24 December 2006 Filed in: The Voyage of the Beagle
There is a certain irony in celebrating Christmas if one is an unabashed Darwinist. I wonder if Richard Dawkins gives Christmas gifts? Or receives them, even?
Charles Darwin acknowledged Christmas. While in New Zealand he attended a church service on Christmas Day 1835 in Pahia, where the service, somewhat ahead of its time, was in both English and Maori.
As a New Zealander, perhaps my favourite quote in all the Voyage of the Beagle is Darwin’s back-handed compliment to New Zealand when he visited the Reverend Williams and came across a party of children that were preparing to celebrate Christmas: “I never saw a nicer or more merry group; and to think that this was in the centre of the land of cannibalism, murder, and all atrocious crimes!” Exclamation mark, indeed, Charles.
At any rate, it remains for me to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year – one in which I trust you will have the opportunity to read Looking for Darwin.