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Charles Darwin

Murphy’s Law: Charles Darwin


Charles Darwin (1809-1882) thought he would become a surgeon and attended the University of Edinburgh only to find that he could not handle the “occasions when the surgeon’s assistant held down the shrieking patient by main force.” He transferred to Cambridge to study the theology of the Church of England with the intention of becoming an Anglican priest. While there, he read the writing of Alexander von Humboldt and that changed everything. Soon he realized he preferred the facts of science to the assertions of religion. In 1831 he graduated at age 22 and a few months later left England to explore the world of Nature. His science teacher had finagled a place for Darwin on the research vessel, HMS Beagle, as a volunteer naturalist.

During the next five years his young mind would absorb facts of Nature from all over the world. Darwin wanted to know the answer to the question, from where did humans come? Already he was a budding freethinker as he ignored the fables of Genesis 1 (first the animals, then Adam and Eve together), and Genesis 2, (first Adam, then the animals, and finally Eve). He wanted the truth and went for it. He came home with truckloads of exhibits and boxes of field-notes. Then he thought about it for the next 20 years and finally he published The Origin of the Species in 1859.

The book documented four main themes: Nature compels all living things to struggle to survive; those forms that are the most adaptable survive; and pass on their adapting traits through heredity; and Nature itself causes changes in living forms that aid or retard adaptability by throwing in a wild card, or mutation, that either helps or harms a living species to live in a changing environment.  He also saw that survival of species was dependent upon blooding claw and fang. In order to survive, one species had to kill another, or even members of its own family. Where was the intelligence in this, and how could such a plan be the design of an all-loving god, he wondered. Soon he would become, and remain, a devout agnostic.

Maybe it became easier for Darwin to see us as just another primate because of what happened while he was aboard the Beagle. He learned that English settlers in Tasmania, members of his own Church of England, hunted aborigines for sport and then fed their bodies to their dogs. Darwin also realized that most species that have lived on earth either evolved into another species or vanished completely. Then he noted this staggering fact – “When a species has vanished from the face of the earth, the same form never reappears…” Only 2 % of the various species that lived on earth are still here. Evolve or perish is Nature’s rule. Now that the world has 6,000,000,000 of our species it might be timely to ponder another of Darwin’s observations: “Man tends to increase at a greater rate than his means of subsistence; consequently he is occasionally subjected to a severe struggle for existence.”

So where did we come from if not from Eden? Darwin said, “Man is descended from a hairy, tailed quadruped, probably arboreal in its habits…For my part I would as soon be descended from a baboon…as from a savage who delights to torture his enemies…treats his wives like slaves…and is haunted by the grossest superstitions.”

Creationists help prove the truth of evolution. Look how they have evolved. In our grandparent’s day, Aimee Semple McPherson, the famous American evangelist, took off for an extended fling with her lover, and came back claiming she was “kidnapped by gamblers, dope-peddlers, and evolutionists.” Swaggart and Baker told the truth after they were captured – “I have sinned, Oh, how I have sinned.”  When McPherson had her rendezvous, the most prominent of the creationist crowd was the American Anti-Evolution Association, open to all citizens except “Negroes, Atheists, Infidels, Agnostics, Evolutionists and habitual drunkards.” Now we have Focus on the Family, and other groups with their slick publications, quiet maneuverings, and the revival of “intelligent design” as the code word for creationism.


“Charles Darwin” is copyright © 1999 by John Patrick Michael Murphy.

The electronic version is copyright © 1999 Internet Infidels with the written permission of John Patrick Michael Murphy.

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