I am aware that if we admit a first cause, the mind still craves to know whence it came and how it arose.
Charles Darwin to N. D. Doedes, 2 April 1873 See the letter
Darwin is more famous, and more notorious than ever. Nowhere is this more evident than in the ongoing controversies over science and religion. Today’s debates, from the teaching of intelligent design in schools, to questions of free will and human values in light of modern research in genetics, have deep roots in the nineteenth-century controversies surrounding Darwin’s work on evolution. Yet Darwin is most often used in ways that distort or oversimplify his views. He is misquoted or misrepresented in order to support a particular position. Whose Darwin is the true Darwin, and what are the implications of his theory for the present?
The aim of the “Darwin & religion” pages is: to provide a complete, durable, and reliable multi-media resource that will lay to rest some misunderstandings and misrepresentations that have found currency on the web and in popular culture generally; to promote well-informed debate; and to arrive at new insights through the engagement of the present with the past. Darwin’s letters provide a unique resource for recovering the complexities of discussion in his own day, and for studying the impact of his theories on people from a wide range of backgrounds. The picture that Darwin’s letters present of his personal beliefs, and of the implications of his theory for religious belief generally, is much richer than that given in his published works, or indeed in most modern scholarship.
At least 200 of Darwin’s correspondents were clergymen, some of whom were personal friends and many of whom provided Darwin with data for his publications. He often relied on information and support from scientific colleagues who had strong religious convictions, and he was approached for advice on the implications of his work for morality and religious belief. The letters show that Darwin’s work could mean many different things to different people. Some saw Darwinism as a threat to religion, but many found ways of reconciling their beliefs with an evolutionary view of nature.