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Darwin Correspondence Project

To M. E. Boole   14 December 1866

Down. Bromley. Kent.

Decr. 14. 1866.

Dear Madam.

It would have gratified me much if I could have sent satisfactory answers to yr. questions, or indeed answers of any kind.1 But I cannot see how the belief that all organic beings including man have been genetically derived from some simple being, instead of having been separately created bears on your difficulties.— These as it seems to me, can be answered only by widely different evidence from Science, or by the so called “inner consciousness”. My opinion is not worth more than that of any other man who has thought on such subjects, & it would be folly in me to give it; I may however remark that it has always appeared to me more satisfactory to look at the immense amount of pain & suffering in this world, as the inevitable result of the natural sequence of events, i.e. general laws, rather than from the direct intervention of God though I am aware this is not logical with reference to an omniscient Deity— Your last question seems to resolve itself into the problem of Free Will & Necessity which has been found by most persons insoluble.2

I sincerely wish that this note had not been as utterly valueless as it is; I would have sent full answers, though I have little time or strength to spare, had it been in my power.

I have the honor to remain dear Madam. | Yours very faithfully | Charles Darwin.

P.S. I am grieved that my views should incidentally have caused trouble to your mind but I thank you for your Judgment & honour you for it, that theology & science should each run its own course & that in the present case I am not responsible if their meeting point should still be far off.


CD refers to Boole’s question whether natural selection was consistent with the belief that each individual had the power to choose how far to yield to ‘hereditary animal impulses’ and how far to follow ‘moral motives’ (see letter from M. E. Boole, 13 December 1866).


Is unable to answer her questions about religious implications of natural selection, but would prefer to believe that suffering in world is due to natural events.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Mary Everest Boole
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 143: 121
Physical description
C 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5307,” accessed on 4 March 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14