To Frances Julia Wedgwood 11 July 1
My dear Snow
Some one has sent us ‘Macmillan’; and I must tell you how much I admire your Article;3 though at the same time I must confess that I could not clearly follow you in some parts, which probably is in main part due to my not being at all accustomed to metaphysical trains of thought.4 I think that you understand my book perfectly, and that I find a very rare event with my critics. The ideas in the last page have several times vaguely crossed my mind.5 Owing to several correspondents I have been led lately to think, or rather to try to think over some of the chief points discussed by you. But the result has been with me a maze—something like thinking on the origin of evil, to which you allude.6 The mind refuses to look at this universe, being what it is, without having been designed; yet, where one would most expect design, viz. in the structure of a sentient being, the more I think on the subject, the less I can see proof of design.7 Asa Gray and some others look at each variation, or at least at each beneficial variation (which A. Gray would compare with the rain drops which do not fall on the sea, but on to the land to fertilize it) as having been providentially designed.8 Yet when I ask him whether he looks at each variation in the rock-pigeon, by which man has made by accumulation a pouter or fantail pigeon, as providentially designed for man’s amusement, he does not know what to answer;9 and if he, or any one, admits these variations are accidental, as far as purpose is concerned (of course not accidental as to their cause or origin); then I can see no reason why he should rank the accumulated variations by which the beautifully adapted woodpecker has been formed, as providentially designed. For it would be easy to imagine the enlarged crop of the pouter or tail of the fan-tail as of some use to birds, in a state of nature, having peculiar habits of life. These are the considerations which perplex me about design; but whether you will care to hear them, I know not.— I think that your article will strike & interest many reflecting minds.
We are all very jolly here; & I admire the beautiful scenery more than could be reasonably expected of an acknowledged descendent of an Ape.
My dear Snow | yours affectionately | Charles Darwin
Admires FJW’s article ["The boundaries of science", Macmillan’s Mag. 4 (1861): 237–47]. Thinks she understands his book [Origin] perfectly.
On design in nature: the more CD thinks on the subject the less he can see proof of it.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3206,” accessed on 21 February 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-3206