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Caernarvonshire, and on the Boulders transported by floating Ice."

Mr. Archibald Geikie speaks of this paper as standing almost at the top of the long list of English contributions to the history of the Ice Age." +

The latter part of this year belongs to the period including the settlement at Down, and is therefore dealt with in another chapter.]

*. Philosophical Magazine,' 1842, p. 352. + Charles Darwin, ‘Nature' Series, p. 23.

CHAPTER VIII.

RELIGION.

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He

[The history of this part of my father's life may justly include some mention of his religious views. For although, as he points out, he did not give continuous systematic thought to religious questions, yet we know from his own words that about this time (1836-39) the subject was much before his mind.

In his published works he was reticent on the matter of religion, and what he has left on the subject was not written with a view to publication.*

I believe that his reticence arose from several causes. felt strongly that a man's religion is an essentially private matter, and one concerning himself alone. This is indicated by the following extract from a letter of 1879:—+

“What my own views may be is a question of no consequence to any one but myself. But, as you ask, I may state that my judgment often fluctuates . . . In my most extreme fluctuations. I have never been an Atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God. I think that generally (and more and more as I grow older), but not always, that an Agnostic would be the more correct description of my state of mind.”

* As an exception may be mentioned, a few words of concurrence with Dr. Abbot's ‘Truths for the Times,' which my father allowed to be published in the Index.

+ Addressed to Mr. J. Fordyce, and published by him in his · Aspects of Scepticism,' 1883.

will agree

He naturally shrank from wounding the sensibilities of others in religious matters, and he was also influenced by the consciousness that a man ought not to publish on a subject to which he has not given special and continuous thought. That he felt this caution to apply to himself in the matter of religion is shown in a letter to Dr. F. E. Abbot, of Cambridge, U. S. (Sept. 6, 1871). After explaining that the weakness arising from his bad health prevented him from feeling "equal to deep reflection, on the deepest subject which can fill a man's mind,” he goes on to say: "With respect to my former notes to you, I quite forget their contents. I have to write many letters, and can reflect but little on what I write ; but I fully believe and hope that I have never written a word, which at the time I did not think ; but I think you

with

me, that anything which is to be given to the public ought to be maturely weighed and cautiously put. It never occurred to me that you would wish to print any extract from my notes: if it had, I would have kept a copy. I put 'private' from habit, only as yet partially acquired, from some hasty notes of mine having been printed, which were not in the least degree worth printing, though otherwise unobjectionable. It is simply ridiculous to suppose that my former note to you would be worth sending to me, with any part marked which you desire to print ; but if you like to do so, I will at once say whether I should have any objection. I feel in some degree unwilling to express myself publicly on religious subjects, as I do not feel that I have thought deeply enough to justify any publicity.”

I may also quote from another letter to Dr. Abbot (Nov. 16, 1871), in which my father gives more fully his reasons for not feeling competent to write on religious and moral subjects :

“I can say with entire truth that I feel honoured by your request that I should become a contributor to the Index, and am much obliged for the draft. I fully, also, subscribe to the proposition that it is the duty of every one to spread what he believes to be the truth; and I honour you for doing so, with so much devotion and zeal. But I cannot comply with your request for the following reasons; and excuse me for giving them in some detail, as I should be very sorry to appear in your eyes ungracious. My health is very weak : I never pass 24 hours without many hours of discomfort, when I can do nothing whatever. I have thus, also, lost two whole consecutive months this season. Owing to this weakness, and my head being often giddy, I am unable to master new subjects requiring much thought, and can deal only with old materials. At no time am I a quick thinker or writer : whatever I have done in science has solely been by long pondering, patience and industry.

"Now I have never systematically thought much on religion in relation to science, or on morals in relation to society ; and without steadily keeping my mind on such subjects for a long period, I am really incapable of writing anything worth sending to the Index."

He was more than once asked to give his views on religion, and he had, as a rule, no objection to doing so in a private letter. Thus in answer to a Dutch student he wrote (April 2, 1873) :

“ I am sure you will excuse my writing at length, when I tell

you that I have long been much out of health, and am now staying away from my home for rest.

“It is impossible to answer your question briefly; and I am not sure that I could do so, even if I wrote at some length. But I may say that the impossibility of conceiving that this grand and wondrous universe, with our conscious selves, arose through chance, seems to me the chief argument for the existence of God; but whether this is an argument of real value, I have never been able to decide. I am aware that if we admit a first cause, the mind still craves to know whence it came, and how it arose. Nor can I overlook the difficulty from the immense amount of suffering through the world. I am, also, induced to defer to a certain extent to the judgment of the many able men who have fully believed in God; but here again I see how poor an argument this is. The safest conclusion seems to me that the whole subject is beyond the scope of man's intellect; but man can do his duty.”

Again in 1879 he was applied to by a German student, in a similar manner. The letter was answered by a member of my father's family, who wrote :

“Mr. Darwin begs me to say that he receives so many letters, that he cannot answer them all.

“He considers that the theory of Evolution is quite compatible with the belief in a God; but that you must remember that different persons have different definitions of what they mean by God.”

This, however, did not satisfy the German youth, who again wrote to my father, and received from him the following reply

“I am much engaged, an old man, and out of health, and I cannot spare time to answer your questions fully,—nor indeed can they be answered. Science has nothing to do with Christ, except in so far as the habit of scientific research makes a man cautious in admitting evidence. For myself, I do not believe that there ever has been any revelation. As for a future life, every man must judge for himself between conflicting vague probabilities.”

The passages which here follow are extracts, somewhat abbreviated, from a part of the Autobiography, written in 1876, in which my father gives the history of his religious views : “During these two years

I was led to think much about religion. Whilst on board the Beagle I was quite orthodox, and I remember being heartily laughed at by several of the officers (though themselves orthodox) for quoting the Bible as an unanswerable authority on some point of morality. I suppose it was the novelty of the argument that amused them. But I had gradually come by this time, i.e. 1836 to 1839, to see that the Old Testament was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos. The question then con

*

* Oct. 1836 to Jan. 1839.

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