Monday, November 29, 2010


(I meant to post this last week while we were on vacation but never really got around to it.  But, since I haven't had a chance to write up something about our trip I'll go ahead and post it now.)

The very name of 'Darwin' is a polarizing force in today's society; reviled by some and practically worshiped by others. But both perspectives ignore to some degree that Charles Darwin was a real person with real joys and real sorrows, neither the monster nor the saint some want to believe. Although he decided that there was no afterlife and death was the end, his name and books have given him a different kind of immortality than he may have anticipated upon his own deathbed. As George Fredrick Handel said of him, "His body is buried in peace, but his name liveth evermore."

Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of FaithCharles and Emma Darwin were married for 42 years and had 10 children (3 of which died young). Charles was very methodical and scientific in his ways, even writing up a list of pros and cons before getting married. Although initially he studied for and considered a religious occupation, his scientific studies persuaded him that the prevailing view of Creation was in error. His wife, Emma, on the other hand, was deeply religious and remained so throughout her life. In spite of this difference, both remained respectful of the other and believed that faith or a lack of should not keep people from talking to each other - which should apply to us today, as well.

I did not realize Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith was a YA book when I read it (or rather, when I listened to the audio book), which perhaps explains the lack of depth I found in it. Still, I think it appropriate for high-schoolers, and many adults might enjoy it as well. I found the frequent comparisons of the Darwin's relationship to Jane Austen books rather nauseating, personally, but was still impressed by the love Charles and Emma obviously had for one another. The book shines best when describing their sorrow at losing children, and is weakest when discussing the religious beliefs of their day in very simplistic and black/white ways. Heiligman tries very hard to walk a fine line between endorsing either view in her book, and does a fair job of it for the most part. What impressed me most about Darwin was how loved he was by his children, who all - according to the book - evidently adored and revered him. That, to me, is testimony enough of his character regardless of the controversy surrounding his Theory of Evolution and other accomplishments.

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