Paul Taylor exposes the myth

Paul Taylor
Paul Taylor

With the current interest in Charles Darwin, leading up to his bicentenary in 2009, it is worth exploding one of the myths of Darwinism.

It has often been said that Charles Darwin was brought up as a Bible-believing Christian, who later rejected his evangelical faith. However, this version of events is somewhat distant from the truth.

Darwin's grandfather, Erasmus, was a member of a sceptical scientific society - along with Darwin's maternal grandfather, Josiah Wedgwood, of pottery fame. Erasmus Darwin's scepticism is best illustrated by his works, which include elements of a form of theory of evolution.

Darwin's father, Robert Waring Darwin, seems to have inherited this scepticism. Like many middle-class gentlemen of his era, Robert Darwin was a member of the Church of England. However, this is no guarantee of faith. In her major biography of Charles Darwin, Janet Browne has suggested that Robert Darwin was probably an atheist. It is likely that Robert's views would influence his son - especially as his mother's religious background was also far from orthodox. Susannah Darwin, being from the Wedgwood family, was a Unitarian. Unitarians deny the deity of Jesus Christ and also reject the authority and truth of the Bible. They are a highly syncretistic religious grouping, believing that truth can be found in all major religions, and that the Bible merely comprises of moralistic tales to be interpreted as mythologies. Darwin had one year of schooling at a school run by the minister of the Unitarian Church in Shrewsbury which Susannah attended along with the young Charles.

None of the above proves anything about the truth or otherwise of his famous theory of evolution. In this article, I merely want to observe that Darwin's background was not as a bible-believing Christian, even though it was Darwin himself, in his autobiography, who first suggested it was. The godless nature of evolutionism was actually prefigured in his thinking before he ever put pen to paper for his "Origin of Species".

Now that we have exploded a popular evolutionist myth about Darwin, let's make things fair by exploding a popular creationist myth. Some well-meaning Christians have suggested that Darwin recanted of the theory of evolution on his deathbed, and that he became a Christian. Darwin's wife Emma was not happy about her husband's evolutionary ideas. Nevertheless, she always denied that there was any truth in the rumour, which seem to have the status of one of those urban myths, and is very unlikely to be true. In any case, whether Darwin recanted or not has no bearing whatsoever on whether his theory was right or wrong. Darwin's theory falls because of the paucity of evidence, and the intellectual inferiority of its presuppositions. Just as well-meaning evolutionists have tried to bolster their theory, by maintaining that Darwin used to be a Bible-believing Christian, so some others have tried to oppose evolutionism by supporting rumour. But ideas should be examined on the basis of evidence, which is why Answers in Genesis exists to provide Christians with the answers that they need. CR

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