FACT CHECK: Did Charles Darwin Say This Quote About Biology?

Trevor Schakohl | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook claims that biologist Charles Darwin said, “The fact of evolution is the backbone of biology, and biology is thus in the peculiar position of being a science founded on an improved theory, is it then a science or faith?”

Verdict: False

Darwin did not author this statement. The expression was actually written by L.H. Matthews in his introduction to an 1872 edition of Darwin’s work, “On the Origin of Species.”

Fact Check:

A biologist active during the 19th century, Darwin is widely regarded as a pioneer of biological evolutionary theory. Darwin’s 1859 book “On the Origin of Species” explains his theory of natural selection, whereby organisms better adapted to their environment are more likely to survive and reproduce.

While Darwin spoke and wrote widely on a number of scientific subjects, he did not author the quote attributed to him in the Facebook post. It appears nowhere in Darwin Online, a database of his collected works, nor in any of his letters.

An internet search reveals that the University of Cambridge’s Darwin Correspondence Project categorizes the statement as misattributed on its list of “Six things Darwin never said.” According to their researchers, the expression actually comes Matthews’ introduction to the 1872 edition  of “On the Origin of Species,” though it has been slightly misquoted.

“The fact of evolution is the backbone of biology, and biology is thus in the peculiar position of being a science founded on an unproved theory, is it then a science or faith?” Matthews wrote in his introduction.

Trevor Schakohl

Fact Check Reporter
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