Evolving Thoughts

A quote from Darwin

An oldie but a goodie:

With respect to the theological view of the question; this is always painful to me.– I am bewildered.– I had no intention to write atheistically. But I own that I cannot see, as plainly as others do, & as I shd wish to do, evidence of design & beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent & omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae symbol with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice. Not believing this, I see no necessity in the belief that the eye was expressly designed. On the other hand I cannot anyhow be contented to view this wonderful universe & especially the nature of man, & to conclude that everything is the result of brute force. I am inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of what we may call chance. Not that this notion at all satisfies me. I feel most deeply that the whole subject is too profound for the human intellect. A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton.–forced double space Let each man hope & believe what he can.–

Certainly I agree with you that my views are not at all necessarily atheistical. The lightning kills a man, whether a good one or bad one, owing to the excessively complex action of natural laws,–a child (who may turn out an idiot) is born by action of even more complex laws,–and I can see no reason, why a man, or other animal, may not have been aboriginally produced by other laws; & that all these laws may have been expressly designed by an omniscient Creator, who foresaw every future event & consequence. But the more I think the more bewildered I become; as indeed I have probably shown by this letter.

From the Darwin Correspondence Project.


  1. #1 jeffw
    May 23, 2007

    Hard to improve on this, even today. It is as if asking and answering questions just generates new and deeper questions, without end. Strange that existence should be structured that way.

  2. #2 Laurent
    May 23, 2007

    A wonderful quote. Simply.

  3. #3 Ian H Spedding FCD
    May 24, 2007

    One man looks at the abundance and intricacy of living things and sees evidence of design. Another man looks at the abundance and intricacy of living things but sees no evidence of design. One man constructs a revolutionary theory to explain what he sees. The other does not. Correlation or causation?

  4. #4 snaxalotl
    May 24, 2007

    very very profound … forced double space … the notion that the dog and Newton are forced to occupy different realms of experience, a double space, even though it is but one space

  5. #5 John Wilkins
    May 24, 2007

    There. Is that better?

    [Everyone’s a critic mutter mutter grumble]

  6. #6 Thony C.
    May 24, 2007

    [Everyone’s a critic mutter mutter grumble]

    I said it once and I’ll say it again. We only hang around here waiting for you to make a mistake so that we can shit on your head!

  7. #7 Thony C.
    May 24, 2007

    SHIT! Forgot the effing back slash! Effing html!

    [Fixed – JSW]

  8. #8 Bunjo
    May 25, 2007

    I have always admired Darwin. He thought deeply about what he thought he knew or could know, and even more deeply about what he thought he didn’t or couldn’t know.

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