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Nick Spencer explores the religious beliefs of Charles Darwin. (2009)
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On 27 December 1831 Charles Darwin left Plymouth on the Beagle, on a voyage would last nearly five years and, in other ways, a lifetime.
Before the trip Darwin had been “a sort of Chistian”: “orthodox” in a conventional, rational, Anglican kind of way. The Beagle voyage changed that, sending him on a journey from Christianity, through theism, to the “muddled” agnosticism of his old age. Darwin and God traces that journey.
It begins by exploring the nature of Darwin’s pre–Beagle beliefs and the religious significance of the voyage, before following him through the tumultuous years of intellectual speculation that followed and the dreadful loss of his favourite child.
Drawing on his autobiography, manuscripts, notebooks, and letters, as well as his world–famous publications, it explores Darwin’s view of design, purpose, morality, the universe and the human mind, arguing that, although his theory of evolution by natural selection did to undermine his Christian faith, it was the age–old problem of suffering – first in theory and then in a terribly real way – that broke his faith.
“Darwin and God is the first full–length account of Darwin’s religious beliefs to be published in the UK. Meticulously–researched but highly readable, it presents a tumultuous, moving and compelling story of one of the world’s greatest scientists. When misconceptions abound concerning Darwin’s religious views, it is good to read such a sensitive, reliable and absorbing account.” John Hedley Brooke, Emeritus Professor of Science and Religion, Oxford University
“This fascinating and readable book fills a big gap in the Darwin literature and provides a well–researched overview of Darwin’s religious struggles”. Denis Alexander, Director, The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion
“A very helpful helpful discussion of a neglected and important subject.” Mary Midgley, moral philosopher
Nick is Senior Fellow at Theos. He is the author of a number of books and reports, most recently The Political Samaritan: how power hijacked a parable (Bloomsbury, 2017), The Evolution of the West (SPCK, 2016) and Atheists: The Origin of the Species (Bloomsbury, 2014).
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