Darwin’s Dismay

May 16, 2012

Here’s what Darwin wrote near the end of his life:

Up to the age of 30 or beyond it, poetry of many kinds . . . gave me great pleasure, and even as a schoolboy I took intense delight in Shakespeare. . . . Formerly pictures gave me considerable, and music very great, delight. But now for many years I cannot endure to read a line of poetry: I have tried to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me. I have also almost lost any taste for pictures or music. . . . I retain some taste for fine scenery, but it does not cause me the exquisite delight which it formerly did. . . . My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding out general laws out of large collections of facts, but why this should have caused the atrophy of that part of the brain alone, on which the higher tastes depend, I cannot conceive. . . . The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.

How tragic it is that there is often this “loss of happiness.” Why go on living if there is no delight? This is the very issue that Christianity is ultimately about. Instead of losing the capacity for joy, it is reclaimed and enhanced. This is because our God gets bigger and bigger. He doesn’t actually grow but rather our understanding and awareness of whom he is grows. Here’s how Lewis talked about it in Prince Caspian. Aslan is speaking with Aslan:

“Welcome, child,” he said. “Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.” “That is because you are older, little one,” answered he. “Not because you are?” [Lucy asked.] “I am not,” he said. “But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

The longer we live the more we realize that Jesus is bigger than we ever could imagine. This is good news for the thirsty soul.

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2 Responses to “Darwin’s Dismay”

  1. tjkids Says:

    and in light of your recent “I’m Hungry” blogs, Darwin’s descent into sensory, or aesthetic, numbness makes perfect sense. His mind functioned as a machine, processing data into theories disconnected from any meaning or purpose–what joy could exist in such an world?


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