24th August 2022

Charles Darwin, as everyone knows, revolutionised the understanding of the natural world with his ground-breaking book of 1859, The Origin of Species. Thanks to him, instead of the six-day creation of the world depicted in the Book of Genesis, there came into view a process of evolution of all life-forms from a common ancestor, over millions of years. Out with the Bible, in with science. Actually, it wasn’t quite like that. For one thing, the furore he stirred up was as much an argument between scientists, as one between scientists on the one hand and theologians on the other. The Bible is not a book of science, and science as such doesn’t deal with faith in God. But yes, Darwin did send tremors through conventional belief, and he himself, who as a young man had intended for the Anglican ministry, progressively loosened his attachment to Christian faith and in old age gave up belief in God entirely.

That, however, wasn’t the only thing he gave up, or lost, in the course of time. Late in life, he confessed that he’d lost all his former love of poetry and music: ‘My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding out general laws out of large collections of facts.’ Was this a coincidence? He also said, ‘If I had my life to live over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week.’ Might he then have rediscovered truths in the poetry and music of the Bible? Perhaps a lesson for all of us.

Keith Clements