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On 27 December 1831, Charles Darwin boarded HMS Beagle in Plymouth and embarked on a voyage that was to last nearly five years and, in other ways, a lifetime. Before the trip Darwin had been 'a sort of Christian': 'orthodox' in a conventional, rational, Anglican kind of way. What he experienced on the Beagle set him on a journey from Christianity, through theism, to the muddled agnosticism of his old age.
Nick Spencer draws on Darwin's autobiography, manuscripts, notebooks and letters - as well as his world-famous publications - in exploring Darwin's view of design, purpose, morality, the universe and the human mind. The author argues that, although Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection did undermine his Christian convictions, it was the age-old problem of suffering - first in theory, then through the dreadful loss of his favourite child - that caused his faith to break down.
Darwin and God is the first full-length account of Darwin's religious beliefs to be published in the UK. Meticulously researched, it presents the moving, compelling and tumultuous story of one of the world's greatest scientists.
Nick Spencer is Director of Studies at Theos, the public theology think tank. He has written a number of books, most recently (with Bob White) Christianity, Climate Change and Sustainable Living (SPCK).
'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
'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, University of Oxford
Darwin and God by Nick Spencer was published by SPCK in February 2009 and is our 30082nd best seller. The ISBN for Darwin and God is 9780281060825.
Not many books sell out within 24 hours of publication, but Nick Spencer’s careful study of Darwin’s faith and lack of faith is one of them – and justifiably so. Written in an accessible and readable style, this book clears up a number of misunderstandings and offers a balanced discussion of this little studied aspect of Darwin’s life. Tracing three distinct periods in Darwin’s journey of faith, Spencer shows that whilst a committed Christian believer at university and during his voyage on the Beagle, Darwin’s faith was challenged and undermined both by his experiences on board ship, and most tellingly by the death of his daughter Annie at the age of ten some years later. During the last years of his life Darwin moved from this theistic, if no longer Christian, position to one which he described as agnosticism – though he avoided religious controversy throughout his life and often remarked that he could see no reason for antagonism between science and faith.
This book is an important contribution to the often highly charged Darwin ‘debate’, and gives the lie to those who would claim Darwin as an atheist. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book is Spencer’s conclusion that the kind of faith which Darwin lost was, as for many at the time, a fundamentally rational, propositional one – more a philosophy than a faith, and one which carried with it no personal experience of God and no specific commitment to Jesus. For his wife, it seems it was not so – but for most educated Englishmen it probably was. It really does matter, Spencer concludes, what you base your faith on. How are we doing, he asks, today? For a fuller summary see http://www.alisonmorgan.co.uk/Spencer%2009%20Darwin%20&%20God.pdf
|Author / Artist||Nick Spencer|
|Publisher||SPCK (February 2009)|
|Number of Pages||160|
|Page last updated||31st January 2018|