I have often heard the claim that darwin disavoed evolution on his deathbed, so often that I actually assumed it to have happened. Although recently it occurered to me to look further into the subject.
A female evangelist, Elizabeth Hope aka Lady Hope, has published the following; proclaiming darwin has rescinded his scientific beleifs and accepted Jesus Christ as his lord and saviour at his deathbed.
It was one of those glorious autumn afternoons, that we sometimes enjoy in England, when I was asked to go in and sit with the well known professor, Charles Darwin. He was almost bedridden for some months before he died. I used to feel when I saw him that his fine presence would make a grand picture for our Royal Academy; but never did I think so more strongly than on this particular occasion.
He was sitting up in bed, wearing a soft embroidered dressing gown, of rather a rich purple shade.
Propped up by pillows, he was gazing out on a far-stretching scene of woods and cornfields, which glowed in the light of one of those marvelous sunsets which are the beauty of Kent and Surrey. His noble forehead and fine features seem to be lit up with pleasure as I entered the room.
He waved his hand toward the window as he pointed out the scene beyond, while in the other hand he held an open Bible, which he was always studying.
"What are you reading now?" I asked as I seated myself beside his bedside. "Hebrews!" he answered - "still Hebrews. 'The Royal Book' I call it. Isn't it grand?"
Then, placing his finger on certain passages, he commented on them.
I made some allusions to the strong opinions expressed by many persons on the history of the creation, its grandeur, and then their treatment of the earlier chapters of the Book of Genesis.
He seemed greatly distressed, his fingers twitched nervously, and a look of agony came over his face as he said: "I was a young man with unformed ideas. I threw out queries, suggestions, wondering all the time over everything, and to my astonishment, the ideas took like wildfire. People made a religion of them."
Then he paused, and after a few more sentences on "the holiness of God" and the "grandeur of this book," looking at the Bible which he was holding tenderly all the time, he suddenly said: "I have a summer house in the garden which holds about thirty people. It is over there," pointing through the open window. "I want you very much to speak there. I know you read the Bible in the villages. To-morrow afternoon I should like the servants on the place, some tenants and a few of the neighbours; to gather there. Will you speak to them?"
"What shall I speak about?" I asked.
"Christ Jesus!" he replied in a clear, emphatic voice, adding in a lower tone, "and his salvation. Is not that the best theme? And then I want you to sing some hymns with them. You lead on your small instrument, do you not?" The wonderful look of brightness and animation on his face as he said this I shall never forget, for he added: "If you take the meeting at three o'clock this window will be open, and you will know that I am joining in with the singing."
How I wished I could have made a picture of the fine old man and his beautiful surroundings on that memorable day!
The way it reads, it just seems false. It is a ridiculous story. It was simply accepted by fact by all who oppose science... But who knows, right? lets look further.
Here is what darwin's son had to say
Lady Hope's account of my father's views on religion is quite untrue. I have publicly accused her of falsehood, but have not seen any reply. My father's agnostic point of view is given in my Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. I., pp. 304–317. You are at liberty to publish the above statement. Indeed, I shall be glad if you will do so."
Here is what his daughter had to say:
I was present at his deathbed, Lady Hope was not present during his last illness, or any illness. I believe he never even saw her, but in any case she had no influence over him in any department of thought or belief. He never recanted any of his scientific views, either then or earlier. We think the story of his conversion was fabricated in the U.S.A. ... ...The whole story has no foundation what-so-ever."
Here is what darwin himself had to say about christianity:
By further reflecting that the clearest evidence would be requisite to make any sane man believe in the miracles by which Christianity is supported, — and that the more we know of the fixed laws of nature the more incredible do miracles become, — that the men at that time were ignorant and credulous to a degree almost incomprehensible by us, — that the Gospels cannot be proven to have been written simultaneously with the events, — that they differ in many important details, far too important, as it seemed to me to be admitted as the usual inaccuracies of eye witnesses; — by such reflections as these, which I give not as having the least novelty or value, but as they influenced me, I gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity as a divine revelation. The fact that many fake religions have spread over large portions of the earth like wildfire had some weight with me. But I was very unwilling to give up my belief; I feel sure of this, for I can remember often and often inventing day-dreams of old letters between distinguished Romans, and manuscripts being discovered at Pompeii or elsewhere, which confirmed in the most striking manner all that was written in the Gospels. But I found it more and more difficult, with free scope given to my imagination, to invent evidence which would suffice to convince me. Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct.
I am utterly ashemed to have ever considered such a man to be capable of this sort of foolishness (renouncing science and accepting religion on his deathbed that is).