What made Charles Darwin such a threat to people's beliefs?
One day in December 1859, an English clergyman was walking with a friend through the British Library in London. Suddenly he stopped and pointed to a large man with a bushy beard who was working quietly at a desk ... 'Look!' he whispered to his friend, 'There you see the most dangerous man inEngland.' The man he was pointing to was Charles Darwin.
This photograph shows you what the 'dangerous man' looked like.
A photograph of Charles Darwin, 1875
The voyage of the Beagle
On 27 December 1831, a small ship called HMS Beagle left Plymouth harbour. The ship's captain was Robert FitzRoy. He was sailing to South America to make detailed maps of the coast. Sharing his cabin was theyoung Charles Darwin. FitzRoy had invited Darwin to join the voyage as a naturalist. Darwin was to gather information about the animals, plants and rocks he saw wherever the ship took him.
Darwin was not one of the crew. He was FitzRoy's guest. Being a sea captain was often a lonely job. FitzRoy had decided to find an educated companion to join the voyage.
Darwin had just left CambridgeUniversity and was expecting to become a vicar. But he had always been interested in nature. When he heard that FitzRoy wanted someone to join him he was keen to go. He expected to enter the Church when the voyage was over. But then his whole life had changed.
• What job was Darwin expecting to do when he left Cambridge university?
Darwin out of the university meant to be a vicar
• Why wasDarwin keen to join the voyage?
I was interested because I wanted to do an investigation about animals and plants rocks
• Why do you think the captain would be more lonely than other crew members on a long sea voyage?
The captain was a man who was alone in the cabin and was looking for an educated partner to join the voyage
Map showing the route taken by the Beagle
FitzRoy was deeplyreligious. He wanted Darwin to use his study of nature to show that God really had created every type of creature in just six days. This was what the Church had taught people for over a thousand years.
Darwin agreed with FitzRoy. He believed that the Bible story of creation was completely true. But by 1830 several scientists had studied rocks and fossils and said that the world had taken manythousands of years to develop. They used a new word for this long, gradual change. They called it evolution. FitzRoy was sure that Darwin could prove that these people were wrong - and Darwin was happy to help.
New ideas in the New World
As the voyage went on Darwin's friendship with FitzRoy fell apart.
They often argued. Darwin hated the slavery he saw in the New World. However, FitzRoyassured him that the slaves were happy. He also told Darwin that nothing in the Bible said that slavery was wrong. FitzRoy insisted that the South American natives should be converted to Christianity, but Darwin had seen white men murder natives who disobeyed them. He feared that whole tribes would disappear for ever if Christians tried to convert them.
• What two things did FitzRoy andDarwin disagree about?
Darwin and Fitzroy agreed that what they said was a lie and scientists who challenged their religious ideas and Darwin with his studies of nature wanted to show that God created everything
• What signs were there that Darwin was beginning to change his mind about Christianity?
The abuse they received the aborigines was managing to change the thinking that Darwinmaintained as fitzroy said that in the Bible did not say that slavery is wrong and that Darwin did not see with good eyes
A print of native South Americans, 1830
Darwin and Fitz Roy also began to argue about the way the earth had been made. Darwin's beliefs were changing. He could no longer accept the Bible story of creation which said that the world was made in six days. Wherever he went in...