Darwin, Dying, and Death: Philosophical Perspective(s)

Dr. Charles F. Urbanowicz / Professor of Anthropology
California State University, Chico / Chico, California 95929-0400
530-898-6220 [Office]; 530-898-6192 [Dept.]; 530-898-6824 [FAX]
e-mail: curbanowicz@csuchico.edu
home page: http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban

[This page printed from http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban/FA2001Unitarian.html]

1 November 2001[1]

© [All Rights Reserved.] This paper was presented [with videotape and slides] at the Unitarian Fellowship of Chico (1289 Filbert Avenue) on November 4, 2001.


LEE DuBRIDGE (1901- 1994)




I have been interested in Charles R. Darwin (February 12, 1809 - April 19, 1882) for decades and have "doing Darwin" in the first person since October 4, 1990. Darwin is interesting and many have written much about him and there is a "Darwin Industry." On December 31, 1963, my wife and I were married in a Unitarian Church in Bellingham, Washington (by Robert Fulghum, eventually the celebrated author of All I really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, 1990, as well as From Beginning to End: The Rituals of Our Lives, 1995); for today's presentation I sought to re-fresh myself on some tenets of Unitarianism and came across the following:

"Unitarianism, in general, the form of Christianity that denies the doctrines of the Trinity, maintaining that God exists in one person only. From the middle of the 2nd century to the end of the 3rd century a succession of eminent Christian teachers, Monarchians, maintained the undivided unity of God (see Monarchianism). Modern Unitarianism, however, particularly in the U.S., traces its history to more recent sources. ... The American Unitarian Association was formed in 1825 ... In 1961 the association joined with the Universalist Church of America to form the Unitarian Universalist Association, with headquarters in Boston. ... Unitarians are generally agreed in rejecting the entire orthodox outlook. They deny the doctrines of the Trinity, the vicarious atonement, the deity of Jesus Christ, original sin, and everlasting punishment, regarding them as both unscriptural and irrational. They celebrate the Eucharist, not as a sacrament, but as a commemoration of Jesus' death and as an expression of spiritual communion with him. They adhere to the rite of infant baptism, although a few Unitarian Baptist churches restrict baptism to adults." (From: "Unitarianism," Microsoft(R) Encarta(R) 98 Encyclopedia. (c) 1993-1997 Microsoft Corporation.)

Whether or not I knew all of that when we got married is definitely debatable. The point is that I like to do research and "figure" things out and try and make "connections" between individuals and events. Going to the World Wide Web, I came across the following:

"The first Unitarian churches were formed during the Reformation in Eastern Europe; the Universalist churches first formed in the mid-seventeen hundreds in England and North America. In their history and in current practice, our religious movement is distinctive for its affirmation of religious freedom, the use of reason in the pursuit of truth, and respect for differing views. We need not think alike to love alike, has long been our motto. Both Unitarianism and Universalism have their roots in Judaism and the early Christian church, and were inspired by individuals who stressed the humanity of Jesus and the importance of his teachings rather than his divinity. Historically, Unitarians and Universalists have been known for their contributions to science, the arts, and social justice. Thomas Jefferson, Susan B. Anthony, and Charles Darwin, as well as Transcendentalist authors Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller were Unitarians or Universalists. Also noteworthy were Clara Barton, Dorothea Dix, and Florence Nightingale. Today, our religious movement is characterized by a radical respect for the individual's path to the truth, an appreciation for the diversity of our members, and by a commitment to social justice as a means of living out our religious values [stress added]." [http://www.libertynet.org/firstuu/uupg3.html]

So while Charles Darwin may have been a Unitarian (and I shall have words on that below), I am not a "practicing" Unitarian but a "practicing Anthropologist" and speak and write accordingly. My view of contemporary anthropology is that it has "evolved" (or 'developed" if one wishes) in the following manner: "Anthropology is the product of three great historical movements: the Age of Exploration, the Enlightenment, and Evolutionism." Philip K. Bock, 1990, Rethinking Psychological Anthropology: Continuity and Change in the Study of Human Action, page 5. We all know something of "exploration" and I shall expand on "evolution" but the "Enlightenment" also connects us:

"Much of the eighteenth century is often referred to as the Enlightenment or the Age of Enlightenment. Frequent reiteration does not make these terms any easier to define. ... The Enlightenment could be described as a tendency, rather than a movement, a tendency towards critical enquiry and the application of reason [stress added]." Jeremy Black, 1999, History of Europe: Eighteenth Century Europe, Second Edition (NY: St. Martin's Press), page 246.

"The Enlightenment was both a movement and a state of mind. The term represents a phase in the intellectual history of Europe, but also serves to define programs of reform in which influential literati, inspired by common faith in the possibility of a better world, outlined specific targets for criticism and proposals for action. The special significance of the Enlightenment lies in its combination of principle and pragmatism [all stress added]." Geoffrey R.R. Treasure, 1994, The Enlightenment. The New Encyclopedia Britannica, Volume 18, pages 676-683, page 676.

"The new cultural movement toward the light [in the 18th century] also changed the nature of Christian belief and worship. New, more cerebral and liberal forms of Protestantism emerged. Unitarianism is perhaps the most famous example, and it continues to attract adherents in England and the United States. The ceremonial life of Unitarian churches is kept to a minimum, and simplified doctrines center on the belief of one God, not the Trinity, and on the right of each individual to fashion his or her own understanding of the spiritual life [stress added]." Margaret C. Jacob, 2001, The Enlightenment: A Brief History with Documents (Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martin's), page 16.

It has been recorded (J.R. Moore, 1989, Why Darwin Gave Up Christianity. James R. Moore, 1989, History, Humanity and Evolution: Essays for John C. Greene [Cambridge University Press], pp. 195-229, page 221) that in 1856 Darwin wrote in a letter that "I have heard Unitarianism called a feather-bed to catch a falling Christian" and so was Darwin "really" a Unitarian?

Charles R. Darwin did not reject all religious beliefs and did not deny the existence of a supreme being. I not only study Darwin and portray Darwin, I believe that I think like him. In his 1876 Autobiography, Darwin wrote that at the time of Origin (the first edition appeared in 1859) he could be viewed as a theist, or one who had the conviction of the existence of God. Ideas and perspectives change over time and in 1876 Darwin wrote

"When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist. … I cannot pretend to throw the least light on such abstruse problems. The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic." Nora Barlow, 1958, The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809-1882. With original omissions restored Edited with Appendix and Notes by his grand-daughter (NY: Norton 1969 paperback edition), pages 92-94.

Charles R. Darwin was not an atheist ("a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of God or Gods") but an agnostic, a word created in 1869 by his good friend and scientific associate, Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895). A contemporary dictionary definition of the term "agnostic" provides the following:

"1. a person who holds that the ultimate cause (God) and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable. 2. a person who denies or doubts the possibility of ultimate knowledge in some area of study. --adj. 3. of or pertaining to agnostics or agnosticism. 4. asserting the uncertainty of all claims to knowledge. [<Gk agnost(os) not known, incapable of being known...." Jess Stein, 1975, Editor-in-Chief, The Random House College Dictionary (NY: Random House), page 27.

Writing in 1889, Huxley had the following:

"...Agnosticism is not properly described as a 'negative' creed, nor, indeed, as a creed of any kind, except in so far as it expresses absolute faith in the validity of a principle, which is as much ethical as intellectual. This principle may be stated in various ways, but they all amount to this: that it is wrong for a man [of any individual!] to say that he is certain of the objective truth of any proposition unless he can produce evidence which logically justifies that certainty. This is what Agnosticism asserts; and, in my opinion, it is all that is essential to Agnosticism [stress added]." Thomas Henry Huxley, 1889, Agnosticism and Christianity. Reprinted in Alburey Castell, 1948, Selections from the Essays of T.H. Huxley (NY: Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc.), page 92.

Or as a 20th century commentator on Huxley wrote: "Agnosticism, as Huxley had originally employed the term, signified simply a reservation of judgement in matters not subject to verification [stress added]." (Albert Ashforth, 1969, Thomas Henry Huxley [NY: Twayne Publishers, Inc.], page 120). This inability of Charles Darwin to "verify" a supreme being (while writing about a "Creator" as discussed below!) did cause a problem for his wife Emma, who maintained a deep orthodox religious conviction throughout her life; they loved each other and life went on but his agnostic beliefs did "make her sad" and uneasy for his sake (G. De Beer, 1964, Charles Darwin: Evolution By Natural Selection, page 269).



The "Darwin Industry" is alive and well and I hope to make my modest contribution in 2009: the bicentennial of Darwin's birth and the sesquicentennial of On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. In 2001, Michael Ruse published a book entitled Can A Darwinian Be A Christian: The Relationship Between Science And Religion (Cambridge University Press); Ruse unequivocally writes that "Darwinism is ecuminical. Its processes can and will accommodate a wide range of theological opinions" and adds "Can a Darwinian be a Christian? Absolutely!" (pages 216-217).

Publications about Darwin abound: last year there was a delightful book entitled Dear Mr. Darwin: Letters On The Evolution of Life And Human Behavior, wherein the author has Darwin saying:

"I am so glad you have taken the time and trouble to write to me. It is one of the saddest aspects of human existence that, as soon as one passes away, it is generally assumed that the deceased has no further interest in what he or she spent a great part of life investigating. From what you tell me of the Darwin industry of scholars in your day, busy seeking out every nuance of my life and thoughts, I have to conclude that there is indeed life after death [stress added]." Gabriel Dover, 2000, Dear Mr. Darwin: Letters On The Evolution of Life And Human Behavior (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson), page 3. 

A summary statement on Charles Darwin:

"He was an Englishman who went on a five-year voyage when he was young and then retired to a house in the country, not far from London. He wrote an account of his voyage, and then he wrote a book setting down his theory of evolution, based on a process he called natural selection, a theory that provided the foundation for modern biology. He was often ill and never left England again." John P. Wiley, Jr., 1998, Expressions: The Visible Link. Smithsonian, June, pages 22-24, page 22.

Darwin returned home, married his cousin Ms. Emma Wedgwood (1808-1892), and did his science. Emma eventually gave birth to ten children and Charles Darwin, encouraged by his colleagues, published "seventeen works in twenty one volumes, or fifteen if the three volumes of geology of the Beagle are treated as one" (R.B. Freeman, 1978, Charles Darwin: A Companion, page 77). It has been estimated that Darwin published some "seven thousand pages, about three million words" in his lifetime (John Bowlby, 1990, Charles Darwin: A New Life, page 5). Darwin's monumental work was On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (this is the on-line version of the first edition of 1859 edition). Note the changes Darwin made in the SIX editions of Origin during his lifetime (as calculated by Morse Peckham [Editor], 1959, The Origin Of Species By Charles Darwin: A Variorum Text):




9 eliminated
483 rewritten
30 added
7 %
33 eliminated
617 rewritten
266 added
14 %
36 eliminated
1073 rewritten
435 added
21 %
178 eliminated
1770 rewritten
227 added
29 %
63 eliminated
1699 rewritten
571 added
21-29 %

Charles R. Darwin took great care not to write about Homo sapiens in Origin in 1859 and all he had to say about "man" in 1859 was:

"In the distant future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation. Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history. [Chapter XV: "Recapitulation And Conclusion"]

By the 6th edition of Origin in 1872, Darwin had re-written the above as follows:

"In the future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be securely based on the foundation already well laid by Mr. Herbert Spencer [1820-1903], that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation. Much light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history. [Chapter XV: "Recapitulation And Conclusion"]

With proper reading and an understanding of Charles R. Darwin's Origin (and how it came to be), we can better interpret the past, judge the present, and understand ourselves in hoping for the future! That is why "Darwin lives" today and why it is important to contextualize the changes in Charles R. Darwin over time. It must also be pointed out that, unfortunately, Darwin is also associated with "Social Darwinism" (which really should be called "Social Spencerism" after Herbert Spencer. Darwin borrowed the phrase "survival of the fittest" from Spencer but the phrase did not appear in the first edition of Origin in 1859 but was only incorporated for the first time in 1869 in the 5th edition of Origin. It appears in my copy of sixth edition of 1872 as follows:

"I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term Natural Selection, in order to mark its relation to man's power of selection. But the expression often used by Mr. Herbert Spencer, of the Survival of the Fittest, is more accurate, and is sometimes equally convenient." [Chapter XV: "Recapitulation And Conclusion"]

As one has written:

"Darwinism was pressed into service as a guarantee for the most disparate political theories. Militaristic nationalists maintained that wars between nations corresponded with Darwin's 'struggle for existence' and that the victory in this struggle must go to those states or nations which were most fitted to lead mankind onward. Conservative minds saw in the upper classes an élite which had been created by centuries of selection and on these grounds maintained that a hierarchical social structures was biologically conditioned. Socialists, using Darwin as a reference, demanded equality, which would give equal opportunity to all and thus lead to 'natural' selection. More than any of the others, the Liberals exploited Darwinian authority for their own ends. Just as human beings, they said, had evolved through free biological competition, so the best type of man would evolve through free social compensation [stress added]." Herbert Tingsten, 1965 [Viktoria Och Viktorianerna], 1972 English translation, Victorian And The Victorians: The Personalities, Politics, and Scandals of An Era (USA: Delacorte Press/Seymour Lawrence), page 233.

Each of us can read anything we wish into virtually everything and just as in the 19th century, "Darwinism" meant different things to different people at different times, so it goes today:

"We have a veritable Hegelian contradiction. Darwinism is sexist. Darwinism is feminist. How can this be? The obvious answer is that, in some sense, Darwinism is simply a clotheshorse on which people will hang any ideology that they find comforting. You are a sexist? Darwinism will accommodate you. You are a feminist? Darwinism will accommodate you, too [stress added]." Michael Ruse, 1998, Is Darwin Sexist? (And If It Is, So What?). A House Built on Sand: Exposing Postmodernist Myths About Science, edited by Noretta Koertge, page 121.

The aforementioned Darwin Industry is alive and well and as Gillian Beer pointed out in her second edition of Darwin's Plots, published in the year 2000:

"Darwin has grown younger in recent years. He is no longer the authoritative old man with a beard substituting for God. Instead his work and life are again in contention and debate. Sociologists, microbiologists, linguists, sociobiologists, philosophers, feminists, psychologists, biographers, geneticists, novelists, poets, post-colonialists, have their say." Gillian Beer, 2000, Darwin's Plots: Evolutionary Narrative In Darwin, George Eliot and Nineteenth-Century Fiction (Second Edition) (Cambridge University Press), page xvii.

Darwin lives and all (and that is such an understatement!) all that Darwin researched and demonstrated in his lifetime (with an immense amount of data that every educated person of the times could comprehend) is that while human beings consciously practice domestic selection, nature practices natural selection. Natural selection meant that the population which is best adapted to the environment, be it bird or plant or domesticated horse or cow or pig, survives. As one author has neatly summarized it:

"Darwin's theory neatly summed up a view of the natural world that did not privilege any living thing over another. Instead, all organisms (including, by implication, humans) were subject to the physical forces of nature and, of course, to each other. ... The material that Darwin uses in Origin is nothing if not eclectic, relying on a familiar but odd assemblage of organisms, including pigeons, dogs, elephants, and local crops. It is thus a catalog of life that resists the exotic species described in the Voyage of the Beagle [stress added]." Alan Rauch, 2001, Useful Knowledge: The Victorians, Morality And The March of Intellect (Durham: Duke University Press), pages 12 and 207-208.

Those organisms which survive can possibly pass their characteristics to their offspring in the next generation; remember, Darwin did not know about genes and Gregor Mendel (1822-1884) the proof of his reasoning was not to come for many years. Why did Darwin have such an impact in the 19th century and into our times? In looking at his day and age, the following has been pointed out:

"The greatest weakness of English Protestantism in the first quarter of the nineteenth century was its lack of preparedness for the shocks which were to be administered through German scholarship. The reappraisal of the Bible was to be a greater problem than Darwinism, for it struck even more ruthlessly at the infallibility of scripture, and only when an intelligent interpretation of the Bible was formulated did it become possible to answer the questions raised by geology and biology. Too many men panicked, some into a blind an obscurantist fundamentalism, others into a fickle and unstable modernism, or the fanciful reconstruction of medieval dogma. But this was [for] another generation's battle: the years following Waterloo [1815] gave little indication of the precise trials which the churches had to face in the none-too-distant future [stress added]." John W. Derry, 1963, A Short History of Nineteenth-Century England [NY: Mentor], pages 69-70.

Gordon Haight confirmed this view in his "Introduction" to the 1972 volume entitled The Portable Victorian Reader:

"Another challenge to orthodoxy came from within the Church itself. John WIlliam Colenso (1814-1883), rector of a country parish in Norfolk, was the author of the textbooks of arithmetic and algebra used in every schoolroom in England--even in the royal nursery. ... in 1862 [he] published the first volume of The Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua Critically Examined ... It stirred outraged protests." Gordon Height, 1972, Introduction. The Portable Victorian Reader (NY: Viking Penguin), pages XI-XLVI, page XXVI-XXVII.

Earlier, in 1835-1836 in Germany, D.F. Strauss published Leben Jesu, translated into English in 1846 by the gifted author George Eliot (pseudonym of Marian Evans Cross [1819-1880]). This translation, entitled The Life of Jesus, had a tremendous impact on the times, for D.F. Strauss "treated the gospels as myth rather than history." The authority of the Christian Bible was being challenged by independent biblical scholars. It has been pointed out that Leben Jesu:

"...portrayed Jesus as a remarkable man who happened to satisfy the messianic hopes of poor and discontented Jews. His life and deeds as recorded in the New Testament, Strauss contended, did not portray the actual, historical Jesus but a mythical Christ whose nature and supernatural powers had been invented by those who passionately desired a Messiah. While Strauss did not actually state that the New Testament was untrue, he did claim that it should not be read as a factual record of events. Miracles did not happen in the nineteenth century and neither could they have taken place in the first century [stress added]." Lee E. Guegel, 1979, Society And Religion During The Age Of Industrialization: Christianity In Victorian England, page 62.

One notes the obvious "geological" metaphor in the above statement when one realizes the impact and influence that the celebrated Principles of Geology (1830-1833) by Charles Lyell (1797-1875) had on Charles Darwin and the times! As James Secord wrote in 1997:

"'The great merit of the Principles,' Charles Darwin once said, 'was that it altered the whole tone of one's mind, & therefore that, when seeing a thing never seen by Lyell, one yet saw it partially through his eyes.' 1 [Note 1. "Darwin to L. Horner, 29 Aug. [1844], in F. Burkhardt and S. Smith (eds), Correspondence of Charles Darwin (1987), vol. 3, p. 55] Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology shaped Darwin's vision of nature as he circumnavigated the globe on the Beagle and as he later created his theory of evolution. ... The Principles, as Darwin recognized, is about seeing. In it, theology, political economy and the philosophy of perception as united with natural history, anthropology, geography and travel. ... Practitioners, Lyell argues, should carry out their investigations under the assumption that causes now visible around us (volcanoes, rivers, tidal currents, earthquakes, storms) are of the same kind that have acted in the past, and have done so with the same degree of intensity in the present. In the Principles, uniformity was not a theory about the actual history of nature, but a policy for securing the philosophical foundations of geology. Lyell aimed to define, as he said in a letter, the 'principles of reasoning in the science'. 3 [Note 3. "Lyell to R. I. Murchison, 17 Jan. 1829, in L.G. Wilson, Charles Lyell: The Years to 1841: The Revolution in Geology (1972), p. 256, where the text is quoted from an original manuscript."] [stress added]." James Secord, 1997, Editor [and with an Introduction], Charles Lyell Principles of Geology (London: Penguin Books), pages ix and xl.

In 1863, E. Renan (1823-1892) published an immensely popular and important volume entitled Vie de Jésus wherein he stated in his introduction that "The whole of history is incomprehensible without him [Jesus]." This publication is interesting because it:

"...ran into thirteen printings within a year of its appearance in 1863, followed by fifteen printing of an abridged popular edition the next year, and which has been translated into thirteen languages" [M. I. Finley, 1977, Aspects For Antiquity: Discoveries And Controversies, 2nd edition, page 173].

These works, as well as many of Darwin's various publications, influenced the way people looked at religion into this century and to summarize the 1860s and 1870s:

"In 1862 Bishop Colenso started to publish his doubts about the Pentateuch. In 1863 Sir Charles Lyell produced his evidence on the antiquity of man, which seemed to be inconsistent with the account of creation in the Bible. In 1863 Renan's humanizing Vie de Jésus appeared. In 1865 J. R. Seeley of Cambridge published another humanizing work on Christ called Ecce Homo. In 1870 the British Association at Exeter generally accepted evolution. [AND] In 1871 Darwin published his Descent of Man. Thus in these ten to twelve years orthodox religion received a series of body blows, which seemed to be aimed at its existence" (G. Kitson Clark, 1967, An Expanding Society: Britain In 1830-1900, pp. 95-96).

Orthodox religion has obviously survived all of the "body blows" of the 19th and 20th centuries and when Darwin's Descent of Man was published in 1871, the "controversy" was almost over in Darwin's time! A nice summary statement of Darwin's 1871 publication us as follows:

"Despite its more explicitly materialistic interpretation of man's essence, Descent was not met with the rancor that earlier had engulfed Origin . In barely more than a decade the concept of evolution--even human evolution--had become installed as a familiar feature on the landscape of popular ideas. If the scientific community's judgment of the work did not always convey unbridled admiration, rarely did it concede less than sober respect. The reviews of Descent were for the most part favorable (Mivart's aside, of course), and the tone of criticism politely muted. A number of reviewers took the occasion to deliver the satisfying news that science posed no threat to religion after all [stress added]." Kenneth Korey, 1984, The Essential Darwin, page 286.



Darwin was a contributor to the changes of the times and he presented evidence, in a well-written and often metaphorical manner, about natural selection and he also had statements concerning a "Creator" in Origin, a point often overlooked by many authors (including the indefatigable Stephen J. Gould). I have concerns with Stephen J. Gould (born in 1941), as I have written on other occasions. Gould consistently omits Charles R. Darwin's reference to the "Creator" in his own writings. In a 1993 publication Gould ended his essay entitled "Shoemaker And Morning Star" as follows:

"And I remembered that Charles Darwin had drawn the very same contrast in the final lines of the Origin of Species. When asking himself, in one climactic paragraph, to define the essence of the differences between life and the inanimate cosmos, Darwin chose the directional character of evolution vs. the cyclic repeatability of our clockwork solar system [and Gould then quotes the following from Darwin]: 'There is a grandeur in this view of life.... [these "...." are placed by Gould in his quote, which continues as follows] Whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.'" Stephen J. Gould, 1993, Shoemaker And Morning Star. Eight Little Piggies: Reflections In Natural History, pp. 206-217, pages 216-217.

Gould must have had a reason for not mentioning Darwin's reference to the "Creator," but it is not obvious to the casual reader. Why does Gould not quote from editions two (1860) through six (1872)? The Darwin statement (in the final chapter) in all editions of Origin after 1860 published in his lifetime is as follows:

"Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved [stress added]." Chapter XV: "Recapitulation And Conclusion."

Darwin also wrote of a "God of Nature" in his 1839 The Voyage of the Beagle as follows:

"Among the scenes which are deeply impressed on my mind, none exceed in sublimity the primeval forests undefaced by the hand of man; whether those of Brazil, where the powers of Life are predominant, or those of Tierra del Fuego, where Death and Decay prevail. Both are temples filled with the varied productions of the God of Nature:--no one can stand in these solitudes unmoved, and not feel that there is more in man than the mere breath of his body [STRESS added]." Charles R. Darwin, 1839, The Voyage of the Beagle [Leonard Engel, Editor of the 1962 edition.] (NY: Anchor), page 436.

Returning to Darwin's Origin, we may read the following:

"He who believes in separate and innumerable acts of creation may say, that in these cases it has pleased the Creator to cause a being of one type to take the place of one belonging to another type; but this seems to me only re-stating the fact in dignified language. He who believes in the struggle for existence and in the principle of natural selection, will acknowledge that every organic being is constantly endeavouring to increase in numbers; and that if any one being varies ever so little, either in habits or structure, and thus gains an advantage over some other inhabitant of the same country, it will seize on the place of that inhabitant, however different that may be from its own place [stress added] . [Chapter VI: Difficulties of The Theory]

"It is scarcely possible to avoid comparing the eye with a telescope. We know that this instrument has been perfected by the long-continued efforts of the highest human intellects; and we naturally infer that the eye has been formed by a somewhat analogous process. But may not this inference be presumptuous? Have we any right to assume that the Creator works by intellectual powers like those of man?" [stress added] [Chapter VI: Difficulties of The Theory]

"The foregoing remarks lead me to say a few words on the protest lately made by some naturalists, against the utilitarian doctrine that every detail of structure has been produced for the good of its possessor. They believe that many structures have been created for the sake of beauty, to delight man or the Creator (but this latter point is beyond the scope of scientific discussion), or for the sake of mere variety, a view already discussed [stress added]." [Chapter VI: Difficulties of The Theory]

"But many naturalists think that something more is meant by the Natural System; they believe that it reveals the plan of the Creator; but unless it be specified whether order in time or space, or both, or what else is meant by the plan of the Creator, it seems to me that nothing is thus added to our knowledge [stress added]." [Chapter XIV: Mutual Affinities Of Organic Beings: Morphology: Embryology: Rudimentary Organs]

"On the ordinary view of the independent creation of each being, we can only say that so it is; that it has pleased the Creator to construct all the animals and plants in each great class on a uniform plan; but this is not a scientific explanation [stress added]." [Chapter XIV: Mutual Affinities Of Organic Beings: Morphology: Embryology: Rudimentary Organs]

Charles R. Darwin was not lacking in faith; the faith that he held, however, was that of a scientist: there are some things which are simply not knowable and let us go on to what we can try and understand! Perhaps we should consider the words of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) who stated it well in the last century: "Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge which is power; religion gives man wisdom which is control."

Once again, Darwin was an agnostic, not an atheist who rejected all religious beliefs and denied the existence of God. Darwin was, however, unwilling to accept supernatural (culturally biased) explanations for the natural (neutral) world of nature that observed all around him and he wrote that "this is not a scientific explanation." Perhaps Darwin should have quoted the Scottish historian and essayist, Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881): "I don't pretend to understand the Universe - it's a great deal bigger than I am . . . People ought to be modester" or Darwin could have chosen a philosophy from elsewhere in the world, for it is written that a Shinto saying is "belief is for mortals, proof is for the Gods."



Darwin was conducting research and writing until the 73rd year of his life and while visiting a friend in London in December 1881, he suffered a mild heart seizure. On the 12th of February 1882, his 73rd birthday, he wrote to a friend that "my course is nearly run" (Julian Huxley and H.B.D. Kettlewell, 1965, Charles Darwin And His World, page 126). When Darwin had his fatal heart attack on Wednesday April 19, 1882, he made no deathbed statement as to his faith. However, had he been asked the question, "Darwin, have you made peace with God?" I think that he would have responded with the words attributed to Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) who, on his deathbed, is said to have replied to that question with "I didn't know we had quarreled" (Huston Smith, 1958, The Religions of Man, page 328). Over the years a "story" appears: "Did you know that Charles Darwin became a Christian before he died? It's true. I read about it once in a book--or was it a magazine. I forget. Anyway...." (J. Moore, 1994, The Darwin Legend, page 21). Moore proves the story false by citing Francis Darwin (1848-1925), son of Charles and Emma Darwin:

"Lady Hope's account of my father's views on religion is quite untrue. I have publicly accused her of falsehood, but have not seen any reply. My father's agnostic point of view is given in my 'Life and Letters of Charles Darwin,' Vol. I., pp. 304-317. You are at liberty to publish the above statement. Indeed, I shall be glad if you will do so. Yours faithfully, Francis Darwin. Brookthorpe, Gloucester. May 28, 1918."

Although Charles Darwin wished to be buried in the village of Down, Kent, where he and his wife Emma had lived for forty years (1842-1882) it was not to be; on April 24, 1882, as a result of a request by various individuals, Charles R. Darwin was buried in Westminster Abbey, close to Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727). On Darwin's ceremony, it was recently written that "A choir sang a hymn adapted from the Book of Proverbs" as follows:

Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.
She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her.
Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour.
Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace."
Carl Zimmer, 2001, Evolution: The Triumph of An Idea (NY: Harper Colins), pages 343-344.

In keeping with the idea of pointing out the human side of Charles Darwin (and others), I appreciate the words of the English author Joseph Addison (1672-1719) who once wrote an essay entitled "The Tombs In Westminster Abbey" (well before Darwin was interred there):

"When I look upon the tombs of the great, every emotion of envy dies in me; when I read the epitaphs of the beautiful, every inordinate desire goes out; when I meet with the grief of parents upon a tombstone, my heart melts with compassion; when I see the tomb of the parents themselves, I consider the vanity of grieving for those whom we must quickly follow; when I see kings lying by those who deposed them, when I consider rival wits placed side by side, or the holy men that divided the world with their contests and disputes, I reflect with sorrow and astonishment on the little competitions, factions, and debates of mankind. When I read the several dates of the tombs - of some that died yesterday, and some six hundred years ago - I consider that great day when we shall all of us be contemporaries, and make our appearance together [stress added]. [In W.E. Williams, Editor, 1951, A Book Of English Essays, pp. 27-30, page 30]." 



LEE DuBRIDGE (1901- 1994)

I like and appreciate the power of certain words and would like to take this opportunity to share a few provocative phrases, the first being some words from Prince Lucien Campbell, President of the University of Oregon, Eugene, from 1902 until his death in 1925.

"Each man [or individual!] is the result of unnumerable eons of selection. We have all had much the same essential endowment, the tremendous accumulated impulses of countless past generations sweep on like a tide, insensible to the microscopic ripple of individual human experience. This tide sweeps through us all. Under right conditions of individual development it makes it's powers fully manifest, under wrong conditions it is held back in one generation, only to burst forth more magnificently perhaps, in the next. The power is always the same, the manifestation depends on the conditions [stress added]."

These words come from an inscription in the North Sculpture Courtyard (off of the Prince Lucien Campbell Courtyard) in The Museum of Art building at the University of Oregon. Since President Campbell died in 1925, and the building was constructed in 1932, I am altogether not sure of the total context of the words, but they have been with me for years: for me, at least, the simple phrase that "The power is always the same, the manifestation depends on the conditions" helps me to understand the diversity of religious beliefs in people of the plant, cultural diversity that exists in the present and has existed in the past, as well as Darwin's "Creator" in a single sentence!

Prince Lucien Campbell was born in Missouri on October 6, 1861, and died in Eugene, Oregon, on August 14, 1925. He became President of the University of Oregon in 1902 and under his direction the campus expanded. All I can find out about the above phrase comes from a 1927 publication by Joseph Schafer entitled Prince Lucien Campbell (and the ellipsis below appeared in the Schafer publication):

"Each man is the result of unnumbered aeons of of selection. We have all had pretty much the same chance at it, and the result is pretty much a dead level of essential endowment. ... The tremendous accumulated impulses of countless past generations sweep on like a tide, insensible to the microscopic ripples of individual human experience. This tide sweeps through us all. Under right conditions of individual development it makes its powers fully manifest; under wrong conditions it is held back in one generation, only to burst forth more magnificently, perhaps, in the next. The power is always the same; the manifestation depends on the conditions. This is good modern biology, of the dominant type of today [stress added]." Joseph Schaefer, 1927, Prince Lucien Campbell (Eugene: University Press), page 184.

Perhaps I will find more information, one day, on President Campbell, although I do know that he has a building named for him on campus (where I took some classes): "PLC, Prince Lucien Campbell Hall, was built in 1967 and is named in honor of the university's fourth president" (see http://admissions.uoregon.edu/visit/qtvr/plc.html). It is interesting to note the "biology" above (but not in the inscription that I copied down), This is, perhaps, an indication of what Paul W. Ewald has described as "evolutionary illiteracy" and given the current state-of-affairs, let me extensively quote Ewald:

"One might hope that the basics and significance of natural selection would be embedded in nearly all well-educated minds before those minds encounter their first year of college, and certainly by the end of the last year. But this hope is far from realized. The antievolution stance of some groups is partly responsible. Publishers of textbooks, worried about sales, have often quarantined their treatment of evolution to a few chapters of a few pages rather than giving evolution its rightful place as a fundamental unifying principle of biology. As such, it is more appropriately integrated into each chapter of a biology text to provide a sense of the 'why' for each of the biological mechanisms discussed in most textbooks. The net effect is that most high school students are evolutionarily illiterate when they get their diplomas. They may get a bit of evolution in college, but as in the arts, math, and literature, expertise and profound insight are acquired only after immersion in the subject. College students go on to medical school, where they typically receive virtually no exposure to the evolutionary principles that unite biology. The newly minted M.D.'s believe that they have been packed full of the best biological insights that education can provide, when in fact they have often been deprived of biology's most fundamental insight. The intense specialization in Ph.D. programs leaves many newly minted Ph.D.'s in a similar situation. Biomedical researchers and medical practitioners thus often try to understand biological problems with a sorely inadequate understanding of the basic framework of biology. The telltale signs of evolutionary illiteracy are not hard to spot [stress added]." Paul W. Ewald, 2000, Plague Time: How Stealth Infections Cause Cancers, Heart Disease, and Other Deadly Ailments (NY: The Free Press), pages 237-238.

Ewald's book is divided into three major sections, and the first section is appropriately entitled "A Sphere of Infection: The Approach of Evolutionary Medicine."

Another individual I enjoy to read and quote is the distinguished American Anthropologist Gregory Bateson (1904-1980), who was once a Trustee of the University of California system; Bateson wrote that the "unit of survival [or adaptation I add] is organism plus environment" [stress added] (Steps To An Ecology of Mind, 1972, page 483) and this phrase has stuck with me for almost thirty years. I strongly argue that if we, as individuals (and as a collective), are to survive we must (a) be aware of and (b) adapt to the ever-changing world around us. Bateson went on to write about the human mind:

"The unit of survival [or adaptation] is organism plus environment. We are learning by bitter experience that the organism which destroys its environment destroys itself. If, now, we correct the Darwinian unit of survival to include the environment and the interaction between organism and environment, a very strange and surprising identity emerges: the unit of survival turns out to be identical with the unit of mind" [italics in original; stress added]." Gregory Bateson [1904-1980], 1972, Steps To An Ecology of Mind (NY: Ballantine Books), page 483.

Finally, words from a 1977 meeting have stuck in my mind when I was the "token" anthropologist at a Symposium entitled "The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) at the NASA (National Aeronautics & Space Administration)/Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California. The words were those of Dr. Lee DuBridge, President of CalTech: ""Either mankind is alone in the galaxy-or he is not; either alternative is mind-boggling." Wow! What would extra-terrestrial Darwinian research be like?



How do we ever truly know anyone? We work at it and hope for some degree of verisimilitude and hope that we are understood (realizing, of course, that something is always "lost" in the translation). There is a problem and we raise questions, conduct research, come up with solutions (which are often temporary), and then (hopefully) have some understanding of what went on.

As mentioned above, Charles and Emma Darwin had ten children, only seven of which lived to their age of maturity. I am convinced that the entire Darwin family was a loving one and one can read the following by one of Darwin's children after the death of Charles R. Darwin:

"My first remembrances of my father are of the delights of his playing with us. He was passionately attached to his own children, although he was not an indiscriminate child-lover. ... He cared for all our pursuits and interests, and lived our lives with us in a way that very few fathers do. But I am certain that none of us felt that this intimacy interfered the least with our respect and obedience. ... Another characteristic of his treatment of his children was his respect for their liberty, and for their personality. Our father and mother would not even wish to know what we were doing or thinking unless we wished to tell. He always made us feel that we were each of us creatures whose opinions and thoughts were valuable to him, so that whatever there was best in us came out in the sunshine of his presence [stress added]." Francis Darwin, 1950, Charles Darwin's Autobiography: With His Notes And Letters Depicting The Growth of The Origin of Species, pp. 96-98.

I use "time" as an organizing principle and "know" that the first edition of Origin was published in 1859; I also know that Anne Elizabeth Darwin, the second child of Charles and Emma Darwin, died in April of 1851. Born on March 2, 1841, the death of "Annie" had always intrigued me: what impact did it have on Darwin's thinking processes? Recently, a great-great grandson of Charles Darwin has published a book entitled Annie's Box: Charles Darwin, his Daughter and Human Evolution (London: Fourth Estate). While I am not totally pleased with this publication, consider the following:

"After Annie's death [in 1851], Charles set the Christian faith firmly behind him. He did not attend church services with the family; he walked with them to the church door, but left them to enter on their own and stood talking with the village constable or walked along the lanes around the parish. He did, though, still firmly believe in a Divine Creator. But while others had faith in God's infinite goodness, Charles found him a shadowy, inscrutable and ruthless figure." Randal Keynes, 2001, Annie's Box: Charles Darwin, his Daughter and Human Evolution (London: Fourth Estate), page 222.

Charles R. Darwin himself wrote the following on Annie:

"You all know well your Mother [Charles Darwin wrote to his children], and what a good Mother she has ever been to all of you. She has been my greatest blessing, and I can declare that in my whole life I have never heard her utter one word which I had rather been unsaid. … We have suffered only one very severe grief in the death of Annie at Malvern on April 24th, 1851, when she was just over ten years old. She was a most sweet and affectionate child, and I feel sure would have grown into a delightful woman. But I need say nothing here of her character, as I wrote a short sketch of it shortly after her death. Tears still sometimes come into my eyes, when I think of her sweet ways.1 ("1. The fuller account of Annie can be found in Life and Letters, Vol. I, p. 132.--N.B.") [stress added]. Nora Barlow, 1958, The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809-1882. With original omissions restored Edited with Appendix and Notes by his grand-daughter (NY: Norton 1969 paperback edition), pages 97-98.

Annie's death had an impact on Darwin as Edna Healey wrote in her excellent 1986 volume entitled Wives of Fame:

"The death of Annie left a deep scar; neither Emma nor Charles would ever be the same again. ... In the dark days after Annie's Death, Emma had the consolation of religion. But Charles found the tragedy easier to explain as an instance of survival of the fittest. How could a God be both loving and yet so cruel? As he watched under his microscope the nightmare of cruelty involved in the struggle for life he felt he could make out a better case for the devil than for God. Once, he had thought he might be happy as a country parson, but in fact he was not by nature religious--his father and his grandfather were sons of the age of reason, and his elder brother Erasmus [1804-1881] was an agnostic, so the gradual loss of faith in these years did not disturb him unduly. But Emma, watching his anguish over Annie's death, wished he could share her faith to alleviate his grief. Once again, she found it easier to write to him."

"When I see your patience, deep compassion for others, self command and ...[these appear in the volume being cited] gratitude for the smallest thing done to help you, I cannot help longing that these previous feelings should be offered to Heaven for the sake of your daily happiness. But I find it difficult enough in my own case. I often think of the words, 'thou shalt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee.' It is feeling and not reasoning that drives one to prayer." Edna Healey, 1986, Wives of Fame: Mary Livingstone, Jenny Marx, Emma Darwin (London: Sidgwick & Jackson), pages 172-174.

The everlasting 17th century words of John Donne (1572-1631) held true for Donne, held true for Emma and Charles Darwin, and held true for us on September 9, 2001: "...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind...." 

Thomas Henry Huxley wrote Darwin's obituary for the April 27, 1882 issue of Nature and he wrote that the words applied to Socrates "Apology" were appropriate for Darwin and the words ring:

"...in our ears as if it were Charles Darwin's farewell:--'The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways--I to die and you to live. Which is the better, God only knows.'" Thomas H. Huxley, 1882, Charles Darwin. April 27, 1882, Nature (London); reprinted in Thomas H. Huxley, 1896, Darwiniana Essays [1970: New York AMS Reprint], pages 253-302, pages 244-247, page 247.

The above mentioned Ashforth volume (1969, Thomas Henry Huxley [NY: Twayne Publishers, Inc.], page 150), has the following about Huxley, who died on June 29, 1895. "At his own request, three lines written by his wife were inscribed on his tomb" and they were as follows:

"Be not afraid, ye waiting hearts that weep;
For still He giveth his beloved sleep,
And if an endless sleep He will, so best."

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1. © [All rights reserved.] For a presentation [with videotape and slides] on November 4, 2001 at the Unitarian Fellowship of Chico (1289 Filbert Avenue). Darwin is everywhere; consider the following from an "actor" portraying Charles Darwin: "You see, every so often Mother Nature changes her animals, giving them bigger teeth, sharper claws, longer legs, or in this case, a third eye. And if these variations turn out to be an improvement, the new animals thrive and multiply and spread across the face of the earth." Episode 7F01, Two cars in every garage and three eyes on every fish. Ray Richmond & Antonia Coffman, Editors, 1997, The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family (NY: Harper Colins), page 38. To return to the beginning of this page, please click here.

NOTE: Today's presentation is obviously part of a larger piece. Similar visuals were shown on October 19, 2001 (at the "Chico State Retired Faculty Association" meeting) and were shown again on October 25, 2001 (at an "Anthropology Forum" at CSU, Chico). However, different "words" were prepared for both of these public presentations and, while (of necessity) there was some overlap, you are invited to check out those two web sites:

2001a http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban/DarwinRetFacOct2001.html [October 19, 2001} Charles R. Darwin: Comments on a Fulfilled Life.]

2001b http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban/DarwinForum2001.html [October 25, 2001} On Darwin At The 21st Century]


http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban/WordsOnAnnie'sBox.html [September 2001 words on Annie's Box].

http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban/SoAmGIslands.html [July 2000 Galápagos Islands Trip]

Darwin 2000-2001 [Self]Test One [If you are interested, you may wish to take a "Darwin Self-Test"] 

http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban/SelfTesting/DarwinTestTwo.htm [Another "Darwin Self-Test"]

http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban/darwinvisualsonly.htm [November 2000} Charles Darwin-Related "Visuals" Only]

http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban/Darwin2000.html [November 2000 presentation with complete listing of all Urbanowicz papers relating to Darwin to that date, including numerous other WWW references].

http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban/Unpub_Papers/1977SETIPaper.html [February 1977 paper entitled} Evolution of Technological Civilization: What is Evolution, Technology, and Civilization?]

http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban/Darwin1965WWSC.html [June 1965 undergraduate outline for SPEECH 100, Western Washington State College, Bellingham, Washington [now Western Washington University], June 30).

http://rce.csuchico.edu/rv/Darwin/Darwin3.ram [Charles Darwin: - Part Two: The Voyage (2001). ~Twenty-two Minutes. Darwin from South America, through the Galápagos Islands, and back to England.] Edited by Ms. Vilma Hernandez and Produced by Ms. Donna Crowe: Instructional Media Center, CSU, Chico. Available via the Internet with REAL PLAYER [http://www.real.com/player/index.html.

http://rce.csuchico.edu/rv/Darwin/DarwinVoyage.ram [Charles Darwin: - Part One: The Voyage (1999). ~Twenty-two Minutes. Darwin sailing from England to South America.] Produced and Edited by Ms. Donna Crowe: Instructional Media Center, CSU, Chico. Available via the Internet with REAL PLAYER [http://www.real.com/player/index.html.

http://www.rce.csuchico.edu/rv/Darwin/DarwinReflections.ram [Charles Darwin: Reflections - Part One: The Beginning (1997). ~Seventeen Minutes. Darwin in England]. Produced and Edited by Ms. Donna Crowe: Instructional Media Center, CSU, Chico. Available via the Internet with REAL PLAYER [http://www.real.com/player/index.html.

Other WWW References:

http://darwin.ws/day/ [Darwin Day Home Page]

http://www.galapagos.org/cdf.htm [Charles Darwin Foundation, Inc.]

http://www.aboutdarwin.com/ [About Darwin.com]

http://www.gruts.demon.co.uk/darwin/index.htm [The Friends of Charles Darwin Home Page]

wysiwyg://5/http://www.iexplore.com/multimedia/galapagos.jhtml [The Galápagos Islands!]

http://www.natcenscied.org [The National Center for Science Education]

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/ [September 2001 PBS Television Series on "Evolution"]

http://www.dimensional.com/~randl/scopes.htm [The Scopes "Monkey Trial," or "A 1925 Media Circus"]

http://xroads.virginia.edu/~UG97/inherit/1925home.html [Inherit} 1925]

http://www.darwinawards.com/ [Official Darwin Awards} "...showing us just how uncommon common sense can be." Wendy Northcutt, 2000, The Darwin Awards: Evolution in Action (Dutton).


http://ww2.dixie-net.com/~holleman/fulghum.html [Robert Fulghum Books]

http://www.swuuc.org/SanAntonio/Sermons/s010225.htm [February 25, 2001: Rev. Arthur G. Severance} Thank You Charles Darwin; The Evolution of Unitarian Univversalism; from The First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Antonio, Texas]

http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/darwin/leghist/desmond.htm [BBC Evolution Weekend} Adrian Desmond on Darwin]

http://www.libertynet.org/firstuu/uupg3.html [1st Unitarian Church of Philadelphia]

http://www.duke.edu/~agb2/ws.html [1996 paper} On the Religion of Charles Darwin]

http://pionet.net/~uua/wheredidwecomefrom.htm [2000 paper} Where Did We Come From?]

http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/1314.asp [1995/1996 article} Darwin's Slippery Slide into Unbelief]

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[~9,254 words]

To go to the home page of Charles F. Urbanowicz.

To go to the home page of the Department of Anthropology.

To go to the home page of California State University, Chico.

[This page printed from http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban/FA2001Unitarian.html]

Copyright © 2001; all rights reserved by Charles F. Urbanowicz

1 November 2001 by cfu

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