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Darwin Correspondence Project

From James Grant   6 March 1878

J. Grant & Son, | Fishing tackle makers, | Grantown,

6th. March 1878

Dr. Darwin, M.A., F.R.S., &c.


I hope the reasons for my writing you, given below, will excuse my addressing you as I do.

I have been, for a while back, looking at the evidence of the existence of God from nature as I have found it enunciated in works on Natural Theology, and I have been convinced over and over again of the truth of such a doctrine. Nevertheless certain apparently contrary doctrines, as advocated by yourself and Professor Tyndall, stagger me, and yet I question if they should do so even supposing them to be true, although some seem to argue that they destroy the evidence from nature of God’s existence. They may not in the least derogatorily affect the grounds upon which the existence of God might be inferred. I am a comparatively young man, and perhaps more investigation, experience, and reflection will open my eyes as to the real value and bearing of your doctrine upon the point in question. I have been reading Prof. Tyndall’s “Fragments of Science” and your “Descent of Man”, in both of which works there are so far as I can see, civility and candour in stating the foundation of Evolution, but my knowledge is not sufficiently extensive, and, at any rate, my understanding is not clear enough to enable me to know how your doctrines affect the idea of the existence of a God of nature.1 But you, who are so much acquainted with nature, so disciplined in intellect, and have doubtless looked at the bearing of your principles upon this idea, will be able to see how they interfere or stand related to it. I would, in the meantime, therefore be much obliged to you if you would, in two or three words, simply tell me if your doctrine of the descent of man destroys the evidence of the existence of a God looked at through nature’s phenomena.

Trusting that the supreme importance of the subject will make a reply worthy of your condescension as regards | Your respectful and obedt. servt., | James Grant.


John Tyndall’s Fragments of science (Tyndall 1871) included essays on miracles, materialism, and the efficacy of prayer; on the evolution of matter and the origins of the universe, see pp. 159–63. CD discussed the origin of various religious beliefs and feelings in Descent 1: 65–9. See also Correspondence vol. 14, letter to M. E. Boole, 14 December 1866.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Tyndall, John. 1871. Fragments of science for unscientific people: a series of detached essays, lectures, and reviews. London: Longmans, Green, and Co.


As a believer in the existence of God from the evidence of nature, he is somewhat staggered by CD’s and Tyndall’s books. Asks CD to tell him whether the doctrine of descent of man destroys the evidence of the existence of a God looked at through natural phenomena.

Letter details

Letter no.
James Miller (James) Grant
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 165: 89
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11404,” accessed on 25 March 2023,