But it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this story has been propagated so widely because it appeals to some human need for an emotional narrative, and so in that sense the term "myth" is appropriate. Plus, those who want to persuade Christians and other religious believers that Darwin was a thoroughly good chap for his work on evolution will wish to avoid the idea that his ideas on evolution had anything to do with his own loss of faith (even though they didn't have much to do with it)--far safer to blame it on a personal tragedy!
Anyhow, on further investigation, I have found a few more examples of the uncritical acceptance of the Annie myth:
- Larry Moran and Niles Eldredge netted as uncritical devotees of the Annie myth in a single posting! Eldredge may be good on science, but he swallows both the "removed what little was left of his religious faith" myth and states as fact rather than wild guess that Annie died from tuberculosis.
- This article and podcast on Annie Darwin from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: "Darwin's experience of his daughter's life and his bereavement had a double significance for his thinking. Recent scholarship (Moore) has shown that it was probably the final factor in his gradual rejection of Christian faith"
- Plus this article from the same source on Darwin himself: "Moore reassessed Darwin's religious faith, showing that while he remained a pillar of his rural parish, the deaths of his father in 1848 and daughter Annie in 1851 finally led him to give up Christianity."
- Evolution 101 by Randy Moore
- More proof that even Carl Zimmer isn't infallible.
- The Mini Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine, which ascribes Annie's death to typhoid fever rather than the usual tuberculosis.
- Dinesh D'Souza's blog entry linking Annie's death and Darwin's loss of faith with the problem of evil
- Telegraph columnist George Pitcher in his article "Charles Darwin was not the father of atheism"
- David Livingstone in a chapter in Where Science and Christianity meet lends credence to Moore's account of the Annie myth, but with more balance than most commentators, and he also goes for "typhoid fever" as cause of death.
- Even creationists are suckered in! http://www.evolutionthelie.com/history-of-science/evolutions-fatal-fruit-nurturing-charles-darwin/
It seems I really do need to get this paper finished and published to prevent this nonsense spreading further!