On his blog at NPR, science correspondent Robert Krulwich describes his relief at discovering that Charles Darwin was a regular guy. He quotes Darwin in an 1861 letter to geologist and friend Charles Lyell:
But I am very poorly today and very stupid and hate everybody and everything.
Yes, Darwin was not immune to the common obstacles, human limitations, and lingering doubts we all wrestle with in life. We tend to forget this about those we admire, more so with historical figures where time and distance have played their part. Between collecting specimens, writing, and presenting his work, Darwin had to contend with stomach problems, headaches, boils, palpitations, and other health issues. Amidst reflections on transmutation and common ancestry were all-too-human thoughts about what to wear each morning, the pros and cons of getting married, the point of going to church, the nagging problem of evil, and the devastating grief that accompanies the loss of a daughter.
Charles Darwin was wholly human. And that is useful to bear in mind.
As a proponent of intelligent design, I find that my relief goes a step further. This man, cherished by so many around the world for providing a naturalistic framework with which to view life, actually got it wrong. The author of On the Origin of Species and The Descent of Man erred in his judgment. Working from his vantage point in the 19th century, he confused micro- and macroevolution, mistaking common design for common descent and assuming too much of natural selection. He managed somehow to repress nagging doubts about the fossil record, organic complexity, and the mysteries of the cell, while giving in to the sheer, arresting beauty of his own theory.
Over 150 years later, we can see that more clearly than ever. The Darwinian mechanism does not have the creative capacity or the time to be the force behind the origin and development of life. Empirical evidence is revealing this in just about every scientific discipline, from biology and physics to geology, paleontology, and cosmology. Darwin’s beautiful idea, slowly and methodically crafted, with stunning explanatory potential and alluringly attractive implications, is flawed. He got it wrong.
So there’s hope for today’s Darwinists, those who speak of Charles with a rigid certainty about the truth of his theory. We all get it wrong sometimes. We’re human.