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Darwin and the Victorian Crisis of Faith: A Postscript

Photo credit: Dan Asaki via Unsplash.

Editor’s note: We have been delighted to present a series by Neil Thomas, Reader Emeritus at the University of Durham, “Darwin and the Victorian Crisis of Faith.” This is the seventh and final article in the seriesLook here for the full series. Professor Thomas’s recent book is Taking Leave of Darwin: A Longtime Agnostic Discovers the Case for Design (Discovery Institute Press).

In reading Simon Powell’s valiant yet unavailing effort to come up with a corrective naturalistic supplement to Darwin, offered in Powell’s book Darwin’s Unfinished Business, I was reminded of nothing so much as the amusing parable developed by Thomas Woodward about a group of scientists stranded in an extensive underground labyrinth whose exploration of a whole series of tunnels in search of escape quite literally lead them nowhere. All these “natural cause” tunnels, alas, turn out to be dead ends. There is but one remaining tunnel left to explore but this is one that is labelled “intelligent cause.” It is studiously ignored since it smacks of religion, not science, the scientists all aver. And so the prisoners are left to eke out their days “merely mapping, month by month in ever greater detail, the fine contours of an elaborate cul-de-sac.”1

As is the case with the Biblical parables of Jesus, this one is entirely self-explanatory and needs no further comment from myself.


  1. Thomas Woodward, Darwin Strikes Back: Defending the Science of Intelligent design (Grand Rapids, MI, 2006), p. 134.

Neil Thomas

Neil Thomas is a Reader Emeritus in the University of Durham, England and a longtime member of the British Rationalist Association. He studied Classical Studies and European Languages at the universities of Oxford, Munich and Cardiff before taking up his post in the German section of the School of European Languages and Literatures at Durham University in 1976. There his teaching involved a broad spectrum of specialisms including Germanic philology, medieval literature, the literature and philosophy of the Enlightenment and modern German history and literature. He also taught modules on the propagandist use of the German language used both by the Nazis and by the functionaries of the old German Democratic Republic. He published over 40 articles in a number of refereed journals and a half dozen single-authored books, the last of which were Reading the Nibelungenlied (1995), Diu Crone and the Medieval Arthurian Cycle (2002) and Wirnt von Gravenberg's 'Wigalois'. Intertextuality and Interpretation (2005). He also edited a number of volumes including Myth and its Legacy in European Literature (1996) and German Studies at the Millennium (1999). He was the British Brach President of the International Arthurian Society (2002-5) and remains a member of a number of learned societies.



Darwin and the Victorian Crisis of Faith (series)Darwin’s Unfinished BusinessevolutionfaithHistoryintelligent causeintelligent designjesuslabyrinthparablesprisonersscientistsSimon PowellThomas WoodwardtunnelsVictorian England