, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 173-183
Date: 21 Aug 2009

Why Darwin rejected intelligent design

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As a Cambridge University undergraduate Charles Darwin was fascinated and convinced by the argument for intelligent design, as set forth in William Paley’s 1802 classic, Natural Theology. Subsequently, during his five-year voyage on HMS Beagle (1831–1836), Darwin interpreted his biological findings through a creationist lens, including the thought-provoking evidence he encountered during his historic visit to the Galápagos Islands in September and October 1835. After his return to England in 1836 and his subsequent conversion to the idea of organic evolution in March 1837, Darwin searched for a theory that would explain both the fact of evolution and the widespread appearance of intelligent design. His insight into the process of natural selection, which occurred in September 1838, provided this alternative explanation. Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859) exemplifies his skillful deployment of the hypothetico-deductive method in testing and refuting the arguments for intelligent design that he had once so ardently admired.