Thursday, May 7, 2009


Here is the second part of 'Darwin's Dangerous Idea". As of Thursday's class, we had reached the segment (beginning at 2:54 on this video) in which an example of the evolution of a complex structure (the human eye) is considered.

This is followed by a consideration of the effect of his daughter's death on Darwin's views of religion. Obviously, many people in North America remain highly skeptical of evolution based upon their particular understanding of their religious tradition. As your instructor, I think it is important to provide this context to help you understand how it shaped Darwin's views on evolution. I want to caution everyone, however, that we are forming no judgements on any particular idea held on faith. Darwin himself advised caution on the question as to whether or not his views led inexorably to any particular conclusion where religion is concerned.

For example, Darwin once wrote:

"With respect to the theological view of the question; this is always painful to me. I am bewildered.....I see no necessity in the belief that the eye was expressly designed. On the other hand I cannot anyhow be contented to view this wonderful universe & especially the nature of man, & to conclude that everything is the result of brute force. I am inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of what we may call chance. Not that this notion at all satisfies me. I feel most deeply that the whole subject is too profound for the human intellect. A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton. Let each man hope and believe what he can."

(letter to Asa Gray, May 26, 1860)

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