Charles Darwin's Faith and Religious Beliefs
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Darwin had attended a Unitarian school in Shrewsbury. In the early years of their marriage, Charles and Emma read a number of works by Unitarian and liberal Anglican authors, including Martineau, Taylor, and Francis Newman.
Many of these writings were widely read in the period, and formed part of a heated debate on the authority of the Anglican creed. Sworn belief in the thirty-nine articles of the Anglican church was then a requirement for students, fellows and teachers at Oxford and Cambridge, and of anyone taking holy orders. Lay members of the church were not required to profess belief in any particular doctrine, only to recite the liturgy.
These indicate a critical reading of Scripture, informed by new historical approaches to the text. Some of the Biblical commentary that Emma and Charles read in this period raised questions about the process of belief itself. Should it derive from a critical and historical reading of Scripture? In a letter written to Charles several months after their marriage, Emma suggests an appreciation for earnest doubt as a means of seeking truth: As Darwin would later reveal to Fordyce and other correspondents, his opinions on certain religious matters remained unformed.
Conscientious doubt, viewed not as a state of disbelief, but as a state of inquiry, an openness with regard to nature and to revelation, like the openness that Charles and Emma so valued between each other—this might have been a bond, rather than merely a void, between the couple.
This is not to suggest that tensions between them were resolved. But the evidence of their shared reading and correspondence does indicate that religious differences were not merely suppressed in their marriage; rather, that the foundations of belief and of doubt were a subject of ongoing discussion and mutual concern for many years. Not by any means, is the absolute nature of [a man's] opinions in themselves a matter of so much consequence, as the temper and tone of mind which he brings to the inquiry … [Is he] truthful and earnest … or vain… One …who would spend years of silent investigation in the faint hope of at length finding the truth … or one [who] would … gratify a selfish ambition by adopting … the first fashionable view.
Kingsley offered Huxley the consolation of belief in everlasting life. Some leading Darwinians found this approach frustrating. Alfred Russel Wallace repeatedly urged Darwin to place more emphasis on the facts favourable to natural selection, and worried that Darwin gave leverage to his critics by calling attention to the difficulties of his theory.
Your extraordinary humility is seen as weakness and your admirable self-criticism is interpreted as lack of firm conviction.
Of course with good, understanding and thinking men you have only gained … But unfortunately these are in the minority … Energetic attacks and merciless blows are everywhere necessary.
See the letter Darwin is often portrayed as one who worked quietly in his study at Down House, avoiding scientific and social controversy, allowing others like Huxley, Wallace, and Haeckel to battle on his behalf. Darwin did express gratitude for, and occasionally glee at, the combativeness of his colleagues and supporters. But he was also concerned that such controversial styles of debate would alienate potential allies and disturb old allegiances.
Nevertheless I am convinced that this power does no good, only causes pain. I may add that as we daily see men arriving at opposite conclusions from the same premises it seems to me doubtful policy to speak too positively on any complex subject however much a man may feel convinced of the truth of his own conclusions.
See the letter According to Darwin, the voice of science should not be one of absolute conviction, but rather of openness and criticism, or even sometimes of confessed ignorance. This readership ranged from gentlemanly specialists and young professionals to pigeon fanciers and gardeners. It included his own family and social circle, and his large network of correspondents, many of whom were clergymen and members of the gentry, persons on whom he relied, and whose observations and authority he incorporated into his texts.
But this cautious style also left him vulnerable to critics, as Wallace and Haeckel pointed out. Meyer, Seattle Times, 10 Jun We know that Darwin had not a shred of doubt about the power of natural selection to modify and transmute species. The questions were in the details of how it operated. His agnosticism should be understood as a state of genuine uncertainty regarding the existence and nature of God.
Alfred Russell Wallace - FAQs
Running right through his early discussions on religion and science with Emma, to his publications on evolution, and later correspondence with clergymen and enquiring readers, is an agreed commitment to the practice of conscientious doubt and critical inquiry in both science and religion.
Selection of persons and works referred to Barlow, Nora, ed. Geology, transmutation of species, metaphysical enquiries Cambridge: His family, like many Wallaces, claimed a connection to William Wallacea leader of Scottish forces during the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 13th century. He owned some income-generating property, but bad investments and failed business ventures resulted in a steady deterioration of the family's financial position.
His mother was from a middle-class English family from Hertfordnorth of London. There he attended Hertford Grammar School until financial difficulties forced his family to withdraw him inwhen he was aged Wallace then moved to London to board with his older brother John, a year-old apprentice builder. This was a stopgap measure until William, his oldest brother, was ready to take him on as an apprentice surveyor. Here he was exposed to the radical political ideas of the Welsh social reformer Robert Owen and of Thomas Paine.
He left London in to live with William and work as his apprentice for six years. At the end ofthey moved to KingtonHereford, near the Welsh border, before eventually settling at Neath in Glamorgan in Wales.
Between andWallace did land surveying work in the countryside of the west of England and Wales.
Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace - their theory of evolution - malthus on population
One result of Wallace's early travels is a modern controversy about his nationality. Since Wallace was born in Monmouthshiresome sources have considered him to be Welsh.
One Wallace scholar has stated that the most reasonable interpretation is therefore that he was an Englishman born in Wales. Wallace spent many hours at the library in Leicester: Bates was 19 years old, and in he had published a paper on beetles in the journal Zoologist.
He befriended Wallace and started him collecting insects.
After a few months, Wallace found work as a civil engineer for a nearby firm that was working on a survey for a proposed railway in the Vale of Neath. Wallace's work on the survey involved spending a lot of time outdoors in the countryside, allowing him to indulge his new passion for collecting insects. Wallace persuaded his brother John to join him in starting another architecture and civil engineering firm, which carried out a number of projects, including the design of a building for the Neath Mechanics' Institutefounded in In the autumn ofJohn and he purchased a cottage near Neath, where they lived with their mother and sister Fanny his father had died in The thin black lines indicate where Wallace travelled, and the red lines indicate chains of volcanoes.
Inspired by the chronicles of earlier travelling naturalists, including Alexander von HumboldtCharles Darwin and especially William Henry EdwardsWallace decided that he too wanted to travel abroad as a naturalist. Their intention was to collect insects and other animal specimens in the Amazon Rainforest for their private collections, selling the duplicates to museums and collectors back in Britain in order to fund the trip.
Wallace also hoped to gather evidence of the transmutation of species. Inthey were briefly joined by another young explorer, botanist Richard Sprucealong with Wallace's younger brother Herbert. Herbert left soon thereafter dying two years later from yellow feverbut Spruce, like Bates, would spend over ten years collecting in South America.
After 26 days at sea, the ship's cargo caught fire and the crew was forced to abandon ship. All of the specimens Wallace had on the ship, mostly collected during the last, and most interesting, two years of his trip, were lost. He managed to save a few notes and pencil sketches and little else. Wallace and the crew spent ten days in an open boat before being picked up by the brig Jordeson, which was sailing from Cuba to London.
The Jordeson's provisions were strained by the unexpected passengers, but after a difficult passage on very short rations the ship finally reached its destination on 1 October During this period, despite having lost almost all of the notes from his South American expedition, he wrote six academic papers which included "On the Monkeys of the Amazon" and two books; Palm Trees of the Amazon and Their Uses and Travels on the Amazon.
From toage 31 to 39, Wallace travelled through the Malay Archipelago or East Indies now Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesiato collect specimens for sale and to study natural history. A set of 80 bird skeletons he collected in Indonesia and associated documentation can be found in the Cambridge University Museum of Zoology. Wallace collected more thanspecimens in the Malay Archipelago more than 80, beetles alone.
Several thousand of them represented species new to science. While he was exploring the archipelago, he refined his thoughts about evolution and had his famous insight on natural selection. In he sent an article outlining his theory to Darwin; it was published, along with a description of Darwin's own theory, in the same year. Accounts of his studies and adventures there were eventually published in as The Malay Archipelagowhich became one of the most popular books of scientific exploration of the 19th century, and has never been out of print.
It was praised by scientists such as Darwin to whom the book was dedicatedand Charles Lyell, and by non-scientists such as the novelist Joseph Conradwho called it his "favorite bedside companion" and used it as source of information for several of his novels, especially Lord Jim. Wallace taken in Singapore in InWallace returned to England, where he moved in with his sister Fanny Sims and her husband Thomas.
While recovering from his travels, Wallace organised his collections and gave numerous lectures about his adventures and discoveries to scientific societies such as the Zoological Society of London.
He also corresponded with Darwin about a variety of topics, including sexual selectionwarning colourationand the possible effect of natural selection on hybridisation and the divergence of species. Wallace had been introduced to Mitten through the botanist Richard Spruce, who had befriended Wallace in Brazil and who was also a good friend of Annie Mitten's father, William Mittenan expert on mosses. InWallace built the Della house of concrete, on land he leased in Grays in Essex, where he lived until The Wallaces had three children: Herbert —Violet —and William — While he was in the Malay Archipelago, the sale of specimens had brought in a considerable amount of money, which had been carefully invested by the agent who sold the specimens for Wallace.
However, on his return to the UK, Wallace made a series of bad investments in railways and mines that squandered most of the money, and he found himself badly in need of the proceeds from the publication of The Malay Archipelago.
To remain financially solvent, Wallace worked grading government examinations, wrote 25 papers for publication between and for various modest sums, and was paid by Lyell and Darwin to help edit some of their own works.
Mill asked him to join the general committee of his Land Tenure Reform Associationbut the association dissolved after Mill's death in Wallace had written only a handful of articles on political and social issues between and when, at the age of 56, he entered the debates over trade policy and land reform in earnest.
He believed that rural land should be owned by the state and leased to people who would make whatever use of it that would benefit the largest number of people, thus breaking the often-abused power of wealthy landowners in British society.
InWallace was elected as the first president of the newly formed Land Nationalisation Society. He criticised the UK's free trade policies for the negative impact they had on working-class people. Its Successes and Its Failures about developments in the 19th century.
The first part of the book covered the major scientific and technical advances of the century; the second part covered what Wallace considered to be its social failures including: In NovemberWallace began a ten-month trip to the United States to give a series of popular lectures.
Most of the lectures were on Darwinism evolution through natural selectionbut he also gave speeches on biogeographyspiritualism, and socio-economic reform. During the trip, he was reunited with his brother John who had emigrated to California years before. He also spent a week in Colorado, with the American botanist Alice Eastwood as his guide, exploring the flora of the Rocky Mountains and gathering evidence that would lead him to a theory on how glaciation might explain certain commonalities between the mountain flora of Europe, Asia and North America, which he published in in the paper "English and American Flowers".
He met many other prominent American naturalists and viewed their collections. His book Darwinism used information he collected on his American trip, and information he had compiled for the lectures. Wallace Memorial Fund in It features a 7-foot 2. On 7 NovemberWallace died at home in the country house he called Old Orchard, which he had built a decade earlier. His death was widely reported in the press. The New York Times called him "the last of the giants belonging to that wonderful group of intellectuals that included, among others, Darwin, Huxley, Spencer, Lyell, and Owen, whose daring investigations revolutionised and evolutionised the thought of the century.
The medallion was unveiled on 1 November Theory of evolution[ edit ] Early evolutionary thinking[ edit ] Unlike Darwin, Wallace began his career as a travelling naturalist already believing in the transmutation of species. It was widely discussed, but not generally accepted by leading naturalists, and was considered to have radicaleven revolutionary connotations.
I have a rather more favourable opinion of the 'Vestiges' than you appear to have. I do not consider it a hasty generalization, but rather as an ingenious hypothesis strongly supported by some striking facts and analogies, but which remains to be proven by more facts and the additional light which more research may throw upon the problem.
It furnishes a subject for every student of nature to attend to; every fact he observes will make either for or against it, and it thus serves both as an incitement to the collection of facts, and an object to which they can be applied when collected. I should like to take some one family [of beetles] to study thoroughly, principally with a view to the theory of the origin of species.
By that means I am strongly of opinion that some definite results might be arrived at. His conclusion that "Every species has come into existence coincident both in space and time with a closely allied species" has come to be known as the "Sarawak Law".
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Wallace thus answered the question he had posed in his earlier paper on the monkeys of the Amazon river basin. Although it contained no mention of any possible mechanisms for evolution, this paper foreshadowed the momentous paper he would write three years later. Although his friend Charles Darwin had written to him in expressing support for transmutation, Lyell had continued to be strongly opposed to the idea.
Around the start ofhe told Darwin about Wallace's paper, as did Edward Blyth who thought it "Good! Wallace has, I think put the matter well; and according to his theory the various domestic races of animals have been fairly developed into species. Uses my simile of tree [but] it seems all creation with him. Darwin had already shown his theory to their mutual friend Joseph Hooker and now, for the first time, he spelt out the full details of natural selection to Lyell.