Almost 150 years since Charles Darwin published his ideas in The Origin of Species, a senior Anglican clergyman has written that the Church of England owes Darwin an apology for misunderstanding his theories of evolution. The church official, Reverend Malcolm Brown, was writing Monday on a church Web site launched to mark Darwin’s bicentenary next year. The Church of England says his statement reflects its position but does not constitute an official apology [AP].
The apology may be a bit late, but Brown wrote that it’s both relevant and necessary, as some religious groups continue to scoff at evolution. “Charles Darwin – 200 years from your birth (1809) the Church of England owes you an apology for misunderstanding you and, by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand you still,” he wrote on the Church of England website. “We try to practise the old virtues of ‘faith seeking understanding’ and hope that makes some amends” [The Independent].
When Darwin first published his theories, the Anglican Church reacted with outrage and horror over the suggestion that modern humans had evolved from beasts, and had not been created by God in their present form. One of the most venomous clashes over his ideas took place in 1860 during a debate at Oxford University. The Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce, asked the evolutionist and Darwin champion, Thomas Huxley, whether it was through his grandfather or his grandmother that he claimed to be descended from a monkey. Huxley replied that he would not be ashamed to have an ape for his ancestor but he would be ashamed to be connected with a man who used his gifts to obscure the truth [Daily Mail].
Brown’s apology was meant to distance the Church of England from more fundamentalist Christian denominations that believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible, and maintain that the Earth and all its creatures were created in six days. As such, the apology has failed to impress Darwin’s descendants. Andrew Darwin, a great-great grandson of the scientist, said: “Why bother? When an apology is made after 200 years, it’s not so much to right a wrong, but to make the person or organisation making the apology feel better” [Telegraph].
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