Darwin fought against religion

Many have seen the evolutionary theory as an attack on religion, where the fight was between God and Darwin. It is a widespread mistake that Darwin intended to harm religion or religious belief. His work was about raising awareness of life on earth on a scientific basis. This has had some consequences for example regarding the age of the earth, which based on a literal reading of the Bible was estimated to 6000 years. Millions of years were needed in order to make evolution work. 

It was, however, not Darwin who introduced the old earth. It was commonly acknowledged amongst scientists in the 19th century that the earth was millions of years old. The dispute was about how many millions of years we were talking about. So on this matter, Darwin was actually in accordance with his contemporary colleagues, although he has often been criticized as being the one who rejected a literal reading of the Bible.  

Meanwhile, faith was considered a personal affair. The most important issue to Darwin – and to other scientists at this time – was that science and religion were not mixed up. It was possible to believe that the theory of evolution was true and still believe in God. Many did – and many still do. Darwin himself had a religious background and was studying to become a parson at the University of Cambridge, when he left on his voyage with the HMS Beagle.

His personal faith became less and less important to him throughout his life. The important thing is that his work was not an attack on religion, and that Darwin himself never used the theory of evolution with this purpose. This has, however, not stopped others from doing just that, but it is important to make it clear that there is no fundamental difference between evolution and religion.

The editors