecessary grief because of her spouse’s dying an unbeliever. Charles never spoke publicly about his religious views. However, before he married Emma Wedgwood in 1839 he told her about his rejection of Christian faith. Though probably not herself evangelical, she was nevertheless pious, and the rather gross unbelief of her husband was painful to her. But during his life and even after his death she protected his reputation by concealing his unbelief.
Robert Darwin sent his son off to Edinburgh University in 1825. The sixteen-year-old boy found himself in a university community which was in a continual ferment of radicalism of all sorts advanced by dissenters from the Anglican church, freethinkers, anti-Christians and atheists, materialists and evolutionists. Evolution was in the air. Most influential in this phase of Charles Darwin’s life was Robert Grant, a dozen years his senior. Holding the medical degree from Edinburgh, he had made himself the leading British authority in invertebrate zoology. Grant was an avowed atheist, and evolutionist, and also a social and political radical. On zoological field trips with Grant young Charles listened to his persuasive private lecturing but kept his own counsel. Deeply interested in biological science, Charles abhorred medicine The sight of blood sickened him. After two years he returned home without a degree.
Disappointed, father Robert Darwin decided to send him off to Cambridge University for a degree in theology, after which he could purchase for him a “living” in an Anglican country church. There he could be a sportsman, a scholar, or an amateur naturalist, supported by a government stipend for life. Charles dutifully signed onto the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England and entered Cambridge. He surely saw the hypocrisy in an atheist father’s financing his son’s preparation to be a minister of the gospel. Continue reading Charles Darwin’s Hidden Agenda for Science – (re post)