In his new book, The Grand Design, Stephen Hawking states that God is not part of the grand design of the universe. In The Brief History of Time, he tried to grok the mind of God and left it at that. Now with the No-boundary proposal, top-down cosmology and the latest discoveries in M-theory, he argues that gravity and quantum theory are sufficient to explain how multiple universes are spontaneously created from nothing. If there is God maybe he could have chosen the initial state; he then goes on to say that even that would not be possible for there are laws for the initial state too.
More than 150 years back another Englishman too killed God. In this movie, Darwin is still working on his manuscript on the theory of evolution. In one of the earliest scenes Charles Darwin is visited by Joseph Dalton Hooker (botanist and explorer, who was once held prisoner by the King of Sikkim) and Thomas Henry Huxley (biologist). Encouraged by the abstracts he had seen and with the desire to see archbishops and their threats of eternal punishment removed from society, Huxley encourages Darwin to publish his book. But Darwin is not in the mood, “There is no book”, he dismisses. Huxley still does not give up. “You have killed God, sir”, he says, “And I, for once, say good riddance to the vindictive old bugger.” For Darwin, the church, however imperfect, is the one which holds society together.
But Darwin had become a different man following the death of his daughter;he had prayed to God to save her. Following Annie’s death, Darwin’s wife sought refuge in religion, while he turned away from it like Mark Twain, who wrote novels like The Mysterious Stranger after the death of his daughter Susy.
He was convinced about his theory but had not published it due to his wife. He was worried that if he wrote about a world in which God, love, trust etc were not required and that the world just depended on survival, it would break her heart. His wife was worried that he would never enter heaven and they both would be separated for eternity.
The important thread in this slow movie is not Darwin’s relation with his wife, but with his daughter Annie to whom he narrated tales of his journeys. Annie appears to Darwin as hallucinations and in flashbacks as the script moves back and forth in time; she had died of sickness.The script finds patterns: in Annie’s death and the death of Jenny the Orangutan who too fell sick; in the water treatment Darwin and Annie took; in the suggestion of a pigeon breeder that relatives should not get married and a similar conversation between Darwin and his wife.
In the final scene, Darwin walks with the manuscript, with his wife’s approval, and hands it over to the postman who rides off in his carriage. The book was sold out in a day. His idea changed the world, except for few like US Senate candidate Christine O’ Donnell, who in 1998 wondered why monkeys are not evolving in front of her eyes.