Journal of Biosciences

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 173–183 | Cite as

Why Darwin rejected intelligent design

  • Frank J. SullowayEmail author


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.


Charles Darwin intelligent design natural selection Origin of Species scientific method 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Browne E J 1995 Charles Darwin: Voyaging (New York: Alfred A Knopf)Google Scholar
  2. Christie D M, Duncan R A, McBirney A R, Richards M A, White W M, Harpp K S, and Fox C G 1992 Drowned islands downstream from the Galapagos hotspot imply extended speciation times; Nature (London) 355 246–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Crimmins J E 2004 William Paley; Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 42 445–451Google Scholar
  4. Darwin C R 1839 Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by H.M.S. Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy, R.N. from 1832 to 1836 (London: Henry Colburn)Google Scholar
  5. Darwin C R (ed.) 1841 The zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy, R.N., during the years 1832–1836. Part III: Birds (London: Smith, Elder)Google Scholar
  6. Darwin C R 1845 Journal of researches into the natural history and geology of the various countries visited during the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle round the world, under the command of Capt. Fitz Roy, R.N. (2nd edition) (London: John Murray)Google Scholar
  7. Darwin C R 1859 On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life (London: John Murray)Google Scholar
  8. Darwin C R 1887 The life and letters of Charles Darwin (3 vols) (ed.) F Darwin (London: John Murray)Google Scholar
  9. Darwin C R 1903 More Letters of Charles Darwin (2 vols) (eds) F Darwin and A C Seward (New York: D Appleton and Company)Google Scholar
  10. Darwin C R 1958 [1876] The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809–1882 (New York: W W Norton)Google Scholar
  11. Darwin C R 1959 Darwin’s journal (ed.) G de Beer; Bull. Brit. Mus. (Nat. Hist.) Hist. Ser. 2(1)Google Scholar
  12. Darwin C R 1963 [1836] Darwin’s ornithological notes (ed.) N Barlow; Bull. Brit. Mus. (Nat. Hist.) Hist. Ser. 2 (7)Google Scholar
  13. Darwin C R 1988 Charles Darwin’s Diary (ed.) R D Keynes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)Google Scholar
  14. Darwin C R 1990 The correspondence of Charles Darwin: volume 6: 1856–1857 (eds) F Burkhardt and S Smith (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)Google Scholar
  15. Darwin C R 1991 The correspondence of Charles Darwin: volume 7: 1858–1859 (eds) F Burkhardt and S Smith (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)Google Scholar
  16. FitzRoy R 1839 Narrative of the surveying voyage of His Majesty’s ships Adventure and Beagle between the years 1826–1836, describing their examination of the southern shore of South America, and Beagle’s circumnavigation of the Globe. In three volumes (Vol. 2) (London: Henry Colburn)Google Scholar
  17. Ghiselin M T 1969 The triumph of the Darwinian method (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press)Google Scholar
  18. Glick T (ed.) 1972 The comparative reception of Darwinism (Austin: University of Texas Press)Google Scholar
  19. Gould J 1837a Remarks on a group of ground finches from Mr. Darwin’s collection; Proc. Zool. Soc. London 5 4–7Google Scholar
  20. Gould J 1837b Three species of the genus Orpheus, from the Galapagos, in the collection of Mr. Darwin; Proc. Zool. Soc. London 5 27Google Scholar
  21. Grant P R and Grant B R 2008 How and why species multiply: The radiation of Darwin’s finches (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press)Google Scholar
  22. Lack, D 1947 Darwin’s finches (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)Google Scholar
  23. Malthus T R 1826 An essay on the principle of population; or, A view of its past and present effects on human happiness; with an inquiry into our prospects respecting the future removal or mitigation of the evils which it occasions (3 vols) (6th edition) (London: John Murray)Google Scholar
  24. Mayr E 1982 The growth of biological thought: Diversity, evolution, and inheritance (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press)Google Scholar
  25. Mayr E 1991 One long argument: Charles Darwin and the genesis of modern evolutionary thought (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press)Google Scholar
  26. Paley W 1785 The principles of moral and political philosophy (London: R Faulder)Google Scholar
  27. Paley W 1794 A view of the evidences of Christianity (London: R Faulder)Google Scholar
  28. Paley W 1802 Natural theology; or, Evidences of the existence and attributes of the Deity, collected from the appearances of nature (London: R Faulder)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Paley W 1860 The works of William Paley, D. D. (London: T Nelson and Sons)Google Scholar
  30. Petren K, Grant B R and Grant P R 1999 A phylogeny of Darwin’s finches based on microsatellite DNA length variation; Proc. R. Soc. London B 266 321–329CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Ray J 1691 The wisdom of God manifested in the works of creation (London: Samuel Smith)Google Scholar
  32. Seward A C (ed.) 1909 Darwin and modern science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)Google Scholar
  33. Sulloway F J 1979 Geographic isolation in Darwin’s thinking: The vicissitudes of a crucial idea; Stud. Hist. Biol. 3 23–65PubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Sulloway F J 1982a Darwin and his finches: The evolution of a legend; J. Hist. Biol. 15 1–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sulloway F J 1982b Darwin’s conversion: The Beagle voyage and its aftermath; J. Hist. Biol. 15 325–396PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sulloway F J 1982c The Beagle collections of Darwin’s finches (Geospizinae); Bull. Brit. Mus. (Nat. Hist.) Zool. Ser. 43 No. 2Google Scholar
  37. Sulloway F J 1984 Darwin and the Galapagos; Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 21 29–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Sulloway F J 2006 Why Darwin rejected intelligent design; in: Intelligent thought: Science versus the intelligent design movement (ed.) J Brockman (New York: Vintage) pp 107–126Google Scholar
  39. Sulloway F J 2009 Tantalizing tortoises and the Darwin-Galápagos legend; J. Hist. Biol. 42 3–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Werner R and Hoernle K 2003 New volcanological and volatile data provide strong support for the continuous existence of Galápagos Islands over the past 17 million years; Int. J. Earth Sci. 92 904–911CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Indian Academy of Sciences 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Personality and Social ResearchUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

Personalised recommendations