In 1859, Charles Darwin first published The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection Or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. In this book, which he described as a "long argument," he sought, in his opinion, to explain the origin of life in terms of evolution.
But Darwin had no means of discussing scientific evidence in his book, because The Origin of Species was the work of a time when the biro had not yet been invented, when the cell was unknown and when all research was carried out under primitive microscopes. As a matter of fact, for that reason throughout his book, he dealt with the subject matter very amateurishly, not based on any experiment, relying upon conjecture and hypothesis.
Later, Darwin set out his ideas regarding human evolution at the same scientific level in his book The Descent of Man. Yet in both books, he admitted the weaknesses and inconsistencies in his theory and frequently reiterated his doubts concerning the truth of these hypotheses in question.
The British physicist H.S. Lipson makes this comment about these fears of Darwin's:
On reading The Origin of Species, I found that Darwin was much less sure himself than he is often represented to be; the chapter entitled "Difficulties of the Theory," for example, shows considerable self-doubt. As a physicist, I was particularly intrigued by his comments on how the eye would have arisen.6
In addition, Darwin made similar confessions that were later collected in the book Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, edited by his son, Francis Darwin. Most of the letters written by Darwin to close friends or eminent scientists of his time are full of his confessions regarding his theory. Indeed, Darwin had no qualms about expressing his ignorance of the relevant subjects.
Yet even though the founder of this theory had strong doubts about its accuracy and his own level of scientific knowledge, and admitted as much in the very plainest language, today's evolutionists still remain utterly convinced by his theory.
This chapter will examine only Darwin's own general confessions concerning the theory of evolution and also, confessions regarding his state of mind in making these claims. Darwin was concerned that his theory was actually contradictory, inconsistent and unrealistic:
Long before having arrived at this part of my work, a crowd of difficulties will have occurred to the reader. Some of them are so grave that to this day I can never reflect on them without being staggered.7I have now briefly recapitulated the answers and explanations which can be given to them. I have felt these difficulties far too heavily during many years to doubt their weight.8Nevertheless, I doubt whether the work (of writing The Origin of Species) was worth the consumption of so much time.9Pray do not think that I am so blind as not to see that there are numerous immense difficulties in my notions.10From a letter to Asa Gray, a close friend and Professor of Biology at Harvard University:I am quite conscious that my speculations run quite beyond the bounds of true science.11
From his letter to E. Haeckel:
You will do a wonderful amount of good in spreading the doctrine of Evolution, supporting it as you do by so many original observations.... Has the problem of the later stages of reduction of useless structures ever perplexed you? This problem has of late caused me much perplexity.12
From a letter to his second cousin William Darwin Fox:
All nature is perverse and will not do as I wish it, and just at present I wish I had my old barnacles to work at and nothing new.13Sometimes I fear I shall break down, for my subject gets bigger and bigger with each month...14
From a letter to his friend and botanist Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker:
I sometimes suspect I shall soon entirely fail.15I fancy I have lately removed many great difficulties opposed to my notions, but God knows it may be all hallucination.16I was beginning to think that perhaps I was wholly in the wrong and that (Richard Owen) was right when he said the whole subject would be forgotten in ten years.17You ask about my book, and all that I can say is that I am ready to commit suicide; I thought it was decently written, but find so much wants rewriting...18... but so much has been published since the appearance of the 'Origin of Species,' that I very much doubt whether I retain power of mind and strength to reduce the mass into a digested whole.19
From a letter to Charles Lyell, the British geologist:
For myself, also, I rejoice profoundly; for, thinking of so many cases of men pursuing an illusion for years, often and often a cold shudder has run through me, and I have asked myself whether I may not have devoted my life to phantasy.20I cannot pretend to throw the least light on such abstruse problems. The mystery of the beginning of all thing is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an agnostic.21
Darwin saw that the greatest dilemma facing his theory was the absence of any transitional forms. That is why he wrote in 1859, 150 years ago, in the chapter “Difficulties on Theory” in his book The Origin of Species:
... Why, if species have descended from other species by insensibly fine gradations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms?Why is not all nature in confusion instead of the species being, as we see them, well defined?… But, as by this theory innumerable transitional forms must have existed, why do we not find them embedded in countless numbers in the crust of the earth?… Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory.22
6- H. S. Lipson, "A Physicist's View of Darwin's Theory," Evolution Trends in Plants, Vol. 2, No. 1, 1988, p. 6.
7- Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, Chapter 6 - "Difficulties on Theory."
8- Ibid., Chapter 14 - "Recapitulation and Conclusion."
9- Francis Darwin, The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. I, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1888, p. 315.
10- Ibid., p. 395.
11- N.C. Gillespie, Charles Darwin and the Problem of Creation, University of Chicago, 1979, p. 2.
12- Francis Darwin, The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. II, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1888, p. 358.
13- Francis Darwin, The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. I, p. 413.
14- Ibid., p. 430.
15- Francis Darwin, The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. II, p. 152.
16- Francis Darwin, The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. I, p. 439.
17- Francis Darwin, The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. II, p. 117.
18- Ibid., p. 501.
19- Ibid., p. 388.
20- Ibid., p. 25.
21- Robert B. Downs, Books that Changed the World, Revised edition (March, 2004), New York: Signet Classics; p. 286.22- Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, pp. 172, 280