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There's much more to Darwin's story than you might think
on February 13, 2006
The debate between evolution and creationism still rages today, and Darwin is either hailed for his work or dismissed (and sometimes demonized) out of hand - indeed, I have myself heard preachers equate the theory of evolution with the idea that man descended from the apes, which is not what Darwin argued at all. While I have no problem incorporating the scientific fact of evolution into my own Christian beliefs, I am an exception; in Darwin's time, I would have been all alone in such thinking. Those who dismiss Darwin's theory and all of the evidence for it would be very well served by watching this fascinating look at his life - he struggled with the ideas of his theory more than any of us can hardly imagine.
Darwin's intimidating father raised his children to be proper gentlemen and ladies, individuals who would fit in with the rather aristocratic circles of the Darwin family, and young Charles desperately wanted to please his father. As a child, he was fascinated by nature, and formal study never really engaged his mind - his lack of interest in Greek and Latin led to poor grades in school; his horror at the sight of an actual, pre-anesthesia surgery led to an early exit from medical school, but he did eventually attain a degree in theology thanks to his father's pushing. At the same time, he met an amateur botanist who re-inspired his love for nature, and just after graduation Darwin was lucky enough to claim the spot of naturalist on the HMS Beagle. It was not an easy task, as the relatively small ship embarked on a five-year round-the-world mission, the seas held much danger (the ship almost capsized going around Cape Horn), and Darwin was predisposed to terrible seasickness. And then, a year after setting sail, his girlfriend broke her promise to him and married another man. Darwin found wonder and joy on the lands he explored, however, and his germinating ideas about species change clicked into place once he arrived to study the flora and fauna of the Galapagos Islands.
He returned to England to great fanfare and respectability, and for the next twenty years he lived with the terrible secret of his theory of transmutation. To announce his theories would be to brand himself an outcast, pariah, and heretic; even his marriage to a deeply Christian woman would forever be impacted by his radical new ideas. An exceedingly sensitive soul, the secret double life Darwin would lead for the next twenty years did terrible damage to his health, making him a semi-invalid. The death of his oldest daughter Anne had a huge effect on him, and he then began working on a book about evolution and natural selection. Alfred Wallace expressed views similar to his at the time, so Darwin put all of his effort into publishing The Origin of Species and getting the credit rightfully due him for the controversial theory. There was a furor, and Darwin was much-maligned, caricatured, and rebuked. Still, he continued his work and continued to plead his case among the scientific elite; when The Descent of Man was published in 1871, the world had undergone a significant shift and his ideas, while certainly not accepted by all, were no longer ridiculed. His health restored and his respectability regained, Darwin had only to worry about the closeness of his marriage; it was his dying wish that he could be with his wife again some day, knowing she believed he would not be in heaven to join her.
Many of Darwin's critics make it sound like he set out to overturn the very idea of God, but there was no rush to notoriety for this man. The very idea of publicizing his new theory caused him great suffering and pain for literally decades of his life. Even those who disagree with Darwin's theory will certainly learn to respect Charles Darwin once they examine the course of his life. He suffered greatly for many years out of a fear of his own ideas, and the final act of publicizing his controversial arguments in a world far from ready to accept them betrays an amazing degree of courage on his part. Creationists and Darwinists alike would benefit from watching this video.