Many books have been written looking at Charles Darwin’s theories and the legacy he left behind. This book though, written by Nick Spencer, is not just another one looking at the debate in Christian circles between evolution and creation, but in it he has set out to actually examine Darwin’s own religious beliefs.
The author traces Darwin’s religious thoughts from various writings he wrote throughout his life including letters, notebooks, manuscripts and also his autobiography. Some of this material expressed views that Darwin carefully kept out of public sight during his life. However thanks to the wonders of modern technology these writings can now be accessed on line.
The book looks at the way in which his religious beliefs changed over the years and examines the sort of Christian faith that he grew up with, one which seemed to often epitomise the era in which Darwin lived. We see how he struggled to reconcile his religious beliefs with the scientific discoveries he made.
Nick Spencer also looks at how the death of Darwin’s favourite daughter Annie had a profound effect on his beliefs too. Darwin like many before him and since struggled to understand the hows and whys of suffering, and the author believes it was this that finally brought about the end of his Christian faith. We then see how in later years he moved to an agnostic position.
One of the characteristics of Darwin which impressed the author was the courteous way in which he dealt with those who disagreed with his views. And the book concludes with him reflecting that this courtesy is often missing from those who engage in fierce debate about evolution and religious beliefs.
For anyone who wishes to look closely at what Darwin did actually believe as opposed to what they think he did or did not believe then this book is a good read and may offer you some surprises.