Regarding Rowan Hooper’s June 11 article, “Of Darwin and Mishima . . . ,” which reviews Charles Darwin’s scientific ideas and their impact: Hooper says Darwin rebelled against his father when, at 22, he set off on the HSM Beagle for a voyage around the world but that “the greater rebellion — mounted, effectively, against the Christians’ Heaven and God — took him the rest of his life to complete.”
I wonder if that statement is right. During his life and after his death, religious people, atheists and those in between wanted to have him on their side. The Internet provides a trove of information on the subject. For instance, at a dinner given by the Darwins for German freethinker L. Buchner in 1881 (eight months before Darwin’s death), Darwin agreed that Christianity was “not supported by the evidence” but that he had reached this conclusion only slowly: “I never gave up Christianity until I was 40 years of age. . . . That disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but at last was complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress.”
In his Autobiography, started in 1876, he recalled that at the time of writing “On the Origin of Species,” the conclusion was strong in his mind of the existence of God. He always refused to support the cause of those opposing religion, saying that “it appears that direct arguments against Christianity and theism produce hardly any effect on the public; freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds which follow the advance of science. It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid writing on religion and I have confined myself to science.”
As a scientist, Hooper writes excellent articles. He should follow Darwin’s advice and stop mounting his, unfortunately, not infrequent attacks on Christianity.