Did Darwin Repent?

Charles Darwin, the Atheist’s hero and the Neo-Ussherian’s nightmare. Darwin lived a pretty full life, dying at the age of 73 in 1882. If you think Evolution is a controversy now, it was even more so then. Nowadays, Scientists have way more evidence and technology to come to their conclusions that simply remained speculative in Darwin’s day.

Since Evolution was seen as an enemy of the Church at the time, it makes sense that some would like to think that Darwin renounced Evolution in favor of Christianity. These rumors aired about one month after his death. [1]

One of the most well-known rumors surrounding this issue, was a recollection by Lady Hope [2]. In Lady Hope’s sequence of events, Darwin was visibly uneasy regarding the Genesis creation account while he was reading the book of Hebrews. This was published and got a wide circulation.

However, there are several problems with Lady Hope’s recollection. First, there was inconsistencies in her story. Lady Hope claimed to be present when Darwin was on his deathbed, yet his daughter Henrietta wrote on page 12 of the London evangelical weekly, The Christian, for 23 February 1922,

‘I was present at his deathbed. Lady Hope was not present during his last illness, or any illness. I believe he never even saw her, but in any case, she had no influence over him in any department of thought or belief. He never recanted any of his scientific views, either then or earlier…The whole story has no foundation whatever’ [3]

It should also be noted that Darwin’s wife Emma, who was burdened by his agnosticism, would have seized upon any semblance of repentance or a confession, yet she never corroborated on this story.

Since there is no evidence Darwin had a death-bed repentance, his family denies it, and the most credible account is filled with inconsistencies that are denied by the people who were there, it is safe to say it is highly unlikely that Darwin repented.

But even if it were true, that Darwin recanted Evolution and became a Christian (I don’t think these two things are mutually contradictory) it wouldn’t prove anything. Evolution no longer relies on Darwin’s influence and writings to continue, if anything the fossil record and the Human Genome Project led by Dr. Francis Collins provides a stronger argument for Evolution than Darwin. The irony of the situation is that Dr. Collins is a Christian. So, for the few people who want to repeat this highly improbable death-bed scenario with Darwin, I hope you see that the argument is of no value even if it were true.

[1] James Moore, The Darwin Legend, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1994, pp. 113–14
[2] ibid. p.176
[3] Watchman Examiner, Boston, 19 August 1915, p. 1071. Source: Ref. 1 , pp. 92–93 and 190

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