Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Arguments XII - Lady Hope

Subtitled -- Did Darwin recant his evolutionary theories and become a born-again Christian on his deathbed? The short answer is No! Here is the longer answer.

Apparently a lady named Elizabeth Reid, aka Lady Hope, claimed that in 1882, shortly before Charles Darwin died, she visited him and he recanted his theories and accepted Jesus Christ as his savior. She told this story -- for the apparent first time -- in 1915, at an evangelical conference in Massachusetts. Her story was then printed in American Baptist newspaper the Watchman Examiner on August 15, 1915. The original text is on Wikipedia here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_Hope

Now aside from the obvious question like why did this lady take almost 35 years to tell this story? There are even more obvious ones like who is Lady Hope, what was her connection to Charles Darwin, and did what she claims happen actually happen.

According to Darwin's family, including published statements by his wife, sons, and a granddaughter -- Lady Hope was not a visitor to Charles Darwin in his last days. Darwin's religious views were well documented and definitely didn't agree with her statements. And some of the details, like him being almost bedridden months before he died, were inaccurate to say the least.

Now who are we going to believe? Lady Hope, who it turns out was not some family friend or bystander, but a member of the evangelical temperance movement with an ax to grind against Darwin's theories.

The story spread, as what we now call urban legends tend to, because it made such a great story. Several academic studies were done, not just by the secular agencies but by evangelical agencies as well. Guess what they found? That there wasn't any proof it happened! Even Answers-in-Genesis, that stalwart site who love anything that tried to shed doubt on evolutionary theory doesn't give any credence to the Lady Hope story.

So when some Creationist drags out this chestnut, grab a little ammunition and poke a few holes. I mean it's one thing when Talk.Origins denies it, they are a well known debunker of anti-evolutionary arguments, but when the evangelical community denies it, you should have an easy time.


  1. One SHOULD have an easy time convincing a fundie by using the AnswersInGenesis link... but it rarely works as the same fundie will pop up elsewhere spouting the exact Lady Hope lie. They never stop. Educating the honestly curious is the best we can do.

  2. Agreed, someone who actually believes the Lady Hope story isn't going to be bothered by a few facts. One person I was disagreeing with changed her tune quickly and said she hoped the story was true because she feared for Darwin's soul. Sure, and not two posts ago (On Topix) she was waving the Lady Hope story because it proved Evolution was false -- no mention of Darwin's soul at that point.