Monday, December 6, 2010

Darwin's religious views

The concept of intelligent design, the question of free will, and human values are all affected by Darwin's work in the nineteenth century. Although, in his book, On the Origin of Species, he did not express his religious position, but it is believed that he gradually became an atheist as the result of the experiments he made and the evidences he found in nature. However, the views of Darwin on religion and the implications of his Evolution theory has still remained controversial. In my opinion, by looking at Darwin's Evolution theory, everyone can see that his theory has conflict with Christianity, God, and Bible. Nevertheless, during his life, Darwin himself went back and forth from one religious view to the other. Also, the spectrum of ideas at Darwin's time affected his religious views. There are a lot of letters from different people with different religious beliefs to Darwin and there are lots of answers to these letters from Darwin that can show his beliefs. On the other hand, it seems that Darwin did not want to express his religious beliefs because he believed that being a naturalist and being a religious person are two different things that cannot be mixed. Yet, his letter to Emma about religion, and his debates with different clergymen at his time demonstrates Darwin's doubt about intelligent design, God, and religion.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

the Places Darwin came upon

Shrewsbury was where Darwin was born and raised. However, it was Cambridge that Darwin found his love for the natural world. He gained much knowledge about studying nature from University of Cambridge. During the years at Cambridge, Darwin attended Revd. John Stevens Henslow’s lecture, Professor of Botany, and was addicted to natural history after. At the end of his University life, Henslow invited Darwin to join aboard H.M.S. Beagle as a naturalist on its two year survey of South America, including Valparaiso, Pacific Ocean, Cocos Islands, and South Africa, which later extended into five years. During the voyage, Darwin made many discoveries from the nature world as he would gather and preserve insects, birds, plants, and many other specimens to support his findings. The Beagle voyage auxiliary Darwin’s innovation with the world. After the return of voyage, Darwin’s life settled in London where he was admitted as a Fellow of the Royal Geological Society on discovered new specimen. This is also where he publishes books, evaluates his findings, finished his autobiography, and died.

Darwin to me is still a naturalist as he is only publishing what he had found for the world. The places he had been have a lot of effect on Darwin, especially the Beagle voyage where he collected and make note of many specimens to strengthen his passion for nature. Ascertain ideas for evolution is certainly not only from Darwin but from many other theorists as well. Darwin has only made his theories in more surpass language package since he has more breakthrough knowledge from the places he went.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Darwin's religious view during writing Origin of Species

It seems that although Darwin did not believe in God, but he kept it to himself and avoided public controversy.In the origin of species he did not directly stated that he is an atheist despite of the materials in the book, which was against Bible and Church of England beliefs. In his autobiography that was written in 1876 he mentions that when he was writing Origin of Species he still believed in existence of God. He says
"The extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist."

Also, in his letter to Asa Gray, an American Presbyterian who was cooperating with Darwin and discussing the relations between natural theology and natural selection, Darwin mentioned that he still cannot reject God as the first cause. The following is a letter Darwin sent to Asa Gray about his religious beliefs:
"With respect to the theological view of the question; this is always painful to me.— I am bewildered.– I had no intention to write atheistically. But I own that I cannot see, as plainly as others do, & as I [should] wish to do, evidence of design & beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I see no necessity in the belief that the eye was expressly designed. On the other hand I cannot anyhow be contented to view this wonderful universe & especially the nature of man, & to conclude that everything is the result of brute force. I am inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of what we may call chance. Not that this notion at all satisfies me. I feel most deeply that the whole subject is too profound for the human intellect. A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton.— Let each man hope & believe what he can." Therefore, during accumulating his thoughts during Origin of Species, Darwin was still in doubt about existence of God and his tendency to Christianity.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Erasmus Darwin

We are all the product of our surroundings, and our characteristics and interests are built from those we surround ourselves with. Charles Darwin’s grandfather was perhaps one of the most influential people in his life. Being exposed to Erasmus’s literature, especially those on plant evolution must have sparked his earliest interests in biology, and his fascination on biological change. Although Charles had never met his grandfather, the lineage is clear when understanding they both shared a mutual interest in evolution. It is interesting to note that Butler’s criticism of Darwin’s work illustrates a lack of recognition on the part of his grandfather, and this blatantly seen in the literature. Erasmus had many interests and hobbies, and with many of them combined what surfaced were poems on evolution. Multiple methods of studies used by Erasmus were followed forth by Charles and the many different subjects he was clearly interested in. Erasmus was a very smart man, and as such he had come up with many inventions in his lifetime. This ambition towards making new things, and new discoveries was perhaps a genetic precursor to what was in store for the future generations of the Darwin family.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Regarding Golnar’s post, “Darwin’s religious views during marriage”:

Darwin’s shift to atheism was gradual, peaceful, and imperturbable. He quoted, “Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct." For the remainder of his life, he managed to maintain confidence in his religious views, while also maintaining confidence in his marital love. However, written records show that it was not a passive issue between Charles and Emma. Upon realizing that her husband had become fully atheistic, Emma sent a letter which within stated, “May not the habit of scientific pursuits of believing nothing till it is proved, influence your mind too much in other things which cannot be proved in the same way, and which if true are likely to be above our comprehension." Emma seems to be begging her husband not to turn against their faith, and though Charles never doubted his own atheistic views, it is clear that he struggled with their differing opinions. In response to his wife’s letter, Charles stated, “When I am dead, know that many times, I have kissed and cried over this.”

Therefore, it should be noted that Charles Darwin was not invincible to the marital strains (experienced by many in society) resulting from contrasting views on religion.
It should also be noted that this situation could represent the sacrifices that a man in the Victorian era would have been required to make in the name of science.

*All quotes from: Barlow Nora, The Autobiography of Darwin Charles, 1809-1882, WW Norton & Company, New York 1958

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Darwin's religious views during marriage

After returning from the Voyage of the Beagle, Darwin married to his cousin Emma Wedgwood Darwin. Emma was religious and believed in God, Bible, and life after death. At the time they got married, their beliefs about Christianity were different. Emma was a Unitarianism, which was in contrast with Trinity. However, Darwin was uncertain about God's existence and discussed his beliefs with Emma. The couple would socialize with clergymen such as James Martineau and John James Taylor.  They would read the work of some authors such as Francis William Newman who believed that Phases of faith described a journey from Calvinism to theism. Darwin read Newman's book during his daughter's illness. In spite of Darwin's relation to these clergymen and Emma's religious point of views, he gradually stopped going to church after his daughter's illness and tended to become agnostic after theorizing his ideas about transmutation of species. Also, he lost his faith about the existence of life after death.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Evolution both a theory and a fact, Response to Leona's post

There is always confusion and debate about evolution framework. In science a theory is simply an explanation or model of the world that makes testable predictions. A scientific fact refers to experimental or empirical data or objective verifiable observation. However in general a fact refers to things that can be explained by strong evidence. For example, in daily conversation there are some theories that are conceived as facts.When we say the earth revolves around the sun  and objects fall due to gravity, we use these statements as facts. Therefore, for the same reason that gravity can be called a fact and can be tested and observed and there is strong evidence for it , evolution can be called a fact as well. There are also some debates that evolution theory has not been proven. But, the proof is mistaken by urging evidence.  As a matter of fact, proof of a theory is only possible through mathematics and logic and not through natural sciences. In scientific definition, evolution is an observable process that occurs whenever a population of organisms genetically changes over time. Thus, evolution is widely considered both a fact and a theory.