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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. B. Innes   1 December 1878

Milton Brodie

1st. Decr. 1878

Dear Darwin,

I want to thank you for your most kind letter, not to inflict on you the smallest call to reply to what I say, but only to express my own idea on the subject Pusey has spoken of.1

Lately I was at our Church Congress at Dundee,2 where a Bishop and some Parsons were assembled as guests in a hospitable house, and one evening when the subject was introduced I said “I have the pleasure of the intimate friendship of one of the very first Naturalists in Europe. He is a most accurate observer, and never states anything as a fact which he has not most thoroughly investigated. He is a man of the most perfect moral character, and his scrupulous regard for the strictest truth is above that of almost all men I know. I am quite persuaded that if on any morning he met with a fact which would clearly contradict one of his cherished theories he would not let the sun set before he made it known. I never saw a word in his writings which was an attack on Religion. He follows his own course as a Naturalist and leaves Moses to take care of himself”.

This in substance is what I said then and on other occasions and I believe it is both true, and the proper way in which Scientific studies should be pursued.3 I have always (and I must say I am indebted to you for much confirmation of the view) held, as Pusey says now, that Science and Religion should go on separately, and not contest in any way. Those who believe firmly and unhesitatingly, as I hope I do myself, that the teaching of the Church, of which her Book, the Bible, is only a chief part, is infalibly true, need not disturb them selves about any effect which real discoveries in Science may have on Catholic truth. I hold that a Theologian reads the Book of Revelation forward from our Saviour to this time, and a Naturalist the Book of Nature backward from one discovery to another, as would be the case with the same book in Hebrew and in Greek.4 That, whatever may appear at the time, the lines, coming from the same source, can never cross, and will in the end be seen to have been parallel.

In something of this way, (though I very feebly express it.) it seems to me that all might go on harmoniously, and to the benefit of all. I have certainly seen some very nasty and needless utterances from Naturalists in England, and much more in Germany; but I must confess with sorrow that most of the unwise and violent attacks have come from the Theological side, to the great injury of the cause they were designed to promote.

I did not mean to write so much when I began. My design was tell you how I thought the two things could be profitably kept from jostling. It looks as if the abstract of the discourse might be. How nicely things would go on if other folk were like Darwin and Brodie Innes! Very soothing reflection. However it has done me no harm to write and I hope will do you none.

Our kindest regards, and we wish you all a happy Christmas

Believe me Dear Darwin | Faithfully Yours | J Brodie Innes


See letter to J. B. Innes, 27 November [1878] and n. 2. Innes had sent CD the published version of a sermon by Edward Bouverie Pusey (Pusey 1878). Pusey described transformist theories as ‘mere imagination’, but added, ‘Theology does not hold them excluded by Holy Scripture’ (ibid., p. 14).
The Representative Council of the Episcopal Church of Scotland held a meeting at Dundee in October 1878 (Scotsman, 9 October 1878, pp. 6–7, and 10 October 1878, p. 3).
For Innes’s earlier expression of the respect he and CD had for each other in spite of their differences, see Correspondence vol. 19, letter from J. B. Innes, 21 January 1871.
Hebrew is conventionally written right to left, with pages in a book turned from left to right; Greek and other European languages are written left to right, with pages turned from right to left.


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

Pusey, Edward Bouverie. 1878. Un-science, not science, adverse to faith: a sermon preached before the University of Oxford on the twentieth Sunday after Trinity, 1878. Oxford: Devonport Society of the Holy Trinity.


JBI on CD’s integrity and the separateness of science and religion.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Brodie Innes
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Milton Brodie
Source of text
DAR 167: 34
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11768,” accessed on 15 April 2024,