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February 16, 2009

Was Darwin a Buddhist?

Posted: 05:35 PM ET
Darwin's views of compassion are curiously similar to those of Buddhism, one researcher says.

Darwin's views of compassion are curiously similar to those of Buddhism, one researcher says.

Just days after the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin, the father of evolutionary theory, journalists and scientists from all over the world converged to confront a fascinating connection: Some of Darwin's views have a lot in common with Buddhist teachings.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, psychologist Paul Ekman, known for his research showing the universality of facial expressions across cultures, told us that Darwin's descriptions of compassion, as well as his view of morality as it relates to compassion, closely mirror Buddhist ideas.

"There’s always the possibility that two wise people looking at the same species will come up with the same conclusions," said Ekman, who co-wrote a book with the Dalai Lama on compassion called "Emotional Awareness: Overcoming the Obstacles to Psychological Balance and Compassion."

It turns out that Darwin's friend Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, a botanist and explorer, visited Tibet in 1847. He became familiar with Buddhist views there. He also wrote letters to Darwin. This is just one of many ways that Darwin could have been influenced by Buddhist teachings, Ekman said.

For Darwin and Buddhists, the seed for compassion is in the mother-infant relationship - this is "simple compassion," Ekman said. Then there's global compassion - for example, sending money and clothes to victims of a natural disaster. Finally, heroic compassion means risking your own life to save another - and you probably don't know if you have heroic compassion unless you've been in a situation like that, Ekman said.

The fundamental idea in both Darwin's writings and Buddhist views of compassion is that "when I see you suffer, it makes me suffer, and that motivates me to reduce your suffering so I can reduce my suffering," Ekman said.

The curious coincidence of views serves as a backdrop for understanding the nature of compassion, he said.

"I’m not by any means accusing Darwin of plagiarism," he explained.

What do you think? Does this link between Darwin and Buddhism have greater implications? Read more about Darwin on

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derrickchapman   February 16th, 2009 6:21 pm ET

"The fundamental idea in both Darwin’s writings and Buddhist views of compassion is that “when I see you suffer, it makes me suffer, and that motivates me to reduce your suffering so I can reduce my suffering,” Ekman said."

Not exactly true. The Buddhist view of compassion is not "how do I reduce my discomfort". Instead the Buddhist view is: "what can I do to help you see the truth of suffering?" Suffering is easier when you understand it is rooted in clinging. Pain is inherent and inescapable, but some amount of suffering is optional, dependent on whether you are emotionally equipped to accept that life is ever-changing. Clinging to what was is (and will no longer be) is unwise.

S Callahan   February 16th, 2009 6:49 pm ET

My understanding is he was a Christian theologian....I'll have to research this again..but I'm almost sure I have read this in the past.
He was a man of faith, this is true.

S Callahan   February 16th, 2009 6:53 pm ET

There is a vd on utube called the Darwinian Gospel-Part 1 (under LUMEL) that shares some of his views. He questioned if life was designed , by God, to evolve and felt that Science closed it's mind to the Spiritual Rhealm.
Though, we know today, Intelligent Design is in fact acknowledged by somein science.

AKBugzy   February 16th, 2009 7:11 pm ET

Darwin began as a man of faith, then found, like most in science, that the universe makes more sense when mythology is not superimposed. There is matter-of-fact, and there is matter-of-fiction, and Intelligent Design is nothing more than proof that even Creationism evolves. While most people of science probably acknowledge some all-encompassing system that makes the universe predictable–Spinoza's God–they hardly have faith in a personal god. In fact, I would predict that if one took surveys of multiple sets of scientists, beginning with high school science teachers and ending with members of the National Academies of Science, one would find increasing levels of disbelief as one worked their way up through levels of accomplishment.

Wizard   February 16th, 2009 8:50 pm ET

Interestingly, the idea of communal compassion is also called Ubuntu in African cultures. It makes no sense to me that people in good faith would purposely create lies to lead people down the wrong path. Religion, Critical Thought and Philosophies that endure and contain truth are as true as the givers can comprehend. The world is warming up to the fact that Science, Religion, Culture, Consciousness even are all describing the very same idea: Life.

ngong   February 16th, 2009 9:34 pm ET

Tibetans don't practice Zen. They do have something called "Dzogchen", which has some similarities to Zen.

N. Dev   February 16th, 2009 9:47 pm ET

I find it doubtful that Hooker learned Zen Buddhist teachings in Tibet, which has its own distinctive Buddhist tradition. Having said that, there is a great deal of commonality between all Buddhist traditions, and both Zen and Tibetan Buddhism are varieties of the Mahayana tradition.

George in PA   February 16th, 2009 9:48 pm ET

In the observation or study of human behavior there are universal truths that will be revealed regardless of what direction the study began from. I don't think Darwin needed to be exposed to Buddhism to come to these conclusions, nor did Buddhist monks need to have Darwin's scientific background to arrive at the same conclusions regarding compassion.

rose   February 16th, 2009 9:48 pm ET

Sorry to tell you this, but Darwin was a born again Atheist. Many of his thoughts and ideas were hidden to protect him from his enemies. He was at one time, a religious man, but the more he learned, the more he saw the impossibility of a god of any kind. You can read a brief bio. on Darwin if you go to and go to the Freethought of the Day for Feb. 12. There are qoutes from friends and family who were very close to him. Things that were not brought up until his death because his life was in constant danger from religionists who hated him.

Me   February 16th, 2009 9:56 pm ET

I am of the general opinion that there are many budhist teachings present in christianity, and so I am not in the least bit supprised that being a Christian Theologian Darwin said things that were similar to budhism, heck the core of Christianity is budhism by another name.

GarrapataRed   February 16th, 2009 10:37 pm ET

"Intelligent Design is in fact acknowledged by some in science..."

I'd say it's 'advocated' by an extremely small contingent of evangelical Christian scientists for whom empiricism and deductive logic (i.e., their ability to extend the scientific method in whatever direction the empirical evidence dictates) utterly halt when they infringe on the dictates of their religious dogma. This behavior is replicated by religious conservatives of other faiths, notably in Islam. Darwin later studied the ramifications of cooperation within species (re: David Loye's "Darwin on Love"), and may well have been influenced on the natural selective value of cooperation and compassion by feedback from early European exploration into Buddhist lands. BTW, he would not have been introduced to "Zen Buddhist" ideas from Tibet.....Zen (Chan) is uniquely Chinese/Japanese, but Tibetan Buddhism in general is in the Mahayana tradition, which emphasized the core teaching of compassion.

Franko   February 16th, 2009 11:36 pm ET

"motivates me to reduce your suffering "
I feel your pain is the modern, short version

Thought, emotion, contagious from one physical entity to another
Witch Doctor, with his rattlers, points at you, and commands you to die
Several days later, undiagnosed stomach ailment, dead you are

Basis of advertising, conform for acceptance (or die)
Mass marketing, manufacturing of consent, by the controllers

Scott Stahlecker   February 16th, 2009 11:43 pm ET

The latest National Geo magazine covers a bit more history on Darwin, mentioning among other things that Darwin gave up a life as a country minister to pursue his scientific interests.

Seems to me that at many points in history there are a lot of people thinking similar thoughts and ideas, but someone gets their ideas out first, and low and behold they are credited with the discovery. I bet if Darwin had not got his ideas out about evolution others, like Wallace, would have introduced us to the basic concepts of evolution.

The fact that the Dali Lama, Buddhism in general, and Darwin spoke to the same ideals regarding compassion is not surprising. And what Ekman is quoted as saying is just good stuff.

L.L.   February 17th, 2009 1:25 am ET

Zen Buddhism isn't taught much in Tibet. Tibetan is though, so I don't think he would have studied Zen Buddhism that early in Tibet – so if you would please post your references I'd love to check them out.

What became Zen was rejected in early Tibet as not being possible to support two types of Buddhism.

FastEddie   February 17th, 2009 9:34 am ET

Darwin went to seminary in his 20s, but he left to go on the Beagle's voyage. Although he was religious early in his life, Darwin's faith faded away as he aged. The death of his 10 year-old daughter Annie was the nail in his faith's coffin.

derek   February 17th, 2009 9:47 am ET

Darwin studied theology and was on a path to priesthood in the Anglican church. However he was became disillusioned at the passing of his daughter and was unable to reconcile the 'problem of evil' with a loving God ( .) As to Buddhism I don't know all what Darwin said about compassion/emotion but the idea that 'I help you out to reduce my suffering' is clearly a Darwinist thought bereft of any moral obligation (which would IMHO contradict Buddhist teaching.) The Buddha taught his son Rahula "Compassion has the capacity to remove the suffering of others without expecting anything in return." This thought of sacrificial love is what delineates naturalism from most religious thought.

McTim   February 17th, 2009 10:14 am ET

Darwin, like many scientists and philosophers of his time and since, have not wanted to submit to a moral authority. Since THE moral authority in Europe was the Christian church, anything but was a way out. Dawkins is very clear that true Darwinism leads only to aethisim in belief. Any compassion would have to be for our own self genetic expression – that is even if you think it is compassion, it isnt, it is natural selection acting upon you. Darwin was ultimately an aethisit, not a Buddhist and definitely not a Christian. Influenced by either perhaps, practicing faithful definitely not.

Dan Seidman   February 17th, 2009 10:54 am ET

I've been a big fan of Paul Ekman's work for many years.

He however is a big fan of the Dalai Lama and Darwin, so it's no surprise he attempts to make that connection.

Mark   February 17th, 2009 11:00 am ET

I'm not sure the following would be considered Buddist:

"The Origin of the Species." ... the books subtitle: "The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life."

It seems that evolution as a worldview is an inherently racist theory that opens the moral door for eugenics, euthanasia, and other crimes against humanity.

Darwin writes in The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex:

"With savages, the weak in body or mind are eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed."

Has this all been considered in the psychoanalysis of Darwin?

Stegermeister   February 17th, 2009 11:05 am ET

Putting a label like "Buddhist" or "Christian" confuses the matter some. A truth is a truth no matter what belief system one may or may not follow. Darwin was a brilliant motivated man and his beliefs were his beliefs. Ask several Christians or Buddhists what they believe and you will likely get different individual answers even if they belong to the same Church or Sangha.

Sathanuman S. Khalsa   February 17th, 2009 11:18 am ET

Charles Darwin was a Christian. To say he was a Buddhist is remarkable. The Buddhist would never disown him because he was 'outside the box' but he shallow following of the Christ seem to disown their own if the have unorthodox views.
Jefferson created his own bible from the King James version. His views on religion were unorthodox and he was painted by John Adams during the presidential race of 1800 as an atheist.
What remarkable Americans we are. We are the most diverse nation on earth, but our scientists, our clergy, our political leaders seemed to have to follow a linear belief system or they are treated like someone unacceptable to the norm.
Charles Darwin, like his soul-mate Abraham Lincoln were unique and a blessing from the Divine to humanity's evolution as human beings.
God bless him.

Jake   February 17th, 2009 12:05 pm ET

To S. Callahan:

Here are the facts, in the interest of having an intellectually honest dicsussion:

(1) Evolution is a scientific theory concerning how and why we have the diversity of life that we have today. Here, I use the terms "Scientific" and "theory" in their proper and technical senses. "Scientific" is hard to define quickly, and others are better qualified to do so. But, generally, scientific propositions must be falsifiable and have some relationship to the facts in the world. This is not arbitrary. Science advances knowlege by testing hypotheses against the evidence in the world. We get to scientific truth when our popositions or collections of propositions repeatedly pass such tests. Without a falsifiability requirement, Science would be able to just make stuff up as it goes along (e.g., "God did it"), and we would learn nothing. A "theory" – roughly speaking – is a set of complex, interrelated, highly-verified, scientific propositions with explanatory value (that is, they help explain the way the world is). ID proponent often suggest that the scientific use of the term "theory" accords with our common-sense understaning of the term – for example, when we say "I have a theory about x" and we really mean "I conjecture the following about x, based on what little I know, etc." This suggestion is incorrect.

(2) ID proponents use the terms "scientific" and "theory" incorrectly all the time. Some get this wrong because they don't understand. These poeple surely are NOT scientists. Folks who do understand the details, but still mususe these terms, are playing anit-intellectual dirty pool – the precise OPPOSITE of science. They have a non-scientific agenda to push, science and knowledge be damned.

(3) In this regard, your claim that ID "is in fact acknowledged by some in science" is simply incorret. ID is neither scientific nor a theory. First, scientists agree that there is, to date, only one scientific theory of the origins/diversity of life – and that theory is Evolution. Evolution is one of the most tested and verified scientific theories that has ever been developed by science. Scientists are willing to look at contervailing evidence – many would welcome it. Or even countervailing theories to better fit the facts. But, to date, none of these have been produced (no – not even by ID proponents. They just think (or pretend) that they have done so). Second, ID is NOT "scientific," because the statment "GOD did it" is neither falsifiable nor related – in any way – to the evidence in the world. It cannot be tested or verified. It is just "made up." Also, ID is not a "theory," because, it contains not one proposition – let alone a set of interrlated propositions – that explains anything about the world. ID proponents have no research plan or agenda. They merely try to punch holes in evolutionary – succesfully. Upshot, to suggest that the scientific community is actively wondering whether evolution is true – or, more strongly, wondering if ID might be an alternate scientific theory to evolution, is incorrect on many distinct levels.

Can we please have an intellectually honest discussion?

Jake   February 17th, 2009 12:20 pm ET

McTim -

I don't think you are being quite fair to Dawkins or athiests.

Dawkins is an athiest. He even has a chapter in his book about why there "almost certainly is no God." But, if you read that chapter, you will see that much of what he says doesn't relate to evolution at all. He speack more generally about the "scientific facts on the ground" – which include, but are not limited to, evolution.

(As an aside – please stop using the term "Darwinism." That is a term made up by ID proponents and creationsitsts – those are synonyms, actually, but that is another discussion – in an attempt to make people think that we are just talking about some loosey-goosey philosophicl viewpoint, not the most higly tested and verified theory in the biological sciences).

Second, I think folks like Dawkins, Hitchens, and their ilk are more rigorous and defensible on ethics than you give them credit for. People do, in fact, display all sorts of ethical impulses and behaviors – routinely. Generally, we don't injure, kill, steal from each other, etc. And, we generally teach our children and others to do the same. These are just empirical facts. And, despite what religious leaders will generally tell you, these facts generally hold true across a wide range of belief and non-belief. On the other hand, the most powerful tool for suppressing natural human moral behaviors and implusles is religion. As Steven Weinberg famously said, "With or without [religion], you’d have good people doing good things and evil people doing bad things, but for good people to do bad things, it takes religion.”

John Dilmun   February 17th, 2009 12:22 pm ET

Gimme a break. Nobody really cares if Darwin was a Buddhist, an Anglican, or Bozo the Clown. Additionally, nobody really cares if his theories hold water or not. Modern interpretations have left his initial work in the dust and I doubt if he would understand what some of his adherents now hold to be true.
The bottom line for the academic community is "publish or perish" and if everybody suddenly rejected his theories and decided that there was no method, pattern or reason at all for the development of life on this planet there would be no reason to spend a ridiculous amount of money on the text books that are nothing more than regurgitated rubbish in the first place.
If the reader wants to study evolution they need to study the evolution of the growth of academic bank accounts instead of trying to figure out whether the chicken or the egg came first.

Franko   February 17th, 2009 1:48 pm ET

Darwin was not an ist
Buddha got high by staring at his navel -achieved "the unconditioned"
Then heard the one hand clapping

Torske   February 17th, 2009 2:32 pm ET

It could be just Universal Consciousness.

DJ   February 17th, 2009 7:23 pm ET

Thanks for saying that so concisely, couldn't have done it better myself.

As far as the article... The link between Darwin and Buddhism? I think Buddhism links with anyone of a mind for compassion and an interest in reducing suffering. Not a real big deal.

Franko   February 18th, 2009 5:37 am ET

Path of Wisdom, Enlightement, Nirvana is the Ultimate Joy, Worldly connections cut off; cut off his arm and gave it to Bodhidharma as a sign of his sincerity

Gain ennlightment by cutting off yor head ? - Not quite,
Just your thoughts and reasioning, replaced by the Intelligent Design Mantra

Good clue is to watch, and read, both J Khrishnamurti and U.G.Krishnamurti

Jake   February 18th, 2009 11:14 am ET

DJ -

Thanks for the compliment. And a big thank you for seeing though my typos and reading what I actually meant. For example, where I wrote "They merely try to punch holes in evolutionary – succesfully" but meant "They merely try to punch holes in evolutionary THEORY – UNsuccesfully." Doh. I think my meaning came through.

As far as Buddhism – I tend to agree with you. Like many religions/philosophies, Buddhism exists in many forms today, and it is hard to generalize (if not impossible). But Buddhism in its purest form is philosophical, not religious. It does not make any ontological presuppositions, and certainly not any about really nice, really powerful, invisible, imaginary friends. Instead, it seems to proceed as best it can from basic observational/experiential truths about the world to potentially successful ways to address them. To my mind, there is no "in principle" reason why an empirically-minded, intelligent scientist cannot embrase this pure, philosophical form of Buddhism. It, indeed, "is not a real big deal."

Sathanuman S. Khalsa   February 18th, 2009 1:27 pm ET

Darwin was a highly evolved soul. The universe is beyond description. Albert Einstein figured that our Sun traveling 500,000 mph around the Milky Way (our Solar System) it would take 2.2 trillion years. That is not something one can comprehend. So please don't insult the Infinite (God, The Divine, whatever). Charles Darwin who was created by the same Creator who created President Lincoln, Jefferson, Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, Hitler, Alexander the Great, Confusius, Lao Tse, Bush, Obama, you, me, everyone. As far as I can figure. The process of 'evolution' is totally within bounds (no pun intended) with Creation. It is always evolving, G enerating, O rganizing, and D estroying...without beginning and without end. (GOD)
Charles Darwin and DiVinci and others were outside the box. Any so-called Christian who cannot accept Charles Darwin and labels him as an atheist is not a Christian at all but a ego-istic religious person who with their fundamentalists trappings causing more challenges than they may even realize. At least its God's Divine Will and I will have to accept their behavior and attitudes, though I don't enjoy it.

Blessings fellow souls

Sat Hanuman S. Khalsa

RNI   February 18th, 2009 3:25 pm ET

Franco : Buddha stared at his Navel is a total misconception you have about mysticism and "Buddha got a high"


Dude Buddhism , Christianity etc all religions became dogmatic even though their original teachers taught otherwise.
We humans have a bad habit of dogmatising/ritualising any teachings by these great men. Instead of concentrating on Christ teachings we try to spread His Word through Swords and Conversions.
Same goes for Islam/Hinduism etc.

Personally Darwins theory has held good so far and thats why its Science because it is ready to accept facts otherwise if proved scientifically. But ID stops further questioning of things saying by "God" desgined this that etc. Proponents of faith should understand that God really doesnt need us to prove his existence and lets not reduce God to a mere being. Personally I believe that a god created this universe and thats it and he let the creation process evolve on its own and watched it(Please note that is my personal belief and I dont make fun of any other religion or belief but I make fun of all religions including mine).

Press to Digitate   February 18th, 2009 3:31 pm ET

Fundamentalist Dogma has no place in the search for truth, whether regarding human origins or anything else, and it is sad to see 'science' perverted by materialist/reductionist fundamentalist dogma in the same way that 'religion' has been perverted by orthodox scriptural fundamentalist dogma.

Organized science will render itself irrelevant to the challenges of the 21st Century if it falls by the wayside, the way organized religion has, in meaningfully confronting the questions of who and what we really are, and what is our real place in the multiverse.

The future is a race between the search for our Quantum Consciousness (which leading physicists such as Dr. Roger Penrose, and Nobel laureate Dr. Brian Josephson believe represents an immortal and transcendent 'Soul'), and the rise of Machine Intelligence at human scale and beyond (which would inevitably succeed us in evolutionary terms, rendering organic humans obsolete). This is the ONLY issue in science or religion which really matters anymore.

Whether we arose from the muck by random chance or are the product of alien manipulation of primate DNA (the 'real' Intelligent Design), is a moot point. We arent charged with sorting out human Origins, but only in determining human Destiny. Left to the athiests (most in science), human extinction is a mere generation or two out, as artificial general intelligence flies past us to become the dominant form of 'life' on the planet. Spiritual transcendentalists (most who believe in anything outside of 4-D spacetime) must stand up and do the research which proves the Soul; which demonstrates that we are irreducible from the Infinite ("God").

And its out there. Dr. Roger Penrose (Princeton) and Dr. Rupert Sheldrake (Cambridge) have proven the existence of the Morphogenic Field, which seems to connect and organize all life. It infuses DNA with the transgenerational epigenetic content expressed beyond our base pair sequences, which simple genetics, and, hence, 'Evolution', cannot otherwise explain.

GROW UP. We are more than the sum of our biochemistry, and our Quantum Consciuosness extends into the Multiverse; modern physics allows for no other interpretation of Man. Yet, unless the church can get beyond primitive, anthropomorphic conceptions of a 'wise old Father God who made us", and deal with a more contemporary transcendency, it will remain as dangerous to the human condition as science has now become.

Franko   February 18th, 2009 8:34 pm ET

Moses took drugs, saw a burning bush
Buddha practiced yoga, to see Nirvana
Christ fasted 40 days, became crazy
Mohammed slaughtered,, to have 10 wives, expecting 72 heavenly virgins
From the above, have evolved religious cultures

Suggesting that Darwin was a Buddhist; just does not fit
(saw the Christian Hoax, then wanted to be tricked again ? )

norbu   February 19th, 2009 10:32 am ET

to conclude ; Compassion is not a religion as many of you have suggested here.

Nighthawk   February 19th, 2009 10:57 am ET

Relax, we will all find out the real answer eventually.

Franko   February 19th, 2009 1:27 pm ET

Dust to Dust - Nirvana is the Dusty state.
Dust your furniture, disturb the Souls in Nirvana, even Alien ones.

DJ   February 21st, 2009 2:12 pm ET

"norbu February 19th, 2009 10:32 am ET

to conclude ; Compassion is not a religion as many of you have suggested here."

No one that I could see suggested that compassion was a religion, though many did suggest that it is a major tenet of many religions. Compassion is compatible with the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection if it is favored by selective factors. I would say that in light of current evidence for the existence of compassion in primate groups, it is possible and probable that compassion is heritable, though further studies definitely need to be done.

It is well known that Darwin was a theologian before his trip on the Beagle. For what that might be worth I have no idea. He was never known to have received any Buddhist instruction that I could find anyway. I guess Compassion is a common theme among many supernatural mythologies.

DJ   February 21st, 2009 2:13 pm ET

Oops, instead of "favored by selective factors" I should have said "acted upon by selection pressures".

Franko   February 22nd, 2009 7:41 pm ET

Having been told, that turning the other cheek, and angering the Bankers;
Results in being Crucified, you would expect Darwin to become a Mohammedan

Exotic Buddhism has a number extrapolation problem;.
The whole Universe, Blissed to Nirvana, - spiritually starved King Midas

However, maintaining the Balance, is Shiva the Destroyer
Wants to destroy and kill, but needs to keep a few alive for Tomorrow's Fun

Lisa   February 24th, 2009 1:05 pm ET

Darwin was a Unitarian so understanding that wisdom comes from many religious disciplines is hardly new.

Muthyavan   February 24th, 2009 4:52 pm ET

Darwin was a scientific explorer who proved fist to this modern world the secrets behind the evolution of life in this planet. Buddhism is a religion originated 2600 years ago in India based on humans birth life and death blissed to Nirvana. Buddhism is practised in different parts of the world in different forms there is no uniformity in all forms of religious practice in different parts of the world, but Darwin theory of evolution stand firm in the last two hundred years supported by many subsequent scientific nature explorers.

Buddha or any contemporary Buddhist saints have never produced any writings regarding his preachings on compassion and love to nature during his time. What is practised in different parts of the world and written latter were done by saints from different parts of Asia and differ very much from each others. Darwin's Compassion toward animals not only reflect Buddha's preaching it is also coinciding with the Hinduism which says if you don't kill and eat animals then every animal will be friendly with humans so goes most of all religions in the world.

Darwin in all his deep study and scientific explorations all his life has spend many years visiting jungles and islands looking for different species and never spend times on different religious preachings in different countries.

Franko   February 25th, 2009 6:47 pm ET

Lisa "Darwin was a Unitarian"
Go to a shopping mall - are you a Shopping-Arian ?
Shopping Mall is the present Patriotic Church of Saint Allen (Greenspan)
We are failing to shop sufficiently; hence the Hell of a Depression

In a small community, you cannot exist without the shopping mall of a Church
Jesus sinned, was crucified, because he disturbed the Money Changers

Jake   February 26th, 2009 9:08 am ET

Darwin's status as a Unitarian has been challenged, and is dubious – at best. There is much information available on this subject – challenging Darwin's status as a Unitarian on both factual and intellectual grounds – and I won't repeat it here. But your statement, though likely incorrect, is interesting for at least two reasons.

First, it is an example of a "trick" played by religious folks all the time. Religious institutions generally fight new scientific knowledge – often because such knowledge calls the tenets or worldview of their religion into question or, even worse, makes various aspects of their religion intellectually untenable. But even religious institutions seem to be uncofmortable with this approach. So, from time to time, they tend to latch on to a great scientist and say "Hey – look at th is guy – he was one of US!" Usually, such assertions are dishonest or fail to pass scrutiny.

A great example is how religious folks have used Einstein's famous (and, in retrospect, probably not well-crafted) quote "God does not play dice with the universe." Despite air-tight refutation of the idea that Einstein was speaking of a personal, Christian God, as well as a direct denial from Einstein himself and numerous counterexamples in Einstein's own writings, Christians in this country – particularly of the fundamentalist / evangelical variety – continue to trot out this quote in an attempt to show that their religion is compatible with rigorous thinking. This approach is intellectually dishonest, obviously.

It also fundamentally misunderstands the minds of rigorous thinkers. We don't worship people or ideas, or hold them up as perfect, like religious people tend to. Ideas – whether from you, me, Darwin, Einstein, or anyone else – are true if they make sense and match the world. If not, they are false. So merely saying "Darwin said..." or "Einstein said..." doesn't get you very far. (Actually – the quote from Einstein is a good example for this point, too. Einstein was talking to another scientist about apparently random events that occur at the subatomic level. Einstein was skeptical – which is what he was trying to communicate with his quote. As it turns out, though, current scientific thinking DOES suggest that such random events occur – or, to use Einstein's lingo, that God does, indeed, play dice with the universe. I honestly cannot recall if that is something that Einstein realized in his lifetime – maybe someone could enlighten me).

Second, when religious people try to connect their beliefs with their faith, they often fail to accurately address or represent the faith in question. In this regard, your idea that because Darwin was a Unitarian, understanding that wisdom comes from many religious disciplines would hardly be new to him, is questionable. At root, Unitarianism is just the rejection of the idea of trinity. So, some Unitarians are basically just fundamentalists / evangelicals who reject the notion of trinity as not supported by Biblical text. Like any other religion, though, Unitarianism has morphed, split, etc. over time. In some parts of the United States and Europe, for example, a more "liberal" Unitariansim – which may (or may not) be compatible with thie idea that "wisdom comes from many religious disciplines," is prominent these days. But it should not be presumed that all Unitarians think this way – because they don't. And, it should not be presumed that any Unitarianism to which Darwin was exposed was fully consistent with this idea either.

Franko   February 27th, 2009 11:19 am ET

Bible, Quoran, Bhagavad Gita, Buddha. just culture, a reflexive instinct
Ancient crude obsolete tools of convenience, to hammer reality

Darwin would have had to give to culture what is culture's
In order not to get crucified, ostricized (similar to Christ angering the bankers)

Did Darwin or Christ believe the prevailing culture ?

Leandro   March 2nd, 2012 4:25 am ET

This does make sense aluatcly, I was just talking with my friend the other day about this exact same thing. You've given me some more ideas now. Can't wait to tell her about it tomorrow. Thanks!

Ο Δαρβίνος ίσως επηρεάστηκε από το βουδισμό « Το περιπλανόμενο τουατάρα   November 21st, 2012 4:22 pm ET

[...] και βρήκα το ίδιο περίπου σε διάφορα μέρη, εδώ, εδώ και εδώ, επομένως είναι βέβαιο γεγονός ότι έγινε και [...]

Ο Δαρβίνος ίσως επηρεάστηκε από το βουδισμό | Το περιπλανόμενο τουατάρα   December 26th, 2014 11:01 am ET

[...] και βρήκα το ίδιο περίπου σε διάφορα μέρη, εδώ, εδώ και εδώ, επομένως είναι βέβαιο γεγονός ότι έγινε και [...]

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