Charles Darwin

Early Evolutionists

Baden Powell


The Reverend Baden Powell (1796 - 1860) was Professor of geometry at Oxford University and a powerful clerical voice for the compatibility of evolutionary hypotheses and religious (specifically Christian) beliefs. Powell argued that there can be no exceptions to the laws of the natural world, and this placed him at odds with conservative forces within the powerful hierarchy of the Church of England. As Powell stated forcefully in Essays on the Spirit of the Inductive Philosophy, the Unity of Worlds, and the Philosophy of Creation (1855, pdf here): "That new species should be subject to exactly the same general laws of structure, growth, nutrition, and all other functions of organic life, and yet in the single instance of their mode of birth or origin should constitute exceptions to all physical law, is an incongruity so preposterous that no inductive mind can for a moment entertain it." Baden Powell is also the father of the founder of the Boy Scouts, Robert Baden-Powell (his third wife changed the family name to a hyphenated version of Baden Powell), but died when the boy was two years old.

The cover of Baden Powell's 1855 book on natural laws and evolution makes reference to the Hindu creation myth in which the first turtle supports the first elephant, which in turn supports the earth on its back.