I have noticed that several major Christian periodicals and organizations have once again reported the alleged deathbed conversion of Charles Darwin. Many see this presumed event as certain defeat for modern evolutionism, especially Darwin’s theory.
Now we rejoice with anyone who is called to the Kingdom of God by the Gospel. However, whether or not Darwin recanted and came to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is of little importance regarding the credibility of his theory and the notions of evolution. If he did (and I pray he did), Darwinism in one form or another is still aggressively being taught and believed today as the scientific explanation for origins. Therefore if he did in fact recant and confess Christ as Creator and Savior, it did absolutely nothing to defeat the influence of his own evolutionary theory throughout the world.
The observable merits alone (both Biblically and scientifically) must be the basis upon which we judge the accuracy of his theory. There are so many obvious inconsistencies and speculative assertions in his theory itself-all of which completely discredit the theory as being scientific in any way-until his stated deathbed conversion doesn’t weaken or strengthen the claimed validity of evolutionism at all!
The Story of Darwin's Alleged Conversion
I think it is significant that Darwin’s reported conversion was not acknowledged or publicized by either the church community or the scientific community of his day. After all, a change in circumstances of this magnitude would have been earth shaking and impossible to keep hidden. The first report of Darwin’s alleged conversion did not appear in American journals or newspapers (etc.) until the latter part of 1915-that’s 33 years after his death (April 19, 1882). 1
Upon examination of the events in the report of Darwin’s conversion, I discovered several inconsistencies with the historical details-all of which can be and have been researched for verification. We do not have space for a thorough investigation of this report, however , there are at least three salient points about the report I think you need to know.
The text of the article stated that a certain devoted women using the name "Lady Hope" (actually named Elizabeth Reid Stapleton-Connton) claimed to have visited the home of Charles Darwin sometime in October of 1881. The following statements in this report are of unusual significance:
1). She said "he (Darwin) was almost bedridden for some months before he died."
2). She further reported that during her visit with Darwin on that particular day she made reference to Darwin’s theory by making "allusion to the strong opinions expressed by many persons on the history of creation..."3 She said at this statement Darwin "seemed greatly distressed, his fingers twitching nervously, and a look of agony came over his face as he said, I was a young man with uninformed ideas. I threw out queries, suggestions, wondering all of the time over everything, and to my astonishment the ideas took like wild fire. People made a religion out of them’"4
3). Finally the report stated that Darwin said to Mrs. Hope: "I have a summerhouse in the garden, which holds about thirty people...Tomorrow afternoon I should like the servants on the place, some tenants, and a few of the neighbors to gather there...will you speak to them Christ Jesus and His salvation...and then I want you to sing some hymns...If you take the meeting at 3 o'clock this window will be open, and you will know that I am joining in with the singing."5
The Historical Accuracy of These Statements
In the first place there is absolutely no evidence of Darwin being bed-ridden during this period. Darwin died April 19, 1882, his work, travel and correspondence remained active until the end of February of 1882. There is nothing to be gathered from Darwin’s correspondence, or from interviews with members of his family, or from his many known activities from August 1881 until February 1882 that would remotely suggest he was bedridden months before his death ( weeks maybe, but not months).6
Secondly, the idea that he wrote his book The Origin while he was young and uninformed presents another problem with the consistency of "Lady Hope’s" story. The first edition of The Origin was published in 1859Darwin was 50 years old! The book was reprinted several times-the last being in 1872-and each new printing Darwin carefully revised the book.
Furthermore, as late as February 28, 1882-less than two months before he died, and four months after the alleged meeting with Lady Hope, Darwin wrote a letter to a Mr. Mackintosh in which he said: "Though no evidence worth anything has as yet, in my opinion, been advanced in favor of a living being, being developed from inorganic matter, yet I cannot avoid believing the possibility of this will be proved some day in accordance with the law of continuity..."7
These facts simply do not harmonize with the Lady Hope’s story. He obviously did not recant and this throws serious question on his alleged conversion as well.
Lastly, I have visited Darwin’s home in Downe, England, and there isn’t a summerhouse on his property. Lady Hope said it was in the "garden," but it is not there. In 1922 Darwin’s daughter Henrietta wrote: "I was present at his (Darwin’s) deathbed. Lady Hope was not present during his last illness, or any illness. I believe he never saw her, but in any case she had not influenced him in any department of thought or belief...There is no such summerhouse and no servants or villagers ever sang hymns to him. The whole story has no foundation whatever."
YOU BE THE JUDGE!
G. Thomas Sharp Ph.D.