The story has circulated for decades. Charles Darwin, after a career of promoting evolution and naturalism, returned to the Christianity of his youth, renouncing on his deathbed the theory of evolution. The story appears to have been authored by a "Lady Hope," and relates how she visited him near the end and received his testimony.
Evolutionists in general and his surviving family in particular have disputed the account. Those with him at the time insist there was no evident changing of mind. Indeed, in his autobiography written late in his life, Darwin fully supported evolution. He admitted the concept was distasteful to him and had brought him much dismay, but he still held it.
Lady Hope was real, the wife of Lord Hope. She was a fervent Christian and friend of Darwin's wife, also a strong Christian who prayed for and witnessed to him all their married life, to no avail according to him. Nevertheless, many have researched the story, and all have concluded it is probably an "urban myth."
In his later years Darwin did soften in his attitude toward Christianity. He even allowed a local church to hold their meetings on his property, and asked that his bedroom windows be opened so he could hear the hymns being sung. A Christian can only hope that the seeds planted earlier took root at the end, and that he did place his faith in Christ before he died.
A similar scenario took place more recently with the death of the great spokesman for evolution and atheism, Carl Sagan. He received strong witness of Christianity from many people; most notably ICR's physics chairman Dr. Larry Vardiman. They corresponded for years, during which God's plan of salvation and the evidence for creation were clearly discussed. Dr. Sagan fully understood the salvation message but specifically refused it. He said he wished he could believe, but was convinced evolution was true and there was no God. He contracted cancer and passed into eternity in 1996.
His wife, Ann Druyan, herself an avowed anti-Christian, takes a different tack, however. She takes great pains to insure that no one writes an "urban myth" about her husband. She reportedly organized a vigil at his bedside to make sure no Christian came near. No last-minute prayer, no final testimony was allowed.
Again, a Christian can only trust in the grace of our loving Lord and wonder if the seeds planted took root before it was too late. There is no joy for a Christian if anyone, even a lifelong opponent of the cross, slips into a Christless eternity.
* Dr. John D. Morris is the President of the Institute for Creation Research.
Cite this article: John D. Morris, Ph.D. 2006. Did Darwin Renounce Evolution on His Deathbed?. Acts & Facts. 35 (8).