RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1883. [Letter to Fordyce on being a theist or agnostic, 1879.] In J. Fordyce, Aspects of scepticism. London: Elliot Stock, p. 190.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Christine Chua and edited by John van Wyhe  10.2019. RN1

NOTE: See record in the Freeman Bibliographical Database, enter its Identifier here.

The clergyman John Fordyce had sent Darwin a copy of a letter he had written to the Grimsby News arguing that Darwin was not an atheist. See Fordyce, Is Darwin a theist? Grimsby News, (2 May 1879) [Darwin's copy: CUL-DAR226.2.47]. In this 1883 book, published the year after Darwin's death, Fordyce admitted that the letter had been marked "Private" but that since Darwin was no longer alive, it was acceptble to publish it. There are minor differences between the text here and the original letter which survives. The complete letter is in Correspondence vol. 27, p. 209.

[page] 190

Down, Beckenham, Kent.


'It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent theist and an evolutionist. You are right about Kingsley. Asa Gray, the eminent botanist, is another case in point. What my own views may be is a question of no consequence to anyone except myself. But, as you ask, I may state that my judgment often fluctuates. Moreover, whether a man deserves to be called a Theist depends on the definition of the term, which is much too large a subject for a note. In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an Atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God. I think that generally (and more and more so as I grow older), but not always, that an Agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind.

'Dear sir, yours faithfully,


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