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Other Drama

Charles Darwin Interview

I: = Interviewer
D: = Darwin

I: We have a special guest today. I have not had the opportunity to speak with him but it looks like he would make a good interview. Good Day, Sir. And you are?

D: My name is Charles Darwin. Perhaps you have heard of me?

I: Of course. But I am surprised that are here... I mean didn't you ...

D: And I am surprised that you know me. Yes, I died in 1882, but I have been allowed to come for the purpose of speaking to you today and have also been given the opportunity of seeing a bit of what has happened to the world in the years since I left it.

I: What do you think of what you have seen?

D: Well, I am amazed at the remarkable changes I see in the modes of communication and transportation available to you. You are able to hear and see what is happening around the world, sometimes instantly, and in many cases even travel quickly to remote parts of the earth.

I: And your ideas are nearly universally accepted.

D: Yes, and that disturbs me.

I: Really?

D: Yes, you see, I had great doubts about my work, partly because there seemed to be nearly as much strong evidence against it as there was for it. Natural selection by small steps seemed inadequate to account for complex structures such as the eye. Also the fossil record lacked the necessary transitional forms.

I: Why did you publish "On The Origin Of Species," then?

D: My major motivation was to overthrow the doctrine of special creation. I was not sure that natural selection was the mechanism, but intuitively knew that the Biblical dogma must be wrong.

I: How did you come to that conclusion?

D: When my father died - he was a good man - the church said he was destined to burn in hell. I could not accept that.

I: So you could not reconcile eternal punishment with a God of love?

D: Or even with a God who was involved with the Creation.

I: What do you mean?

D: My darling daughter, Annie, sickened and died at age 10 despite all I could do. If God were both loving and powerful, this would not have happened.

I: So you concluded that much evil happened by chance?

D: Precisely.

I: And your theory carried out that theme of natural processes producing the world as we know it.

D: It was really a working hypothesis that required confirmation by further evidence. I was also rushed into publication by the knowledge that Wallace was working on the same idea on the continent. (Although I must say that my father had really come up with the concept years before.).

I: Has your hypothesis been confirmed?

D: Definitely not! And, in fact, I think it has been falsified. But the proponents of your day have none of the humility or tentativeness I felt. Indeed, they seem to speak with a certainty I find unseemly in those who call themselves "scientific."

I: Why do you think this is so?

D:I don't know. I saw it coming when Huxley picked up my work and took it much farther than I intended or even imagined. He took my mechanism for changes in species and made it into an all-encompassing force for the creation of all things. Others subsequently used it to explain history and economics.

I: Why did you not stop him?

D: I am not the aggressive type and it was really a sticky wicket. Oh... you don't play cricket, do you. Well, I was hard pressed to know what to do, for I realized early on that my ideas, if correct, called into question the religious faith of most of my countrymen, and indeed, much of the world.

I: How is that? Didn't much of the Christian intellectual world quickly harmonize their views with yours?

D: Oh, yes, and I thought it strange that they would do so since it was far from proven. But I saw that by calling into question the veracity of the Bible in its scientific and historical assertions, I had opened the door for the gradual erosion of its authority in all other areas, having disasterous effects on the moral foundation of society.

I: If you saw this, why did you not say anything?

D: I was paralyzed with doubt and fear. I did not want to appear uncertain when my proponents were so confident. And I fully expected the scientific evidence to clarify the picture, either erasing my doubts or denying the hypothesis decisively.

I: And what do you think happened?

D: I cannot really explain it. The idea took on a life of its own and became impervious to any contrary evidence. Apparently the prospect of having no God --or at least a very distant god -- has a powerful appeal for certain people and the loss of moral restraint which I so feared was like a holy grail to them.

I: Were you aware of Mendel's Pea experiments when you published "Origin of Species?"

D: The Laws of Genetics, as discovered by Mendel should have caused a rejection of my ideas but did not. I became aware of them but did not comment as it was close to the time of publication of my first book. He sent me his book but I did not open the package. Then, later, I could not bear to admit that I had not called my book back.

I: Now mutations are felt to be the stuff of evolution.

D: That is a feeble attempt to rescue the theory. You see, I expected that variation was unlimited and that each generation started on the shoulders of the previous. And, because of the view of Scripture I had learned in Seminary, I felt that I had disproved the Bible.

I: How is that?

D: I believed that the Bible taught that every variety we call a species was created exactly as it is and in the exact places it inhabits today. Therefore, I thought that any change disproved creation.

I: What was wrong with that?

D: The "kinds" as in "after their kind" are much broader, as some of your scientists have proved -- lions breeding with tigers, horses with zebras, etc. After all, the changes I saw in the finches were trivial. They were only significant if they could continue to change without limit. It all seemed very plausible at the time, but the nightmare that followed took a great toll on my health.

I: What do you mean?

D: I naively stated the logical consequences of my theory, that some races were more highly developed than others. Those who took this idea up seemed to have none of the restraint I expected and began to treat some of those primitive races as if they were animals. Somehow, the idea that we arose from beasts caused the most civilized races to revert to beastliness.

I: How did you feel about that?

D: I was the initiator of a movement I wished to disown, but I lacked the courage or energy to reign in the prancing steeds who carried the message with such confidence. How could I tell those who praised me so profusely that I no longer defended my magnum opus?

I: Who knew of your inner torture?

D: No one really. I could not hide my distress from my family, but did not explicitly open my heart to them.

I: What about the stories of your recantation and conversion?

D: They are false, although perhaps well intended. When confronted with the this matter, the strong emotion I suppressed might have been mistaken for the sorrow of repentance, but I did not, for any of those visitors, bend my will or give up my hope that someone else would close Pandora's Box for me.

I: Then as you went to your grave...

D: I can tell you this. As I lay on my deathbed, it was all laid out before me and I ... Oh, I am being called away... Good-by.

For more background information see:
"Darwin's Mystery Illness"
by Russell Grigg
First published in:
Creation Ex Nihilo 17(4):28-30
September-December 1995

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