“Many times, I have kissed & cryed over this”

In an 1839 letter from Emma to Charles Darwin, shortly after they were married, she wrote about her worries that Charles’ pursuit of scientific questions on evolution might lead him further away from religious faith. Emma wrote: 

“May not the habit in scientific pursuits of believing nothing till it is proved, influence your mind too much in other things which cannot be proved in the same way, & which if true are likely to be above our comprehension.”

At the time, Darwin would have been around 30 years old, two decades before On the Origin of Species was published. Their correspondence showed that Emma’s concern that Charles’ need for evidence could not be applied to matters of faith, and that this probably meant — to her distress — that they would probably be separated in the afterlife. At the bottom of her letter, Charles added his own note: 

“When I am dead, know
that many times, I
have kissed & cryed
over this. C. D.”

Continue reading

One Big Family

Evolutionary tree, Darwin’s notebook

Whether you like it or not, you are, in fact, my cousin. We can verify this through a couple of complementary lines of argument, one working forward in time, the other working backward. First, we know that all human beings comprise a single species, Homo sapiens. In 2005, Ian McDougall and colleagues reported in the journal ‘Nature’ that the oldest fossils belonging to our species were dated at 195,000 years old, and were discovered in Omo, Ethiopia. We all share this common point of origin as our lineages have intertwined and diverged over the last 8,000 to 9,000 generations or so.

Continue reading