Box icon Duke of Argyll (1823-1900)

Advocate of 'divine design'

Portrait of 8th Duke of Argyll

As a major landowner, the Duke of Argyll was a prominent man in society. He held many important state and institutional positions including Privy seal, postmaster-general and secretary of state for India. He actively campaigned and wrote on many aspects of science, religion and politics. His wide interests included an enthusiast for the development of aeroplanes, actively supporting assisted emigration and strongly opposing slavery.

Throughout his life Argyll was a devout Christian and from his youth he developed a lifelong interest in geology and nature, especially birds. It was through these scientific interests that Argyll saw evidence to support the argument that the complexity of nature was evidence of divine creation.

Argyll, argued that Charles Darwin's ideas were limited and wrong not to give God a central role in creation. One of Argyll's disagreements was that Darwin only explained how species changed, but not how they had originated or been created. Argyll also believed in a special creation of the human body and soul.

Argyll's poem 'Burdens of Belief' (1894) argued there was an obviously intelligent design in nature; that is a divine creator was evident through the complexity of nature. A previously successful poem, 'The Reign of Law' (1866), had presented the same argument.

Despite differing opinions, Darwin and Argyll had great respect for each other and he served as one of the pall bearers at Darwin's funeral.

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NRA name: Campbell, George Douglas (1823-1900) 8th Duke of Argyll, statesman.

The National Register of Archives (NRA) contains information on the nature and location of manuscripts and historical records that relate to British history in archival holdings in the UK and overseas. You can find more information on the National Register of Archives name authority catalogue.


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'Ideas of the connection between nature and Christian doctrine.'
– Letter from Argyll to Murray, 22 February 1893 (Acc.12604/1189).


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