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Darwin Correspondence Project

To N. D. Doedes   2 April 1873

Down, Beckenham, Kent. [16 Montague Street, London]

April 2 1873

a mon. N. D. Doedes | The University | Utrecht | Holland.


Dear Sir

I am much obliged for the photograph of yourself and friend.1 I am sure that you will excuse my writing at length, when I tell you that I have long been much out of health, and am now staying away from my home for rest. (It is impossible to answer your question briefly; and I am not sure that I could do so, even if I wrote at some length.2 But I may say that the impossibility of conceiving that this grand and wondrous universe, with our conscious selves, arose through chance, seems to me the chief argument for the existence of God; but whether this is an argument of real value, I have never been able to decide. I am aware that if we admit a first cause, the mind still craves to know whence it came and how it arose. Nor can I overlook the difficulty from the immense amount of suffering through the world. I am, also, induced to defer to a certain extent to the judgment of the many able men who have fully believed in God; but here again I see how poor an argument this is. The safest conclusion seems to be that the whole subject is beyond the scope of man’s intellect; but man can do his duty.

With my best wishes for your success in life, I remain, dear Sir, | Yours faithfully | Ch. Darwin.


Doedes had asked on what grounds CD believed in the existence of God (see letter from N. D. Doedes, 27 March 1873).


The impossibility of conceiving that the universe arose through chance is the chief argument for the existence of God, but CD has never been able to decide whether this is an argument of real value. Safest to believe that the subject is beyond man’s intellect, "but man can do his duty".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Nicolaas Dirk Doedes
Sent from
London, Montague St, 16 Down letterhead
Source of text
DAR 139.12: 11
Physical description
AC 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8837,” accessed on 21 June 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21