From N. D. Doedes 4 April 1873
April 4, 1873.
A few words to thank you for your kind answer.1
Your telling about the bad state of your health has very much grieved my friend Costerus2 and me. We wish, you may soon wholly recover.—
Your chief argument for the existence of God is, as you write, “the impossibility of conceiving that this grand and wondrous universe, with our conscious selves, arose through chance”. To be sure, it is most wondrous and grand (“great as immensity, deep as eternity”, by the beautiful expression of Mr. Carlyle).3 But how, if it did not “arise”, in the sense of commencing? if it had ever been? then it certainly did not arise “through chance”. I say: “arise”, in the sense of commencing; for I cannot think that you have used the word in the sense of developing; because I know that you in the first place are the man, who has made evident that the development of such an intricate thing as the organic world has been the resultant, not of the leading of Providence, but of natural causes, which might be called in some way “chance”, and who has given, by showing this, such a heavy stroke to Teleology.
Therefore it seems to me, that the impossibility of conceiving how this universe arose by chance, does not urge me to believe in God; because it may be possible that the materia has ever been.—
But if, as you write, the conclusion “that the whole subject is beyond the scope of man’s intellect”, is “the safest”, how could you speak then in the conclusion of your Origin of Species about a Creator, and likewise in the second Chapter of your Descent of Man, as if you thought the believing in him really needed?4
I remark this, because I know that there are some who make use of those passages from your works as an authority for their belief in God; others who regard them as your feeble point, or as an accomodation.—
But I recollect that it has not been in the least your intention to persuade me; and I dare not intrude any longer upon your precious time.
I finish my letter with renewed thanks for the friendly manner, in which you have made me know your opinion about such an important question.
With the same feelings of veneration and sympathy as before, and with many wishes for your long life and firm health, | I remain, Dear Sir, | Yours most loving | N. D. Doedes.
As for the many “able men”, to the judgment of whom you say to defer in some extent, are there not as many (not only in England, but through the whole world) standing on the opposite side, able and earnest men too?
But what can authority do here, where no one has observed and every one may judge the Arguments? Methinks nothing. Else, your authority would be very great for me.
Debates the existence of God.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8841,” accessed on 16 January 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-8841