|Charles Darwin (1809-1882)|
Charles Darwin himself experienced inwardly the conflicts that his research created in western culture. At the beginning of his voyage on the Beagle, he still believed in the theology taught by the Church of England and often quoted Biblical passages to the sailors on board the ship. By the time the voyage ended, however, he had already begun to question his orthodox views and had come to view the Old Testament story of creation as allegory. This change came not only because of his research on the natural world, but because during his travels he had witnessed cruelties such as slavery in South America and the misery that European colonization had inflicted on so many native populations. Darwin found that he had to question whether an all-powerful God would allow such suffering in the world. On returning to England, he continued to attend church until the crushing blow of the death of his daughter Annie at age ten in 1851. After that time, he habitually took a long walk while his wife Emma and their other children attended church.
Nevertheless, Darwin did not completely abandon belief in God. Even late in life he insisted that he was not an atheist but a self-described agnostic. He still believed in an intelligent "first cause," but believed that the nature of God was beyond the scope of human knowledge. In his personal life, Darwin exemplified many of the qualities that, ideally, Christianity and other religions promote: he was a devoted, dependable, and loving husband and father, respected and admired by friends, colleagues, and members of his community, an outspoken opponent of slavery and supporter of the extension of voting rights.
For more information on Charles Darwin's life and his contributions to science, I recommend the website AboutDarwin.com. Click on the links on the left side of the home page to explore his fascinating life.
In honor of Darwin's birthday, I would like to present one of Beebz's ancestors, the earliest known member of Squirrel Nation, Protosciurus:
This species lived in the northwestern part of North America around 25 million years ago, and is believed to be the ancestor of all modern squirrels. Without the ideas proposed by Charles Darwin, of course, we would not know this.