Darwin’s Deathbed Confession—a Myth?

by Mark Looy on August 24, 2012
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Mark Looy, AiG–U.S., responds to a reader wanting more substantial information about the legitimacy of the story that Darwin renounced his evolutionary beliefs on his deathbed.

Wow, I was expecting something substantial when you said it was a legend concerning Darwin’s deathbed confession but instead the author of this article submitted no proof of the letter or statement written by Lady Hope. Just because the room would not hold 30 people does not mean 30 people were not present. Darwin was a sickly individual especially the last years of his miserable life; do your homework! Before you tell people to stop using this argument against Darwin’s Theory of Evolution you might use someone who has some investigative abilities and some common sense, which is a gift of God. Why not respond? Those who place themselves high above those they serve are doom to fall.

Here was our reply, slightly edited for the web.

Greetings. Thank you for writing.

Indeed, we do offer something more substantial about the legitimacy of the story that Darwin renounced his evolutionary beliefs as he lay dying in 1882. It’s a 38-page pamphlet on whether a certain Lady Hope witnessed Darwin recant evolution on his deathbed, titled Did Charles Darwin Become a Christian? If you will share your mailing address with me, I would be happy to send you a complimentary copy.

Since you did not send us the link to the offending AiG article in question, presumably you are referring to Darwin’s Deathbed Conversion—a Legend? Please realize that this article about Darwin was a part of a layperson web series titled Arguments Christians Shouldn’t Use. This web series was not meant to be in-depth. For the more-serious student of apologetics, we direct them to books, pamphlets (such as the one about the Darwin deathbed legend we mentioned above), and in-depth articles in publications such as Answers in Depth and Answers Research Journal.

Contrary to your claim that we don’t have someone on our staff “who has some investigative abilities and some common sense,” we must point out that we have a full-time PhD historian who received his doctorate in England, and his specialty was the history of the relationship between church leaders and the science community during the 1800s in England. His specific area of expertise is the age of the earth and its connection to Darwinian evolution, and how they led to the decline of belief in the authority of the Bible. For my part, I hold a master’s degree in British history of the nineteenth century. Furthermore, you should be aware that the article you are apparently referring to was written by a serious student of Darwin’s life and beliefs, Dr. Tommy Mitchell of AiG. Dr. Mitchell even produced a documentary on Darwin and his life —see The Evolution of Darwin: His Life. We are certainly not ignorant of the Lady Hope/Charles Darwin story.

I would appreciate a response, including how you have arrived at the conclusion that we place ourselves “high above those they serve.” With that comment, you appear to be claiming to know our hearts.

By the way, we almost did not respond to your email because of its caustic, lacking-in-grace approach, including the ad hominem argument that we lack common sense. Ultimately, we believed we had to write and correct your false claim so that you don’t perpetuate this false story. Perhaps you have been distributing a tract that is keeping the Lady Hope/Darwin myth alive, and you would have continued to do so unless we convinced you otherwise.

All believers need to be discerning in separating truth from fiction so that they honor God’s Word with their arguments.

With the magazine’s rebuttal of the Lady Hope story, AiG merely wanted to equip and serve believers with solid apologetics teaching and not to use false arguments—which only cause knowledgeable evolutionists to easily dismiss the creationists as being ignorant and shallow-thinking. Frankly, it is a form of “bearing false witness” when Christians use an unfounded argument, even if their ultimate goal is right, such as a desire to undermine the Darwinian worldview, and their motive sincere. We will do a disservice to our witness for Christ if we knowingly use bad arguments, even if those arguments are used in an attempt to support the truth of the Bible. All believers need to be discerning in separating truth from fiction so that they honor God’s Word with their arguments.

We trust you are not one of the many well-intentioned people who have been distributing a witnessing booklet that uses this Lady Hope/Darwin legend to defend the historicity of Genesis. Please cease, and instead use other far-more-effective witnessing booklets and pocket guides (e.g., see our Creation Evangelism Sample Pack (25 booklets) and Pocket Guide to Charles Darwin). They proclaim the gospel with great effectiveness.

Even if Darwin recanted his evolution beliefs on his deathbed, it would do nothing to undercut the many arguments that evolutionists pour into public schools, museums, and media to promote their worldview. And they would attribute his recantation to personal weakness in the face of death.

Yes, as you acknowledged, we need to use God’s gift of reasoning. God is the One who created our brains, and He expects us to reason. In Isaiah 1:18, He stated, “Come now, and let us reason together.” The Lady Hope story is just that—a story like so many other urban myths that sadly still circulate in Christian circles today.

Lastly, there is your implication that we don’t respond to emails. That is not true. We respond to as many emails as possible; though, we inform correspondents through bounce-back messages that we may not be able to respond to each one because we receive high volumes of general email questions per week (which does not include media story submissions, store queries, and so on). We simply don’t have the funds to employ several staff to guarantee a thorough and personal answer to every email we receive. We have discovered that the overwhelmingly majority of questions we receive have their answers on our website and can be found using our powerful search engine. These email queries receive a bounce-back message acknowledging receipt and directing inquirers to our website where a word search on our website could assist in finding them an answer.

Thank you for writing.


Note: AiG followed up this inquirer with two emails, requesting primary source documentation to support the deathbed claims and to extend our offer once again to send him the Darwin deathbed resource at no charge. The person has not responded to these two matters, but in a follow-up email, he wrote that “sometimes when one is affronted by the truth they tend to get defensive. You gain nothing by debunking Lady Hope especially with flawed or incompetent investigation methods; you only give the anti-Christ servants more to use against God’s Kingdom work. Look, standing on institutional degrees to decry my email does little to bolster the merit of your email to me. Take this as a conformation and not as an insult to you or your staff to investigate and edit what you write more thoroughly before submitting it for public viewing.”

Our response to that email was the following:

Thank you for your reply. Because you suggested that AiG had not done its homework (you wrote: “use someone who has some investigative abilities”) and that we lacked common sense, I felt compelled to inform you that our staff is not as uneducated and unwise as you believe—thus I mentioned the credentials in an effort to counter your claim.

The article by Dr. Mitchell was reviewed by several scholars and editors before it went to print.

I am surprised that you have yet to take us up on our offer to send you the details/research on the Lady Hope story. Please send us your mailing address. You are, I trust, willing to research this topic as much as we have.

Meanwhile, since you appear to possess information/research that contradicts our article debunking the Lady Hope story, please forward it to us. Thank you.


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