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.

Darwin = Darwinsim?

As we dig deeper into Darwin's theories and writing, I couldn’t help but notice was our read on Darwin right? People interoperate things differently, who are we to state Darwin’s theory as the define theory of the nation? In some way or another, I feel that even Darwin, himself, has no idea how his theory would be drill on this much. In my belief his theories are just one of the theories not THE theory about evolution. He had concluded his idea based on his observation with the nature, as many had already said he is naturalist. As Shaw declared, Darwin is not the original theory about evolution. The reason why people believed in Darwin is because Darwin’s theory was easier to understand. “Darwin becomes tedious in the manner of a man who insists on continuing to prove his innocence after he has been acquitted.”(Shaw, P.46) As Darwin repeats himself over and over again, people become convinced with the idea and justify his duplication as the reason of his statement. Yet, can his duplication of words really be induced? So as we go on to say an idea is provable or/and doubtful, we left with only one question. Is Darwin’s idea about evolution a theory or a fact?

Friday, November 12, 2010

On the lunatic (pg.13-16) in Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy”

With Chesterton’s religiosity and Christian stance, one could say (and even I admittedly have to write this out to think it more clearly): there is a fine line between the madman and the devout religious man (a believer of an Abrahamic to be specific).

The lunatic’s scope of reality is small and he is at the centre of it. Everything causeless has cause and everything is full of meaning, according to Chesterton, too much meaning. The delusional madman sees himself, not as the observer but as the original cause of all the causes: the purpose of his reality (although we would say that “reality” is actually constructed delusion). Chesterton says to the madman: “if you only knew that these people cared nothing about you! How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it” (16). He shrinks the individual, makes his grandiose self less important and less worthy of the attention the madman perceives.

The devout religious man’s “people” is God. God is concerned with the small movements of the believer, like the lunatic is concerned with the spy watching his every move. A sinful thought or not washing completely in wudu (the Islamic practice of ritually washing before daily prayers, with the recommendation of washing each area three times to be sure of complete purity), everything matters and little of what we think and do is without significance, or in the worst case, consequence. In the strictest mind of the believer, salvation and punishment could not be more self-focused.

However, to be clear, the believer’s reality is not as limited as the madman. He sees greatness and purpose outside of himself and his life, although his self importance somewhat remains. He is certainly not Jesus but he is important enough that every word is heard in thought and prayer by God and the details of his life and person are in a continual process of being recorded and erased (through sin and repentance/ forgiveness).

All of this seems somewhat mad, in the context of Chesterton’s lunatic, but we must remember the believer’s perception of the individual. All individuals are distinct, in that Suzie was created especially by God to be Suzie, with all of her unique Suzie-like qualities, but the importance of the individual’s struggle is lessened without degrading the actual individual (by “struggle” I refer to the apparent madness of God as a spy and the believer at centre of it all, struggling to avoid sin under the watchful eye). While Suzie is struggling and is at the very centre of that struggle, she is not unique in her situation. All individuals, in the mind of the believer, are involved in this reality and no individual or individual’s struggle is greater than any other: faith “leave[s] you in the open, free like other men to look up as well as down” (16).

For those who remain critical of religion: do we call the devoutly faithful partially mad? For the believers: where do we find the individual, ourselves, in the scheme of prayer, judgment and salvation and how much of “I” is too much or too little? It’s a hard process to reconcile or put finely in definitive terms. Since, for Chesterton, reason is what “breed[s] insanity” (12), I pose the question to him: to what extent does religion reason before it becomes lunacy?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Shaw's reflection on evolution theory

Shaw opposes Darwin that everything in life has created by accident. He states that even behind evolution there is a will. But how can we say that animals have will? It is true that giraffe stretches its neck to get the more tender leaves at the top of the tree and it causes giraffe to have longer neck. However, this change has happened because of giraffe's instinct not its will. He believes that it is the will behind evolution that causes change and creating of new tissues as he says "The will to do anything can and does, at a certain pitch of intensity set up by conviction of its necessity, create and organize new tissue to do it with". This might be true for human being who has the will to change his/her situation in life, but in my opinion is not the case for animals.
Shaw affirms Lamarck's theory of evolution but neither Darwin's theory of evolution nor Bergson's philosophy of creative evolution as he says "Lamarck, whilst making many ingenious suggestions as to the reaction of external causes on life and habit, such as changes of climate, food supply, geological upheavals and so forth, really held as his fundamental proposition that living organisms changed because they wanted to. As he stated it, the great factor in Evolution is use and disuse."  In my opinion, Darwin's theory of evolution is problematic for Shaw because then Shaw has to accept that nothing in life has a purpose behind it and he has to question himself that what the purpose of living this life is. Therefore, Shaw's problem with the theory of evolution and Darwin is that Darwin did not mention that there is a will and purpose in evolution process and it is all random and accident.


we live in a world full of irony. things are never what we seems to be since we all perceive the world differently. personality, i love irony. it's a way to reveal who really knows you the best. cause the one who knows you will understand your irony. every word always have double meaning (sometimes even more) it is for whose who truly appreciate and understand the irony. in the case of Darwin, i think we should focus on critique Darwinism rather than Charles Darwin because Darwinism is NOT Darwin. Darwinism is the study of Darwin's theories not Darwin as a person. Darwinism is what we think of Darwin's theory not what Darwin think of his own theory. *ironic* Dr. Bruce Alexander stated that Darwin is a psychologist. Yet, does Darwin think of himself as a psychologist when he wrote his theories? i doubt it. i feel that many criticism on Darwin are unfair as i don't think that was his intention when he propose his theories. for example, his natural selection, many believe the theories is the ONLY explanation to evolution. however, i don't think Darwin was insisting others to believe that it IS the only explanation as there are still many other evident that he can not prove his point of view.

Alfred Russel Wallace

The pressure was on once Darwin had realized Wallace was coming to the same conclusion towards evolution. It was because of Wallace Darwin was rushed to complete the Origin of the Species. Although there were many similarities between the work of Darwin and Wallace, there are some difference in regards to environmental differences, and individual differences of the same species. Looking through the literature there were also differences in how each had come to the conclusion. Unlike Darwin, Wallace was able to explore the world at an earlier age, while Darwin had started much of his work near his home. In 1859 when Darwin received Wallace’s work on natural selection, Darwin created what was actually an abstract of the Origin of species, as he wanted credit towards what he had worked his life towards.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Darwin's religious views on the Voyage of the Beagle

At the beginning of Voyage of the Beagle Darwin was supporting the Uniformitarianism view. "In the philosophy of naturalism, uniformitarianism assumes that the same natural laws and processes that operate in the universe now, have always operated in the universe in the past and apply everywhere in the universe. "It holds that all things continue as they were from the beginning of the world. Darwin believed that landforms had been created based on Uniformitarianism view. Also, for reconciling the formation of landforms to Biblical account of Noah's ark, Darwin and Sedgwick both supported Diluvialism. "Diluvium is a term in geology for superficial deposits formed by flood-like operations of water. The term was formerly given to the boulder clay deposits, supposed to have been caused by the Noachian deluge." Darwin's notes shows that he rejected the connection of formation of lands with Noah's flood.
On the Galapagos Islands Darwin affirmed Charles Lyell's idea of species spreading from centers of creation. In his later autobiography, Darwin wrote "Whilst on board the HMS Beagle (October 1836-January 1839) I was quite orthodox, and I remember being heartily laughed at by several of the officers (though themselves orthodox) for quoting the Bible as an unanswerable authority on some point of morality. I suppose it was the novelty of the argument that amused them. But I had gradually come, by this time, to see that the Old Testament; from its manifestly false history of the world, with the Tower of Babel, the rainbow as a sign, etc., etc., and from its attributing to God the feelings of a revengeful tyrant, was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos, or the beliefs of any barbarian."

Monday, November 1, 2010

Darwin's views on women: a product of his time

Earlier in this same blog I posted regarding Darwin's seemingly extreme views on women, yet perhaps the post was a bit too judgmental of his character considering his environment.
In the Victorian era, women held barely a fraction of the respect, opportunity, and esteem that they hold today.

Women were not entitled to the same legal rights or educational opportunities that men were, and primarily expected just to take care of the households and the children.
With this in mind, Darwin was really no different than society as a whole regarding his views on women. In fact, he only briefly mentions his opinions on female status and no doubt could have taken more opportunity to express his views.

It IS true that if Darwin had interpreted his theories the same way as they are interpreted today (a prime example of Darwin vs. Darwinism), he would have realized the selective functions of woman's characteristics throughout time.
However, Darwin was a revolutionary in terms of his theories of Evolution- Not his theories of feminism, and perhaps he should be forgiven for merely being a product of his time and furthermore for not realizing the full implications of his speculations.