Charles Darwin 'may have been inspired by Tibetan Buddhism'

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Charles Darwin’s moral philosophy may have been inspired by the writings of Buddhist monks, according to one of the world’s leading experts on the evolution of emotions.

Research by Paul Ekman, a psychologist whose work has shown how the facial expressions that signal emotion are universal across all cultures, has identified striking similarities between Darwin’s attitude to compassion and morality and that of Tibetan Buddhism.

Darwin, who was born 200 years ago last week, believed that compassion for other sentient beings was the highest moral virtue. This informed other aspects of his world view, such as his passionate opposition to slavery.

Dr Ekman, who recently edited a new version of Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotion in Man and Animals, said that these views were in accord with those of Tibetan Buddhists. He had also found evidence that Darwin was aware of their philosophy.

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