Posted by: ritagone | September 10, 2014

The Irony of Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin

I find it interesting that many believers hold Charles Darwin singlehandedly responsible for the fall of Christianity as we know it, because of the publication of his famous (or infamous) work, “On the Origin of the Species,” published in the mid-19th century.

You remember this book, don’t you? Of course you do. It’s the book which espoused the theory of evolution and which catapulted that branch of study into recognition while demeaning and ridiculing the biblical account of creation. Survival of the fittest became the watchword for how species evolved and stayed with us. God was basically eliminated from the equation, much to the dismay and chagrin of religious folk the world over.

This is a controversy and a battle that still rages in the halls of academia and school systems, particularly in the U.S., conservatives versus liberals, believers versus non. And churches and pastors are still waging war with Darwin and the theories he espoused within the covers of his book. Understandably so.

But that’s not what this post is all about.

What I find most interesting is the fact that Mr. Darwin, as it turns out, while advancing his “theory” of the survival of the fittest, was not. Fit. In fact, based on his own diaries and letters, it is reasonable to conclude that Charles Darwin spent a full third of his daytime hours after his famous voyage on the Beagle either vomiting or laying in bed! That includes the period during which he wrote “On the Origin of the Species.”

I find this highly ironic.

Vomiting, flatulence, shivering, sensations of being near death, half-faints, ringing of the ears, nervousness when his wife Emma left the room or the house: these were all symptoms Darwin himself wrote down in describing his condition, although this list is incomplete.

Dozens of physicians, beginning with his own father, failed to cure him.

For over 150 years, the medical debate has raged on and on about what, exactly, was wrong with Charles Darwin. The list proposed during his life and after his death is long: amoebic infection, appendicitis, peptic ulcer, migraines, malaria, gout, allergic reactions to the pigeons he worked with, and complications from the prolonged seasickness he experienced on the Beagle. Even as recently as 2005 an article in a British academic journal attributed Darwin’s ailments to lactose intolerance.

But a careful reading of Darwin’s life suggests to many others that the precipitating factor in every one of his most acute attacks of illness was anxiety.


Why do I find this ironic, that the man who changed the face of the world by asserting that survival of the fittest was the way of the universe, a “theory” which pretty much eventually eliminated God from creation, this man suffered from such severe anxiety for three decades that he was rendered almost completely disabled? Darwin himself, then, might perhaps not have judged himself as one of the fitter of the species of homo sapiens. I don’t know about you, but this strikes me as weird and fanciful and strangely ironic all at the same time.

Just an observation.

Sometimes you wonder what’s behind some of the most life-changing philosophies or theories presented as fact to the watching and waiting world. Did Karl Marx, for example, perhaps suffer from chronic heartburn and therefore write “The Communist Manifesto” and “Das Kapital” because he couldn’t find the right antacid?

I’m just saying.


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