Some Thoughts on Hardy and Religion

  • T. R. M. Creighton


‘In essence all living things — including man-are the result of a purely accidental and unpredictable biochemical ‘situation” which produces the succeeding genetic mutation. In short man is an accident based on chance and the accident is perpetuated by the necessity of chemical reactions … in a universe without causality’ This is the summary given on the jacket of a recent work by an authoritative evolutionary geneticist, Professor Jacques Monod.1 I don’t suppose such a statement causes any holder of any religious belief, whether institutional, independent, esoteric or anything else-and it is surprising how many there are today even in the scientifically enlightened West-any trouble at all. We shall have a look at the reasons why later. Monod’s conclusion, whether true or false, was inherent in scientific investigation from its inception; for if something outside nature exists-the supernatural, God or whatever name you like to give to what has been the object of man’s religious impulse since he ‘first emerged from the den of time’2 — it will not be discovered by inquiry into nature; and if it is only the product of imagination, it will not be discovered anyhow. It will not be found by looking at what natural science cannot yet explain. ‘There are reverent minds who ceaselessly scan the fields of nature and the books of science in search of gaps-gaps which they fill up with God. As if God lived in gaps.’ So Henry Drummond wrote in The Ascent of Man in 1894.


Religious Belief Christian Belief Paradise Lost External Personality Ceremonial Interment 
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  1. 1.
    Jacques Monod, Chance and Necessity (London, 1972).Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    F. E. Hardy, The Life of Thomas Hardy (London, 1962) p. 332. I take it to be now generally accepted that this book, which originally appeared in two volumes in 1928 and 1930, is an autobiography in the third person and was written, except for the last chapter which Florence Hardy added after his death, by Hardy himself.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    This was never better demonstrated than in the brilliant series of Gifford lectures on Mind given at the University of Edinburgh in the form of a dialogue between two eminent scientists and two equally eminent philosophers in 1971 and 1972. See A. J. P. Kenny and others, The Nature of Mind (Edinburgh, 1972) and The Development of Mind (Edinburgh, 1973).Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    David Lack, Evolutionary Theory and Christian Belief (London, 1957) p. 22.Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    Robert Gittings, Young Thomas Hardy (London, 1975).Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    F. R. Leavis, New Bearings in English Poetry, London, 1967. Considering Hardy after fifty years, one is struck by the profound understanding of his dual nature shown by Britten in comparison with the outmoded judgements of earlier verbal critics, for example I. A. Richards for whom Hardy is ‘the poet who has most steadfastly refused to be comforted … The comfort of forgetfulness, the comfort of beliefs, he has put both these away’ (Science and Poetry, London, 1926): F. R. Leavis, for whom ‘he industriously turns out his despondent anecdotes, his “life’s little ironies” and his meditations on a deterministic universe and the cruel accident of sentience’ (op. cit., p. 54, originally written in 1932); or Eliot, for whom The City of Dreadful Night, and A Shropshire Lad, and the poems of Thomas Hardy are small work in comparison with In Memoriam; it is greater than they and comprehends them’ (introduction to Poems of Tennyson, London, 1936).Google Scholar
  7. 14.
    W. Blunt. Cockerell (London, 1964, p. 223 n).Google Scholar

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© T. R. M. Creighton 1977

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  • T. R. M. Creighton

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