This Quote of the Day is by the late eminent genetics professor C.D. Darlington (1903-1981), who as an atheist was happy with
Writing in Scientific American in 1959 (the centennial year of the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species) Darlington noted that "10 years after the appearance of the Origin of Species," Darwin had steadily retreated from his theory of natural selection, and was employing deliberate "ambiguity" ("the same ambiguity [employed] in his private letters"), calculated to deceive his readers, so that each, whether "rationalist" or "devout," would "see that it means just what [they] want it to mean." With the result that, "Darwinism ... began as a theory that evolution could be explained by natural selection" and "ended as a theory that evolution could be explained just as you would like it to be explained" (my emphasis)!:
"As time went on Darwin relied more and more on a double or mixed theory of evolution: selection plus direction. When he came to write The Descent of Man 10 years after the appearance of the Origin of Species, the full advantages of this mixed hypothesis began to be felt. The critical question in The Descent of Man was that of the evolution of man's moral, spiritual or religious character. ... On the one hand, Darwin argued, any intelligent animal with social instincts could by selection come to develop a moral sense, a feeling of duty, a conscience. Selection by itself is enough to produce the moral sense. A dog, he points out, can be bred and trained so that it has a feeling of guilt when it fails to do what it `ought' to have done. So much for the dog. But when Darwin sums up his views and comes to man, he hedges. `Social qualities,' he suggests, `were no doubt acquired by the progenitors of man... through natural selection aided by inherited habit.' And later: `It is not improbable that virtuous tendencies may through long practice be inherited.' Finally he concludes that social instincts, which afford the basis for the development of the moral sense, may be `safely attributed' to natural selection. But `the moral qualities are advanced either directly or indirectly, much more through the effects of habit, the reasoning powers, religion, etc.' Here we see the most dangerous passage in all of Darwin's works. For at first glance it seems to mean so much. But when you have read it two or three times you see that it means just what you want it to mean. If you are a rationalist, you will suppose that the blind forces of nature-even an element of chance-working through natural selection produced the moral qualities of man. And if you are devout, you will suppose that man has acquired his spiritual gifts under divine guidance, inspired teachers having instructed him in the principles of religion most pleasing to his Creator. Was it an accident that Darwin's conclusion meant just what every reader wanted it to mean? I think not. Darwin used the same ambiguity in his private letters. Darwinism, therefore, began as a theory that evolution could be explained by natural selection. It ended as a theory that evolution could be explained just as you would like it to be explained." (Darlington, C.D., "The Origin of Darwinism," Scientific American, Vol. 201, May 1959, pp.60-66, pp.60-61. My emphasis)
Which is not a bad definition of "evolution" today: "a theory that evolution could be explained just as you would like it to be explained." That is, "explained" in a way that secularists most "like", namely that "God had no part in this process" (Shermer, M.B., "The Gradual Illumination of the Mind," Scientific American, February 2002. My emphasis).