The Creator Has an Inordinate Fondness for Beetles

Charles Darwin? J.B.S. Haldane? Stephen Gould? Apocryphal? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: I have been studying rain forests and came across the following passage in a New York Times article: 1

Charles Darwin surmised that the Creator must be inordinately fond of beetles: the earth is home to some 30 million different species of them.

The phrase “inordinately fond of beetles” makes me chuckle, and I can imagine the creator carefully designing each beetle. But I have read The Voyage of the Beagle and this phrase does not sound like something that Darwin would say. Could you investigate this phrase?

Quote Investigator: Your suspicions of the Darwin attribution are justified. The most likely originator of the saying was another biologist named J.B.S. Haldane. But the words “possibly apocryphal” appear even in the earliest citation.

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  1. 1989 November 25, New York Times, The Editorial Notebook: Burning the Book of Nature by Nicholas Wade, New York. (Online New York Times archive) link