posted on Jun, 5 2010 @ 09:52 AM
The Darwin Deathbed Conversion Conspiracy
The topic of evolution vs. creationism comes up here quite a bit. Occasionally it is referenced that Charles Darwin converted to christianity on his
deathbed. He is also said to have recanted evolutionary theory (also debunked), but that is another topic.
The conspiracy is sourced to Lady Hope
who claimed that Darwin had recanted his theory of
evolution on his deathbed and accepted Jesus Christ as his saviour. The Lady Hope Story first appeared in an American Baptist newspaper the Watchman
Examiner on 15 August 1915. The text as it first appeared is as follows:
It was one of those glorious autumn afternoons, that we sometimes enjoy in England, when I was asked to go in and sit with the well known
professor, Charles Darwin. He was almost bedridden for some months before he died. I used to feel when I saw him that his fine presence would make a
grand picture for our Royal Academy; but never did I think so more strongly than on this particular occasion.
He was sitting up in bed, wearing a soft embroidered dressing gown, of rather a rich purple shade.
Propped up by pillows, he was gazing out on a far-stretching scene of woods and cornfields, which glowed in the light of one of those marvelous
sunsets which are the beauty of Kent and Surrey. His noble forehead and fine features seem to be lit up with pleasure as I entered the room.
He waved his hand toward the window as he pointed out the scene beyond, while in the other hand he held an open Bible, which he was always
"What are you reading now?" I asked as I seated myself beside his bedside. "Hebrews!" he answered - "still Hebrews. 'The Royal Book' I call it.
Isn't it grand?"
Then, placing his finger on certain passages, he commented on them.
I made some allusions to the strong opinions expressed by many persons on the history of the creation, its grandeur, and then their treatment of the
earlier chapters of the Book of Genesis.
He seemed greatly distressed, his fingers twitched nervously, and a look of agony came over his face as he said: "I was a young man with unformed
ideas. I threw out queries, suggestions, wondering all the time over everything, and to my astonishment, the ideas took like wildfire. People made a
religion of them."
Then he paused, and after a few more sentences on "the holiness of God" and the "grandeur of this book," looking at the Bible which he was holding
tenderly all the time, he suddenly said: "I have a summer house in the garden which holds about thirty people. It is over there," pointing through
the open _ "I want you very much to speak there. I know you read the Bible in the villages. To-morrow afternoon I should like the servants on
the place, some tenants and a few of the neighbours; to gather there. Will you speak to them?"
"What shall I speak about?" I asked.
"Christ Jesus!" he replied in a clear, emphatic voice, adding in a lower tone, "and his salvation. Is not that the best theme? And then I want you
to sing some hymns with them. You lead on your small instrument, do you not?" The wonderful look of brightness and animation on his face as he said
this I shall never forget, for he added: "If you take the meeting at three o'clock this window will be open, and you will know that I am joining in
with the singing."
How I wished I could have made a picture of the fine old man and his beautiful surroundings on that memorable day!
Darwin's family vehemently denied this account. His son Francis wrote this letter as a follow up:
Lady Hope's account of my father's views on religion is quite untrue. I have publicly accused her of falsehood, but have not seen any reply. My
father's agnostic point of view is given in my Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. I., pp. 304–317. You are at liberty to publish the above
statement. Indeed, I shall be glad if you will do so."
Darwin's daughter, Henrietta Litchfield also followed up in 1922 stating:
I was present at his deathbed, Lady Hope was not present during his last illness, or any illness. I believe he never even saw her, but in any case
she had no influence over him in any department of thought or belief. He never recanted any of his scientific views, either then or earlier. We think
the story of his conversion was fabricated in the U.S.A. ... ...The whole story has no foundation what-so-ever."
This has not stopped certain christian organizations from repeating this false deathbed conversion story. Interestingly enough, the pro-creationist
anti-Darwin organization Institute For Creation Research
debunked this myth in their Science, Scripture and Salvation radio program on
1999-APR-17: (taken from this website)
Charles Darwin's deathbed conversion: A woman by the name of Lady Hope allegedly visited Darwin shortly before he died and heard his deathbed
conversion to Christianity. This event might have happened, but it is extremely doubtful. Lady Hope did visit Darwin, but it was originally believed
to be "in the fall of 1881, about 6 months before Darwin died." 2 Many historians believe that he had lost his faith completely some 30 years before
his death, when his beloved daughter Annie died. One researcher, Richard Rorty, tracked down over 100 occurrences of the legend, and successfully
showed that Lady Hope (Elizabeth Cotton) did exist, and probably did visit Darwin near the end of his life. But he discounts the possibility that
Darwin abandoned his Agnostic beliefs. His family energetically denied his conversion. His daughter Henrietta commented in 1922: "I was present at
his deathbed. Lady Hope was not present during his last illness, or any illness. I believe he never even saw her, but in any case she had no influence
over him in any department of thought or belief. He never recanted any of his scientific views, either then or earlier. We think the story of his
conversion was fabricated in the U.S.A. . . . The whole story has no foundation whatever." 3
The fable appeared in the 1955-OCT issue of the Reformation Review and in the 1957-FEB issue of the Record of the Free Church of Scotland. It
circulates widely on the Internet via Email and is seen on many creation science web sites.
I find the "deathbed conversion" tactic a rather pernicious and dishonest maneuver from evangelical christians. We continue to see this tactic
employed, most recently with noted atheist Anthony Flew
in a book ghost written by christian
apologist Roy Abraham Varghese, wherein he is suspected to have fraudulently claimed another
Either way, it appears that although these conversion conspiracies still occur, they are easily debunked and we should confidently eliminate the
"Darwin conversion" claim from the lexicon of evolution vs. creation debate issues.
[edit on 5-6-2010 by traditionaldrummer]