Darwin and Religion

It is interesting to me how after so many years have passed, views about evolution, and specifically Darwin’s views, can be talked about with such disdain by members of a church. I grew up going to a Baptist church and I can remember how risky it was to talk about evolution. I had always been curious about science and the history of life on earth and I would check out books from the library that reflected those interests. When I became a little older, I volunteered at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History where I was able to learn about evolution and the age of the earth to my heart’s content. Of course, this was around the time that a fairly well known creationist came to visit the church and he did a lecture on Darwin and all he could talk about was how awful he was. There was very little talk about the contributions that Darwin made to science and only talk of how he was tragically misled and how he maliciously led others to believe in his views. I was shocked, as I had read about Darwin’s ideas and thought there was little harm in studying both science and religion. Paleontology and the history of life were something that meant a great deal to me, and it frustrated me that someone with such similar interests could be so scornful. I think, as an educator of any background, one should never teach with biased views. Giving the facts is the only thing necessary, and those being taught can take that information and fit it into their morals however they wish.
Darwin grew up much the same way (I am not in any way trying to compare myself to this great naturalist, haha). Later in life he would consider himself agnostic, although members of his family were religious. He wrote in many letters, and others wrote to him, about how the idea that the relation between science and religion ought to be decided individually.
“I will only add that in my opinion, a man who wishes to form a judgment on this subject, must weigh the evidence for himself; & he ought not to be influenced by being told that a considerable number of scientific men can reconcile the results of science with revealed or natural religion, whilst others cannot do so.” –Charles Darwin in a letter to W. R. Browne
While there is much that the church at the time did to tear down Darwin for his ideas, there were many people of the church who rejoiced and agreed that the concept of evolution by natural selection made a great deal of sense. This was possibly helped by the fact that Darwin remained steady and went about his life, never pushing his ideas on anyone. He answered questions when asked, gave his lectures, but only presented what had been studied. He also wrote about how his family may have had a little to do with that.
“It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid writing on religion, & I have confined myself to science. I may, however, have been unduly biassed by the pain which it would give some members of my family, if I aided in any way direct attacks on religion.” –Charles Darwin in a letter to a friend.
I again do not pretend to understand anything about going through life as Darwin did, but this subject is something that I can understand to some degree, and I think anyone with an interest in science that has family in a church can also understand. I believe we can all learn from each other and maybe more good would come from just sitting back and listening to each other once in a while.

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