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Darwin and Religion: Correcting the Caricatures

Abstract

Much has been written on the subject of Darwinism and religion, but rather less on the development of Darwin’s own thinking on religious matters and how it changed over time. What were his religious, or anti-religious, beliefs? Did he believe that his theory of evolution by natural selection was incompatible with belief in a Creator? Was it his revolutionary science that turned him into an agnostic? If not, what other considerations affected his judgment? The aim of this paper is to illuminate these questions and, in so doing, to correct some popular caricatures that frequently appear when the two words ‘science’ and ‘religion’ are juxtaposed. Darwin himself reflected deeply on the theological problem of suffering and justified his naturalism on the ground that it made the deity less directly responsible for the more repulsive features of creation. The deism that he espoused at the time of writing his Origin of Species also left its mark in his conviction that it would be demeaning to the deity to suggest that its purposes could not be achieved through natural causes. The diversity of the religious responses also corrects a common misperception that there was almost unanimous hostility from religious interests.

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Correspondence to John Hedley Brooke.

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Brooke, J.H. Darwin and Religion: Correcting the Caricatures. Sci & Educ 19, 391–405 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11191-009-9211-9

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Keywords

  • Natural Selection
  • Moral Sense
  • Natural Theology
  • Literal Truth
  • Religious Feeling