Church Sorry to Darwin,
126 Years After Belittling Evolution Theory
Charles Darwin will receive an apology from the Church of England 126 years after vilifying his theory that man descended from the apes. His descendents say the apology is meaningless now.
The move comes after Rev Professor Michael Reiss, a biologist director of education at the Royal Society, provoked a furor last week when he called for creationism - the Biblical theory of evolution - to be treated in school science lessons as a legitimate world view.
Darwin’s theory scandalized the Victorian society in 1859. 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 Darwin supporter 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.
The Church of England will post an article on its website later Monday that will address the apology to Darwin directly: “Charles Darwin, 200 years from your birth (in 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.
“But the struggle for your reputation is not over yet, and the problem is not just your religious opponents but those who falsely claim you in support of their own interests.”
The article has been written by the Rev Dr Malcolm Brown, the director of mission and public affairs of the Archbishops’ Council, the Church’s managing body, which is headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.
The article will compare the apology to the one Pope John Paul II rendered for the Vatican’s trial of Galileo in 1663 for saying that the earth revolves around the sun. Two years ago, the Church of England had apologized for its role in the slave trade.
Andrew Darwin, a great-great grandson of the eminent scientist, tells the Daily Mail the apology is pointless: “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 organization making the apology feel better.”
Horace Barlow, 87, who is Darwin’s great-grandson strikes a less critical note: “They buried him in Westminster Abbey, which I suppose was an apology of sorts.”
Critics say the Church’s apology only shows how anxious it is to distance itself from fundamentalist Christians and to counter the view that its teaching is incompatible with science.
Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Association, says: “If it means that from now on the Church of England will say ‘no’ to the teaching of creationism in school science lessons, then we would accept the apology on Darwin’s behalf.”
Former Conservative Minister Ann Widdecombe, who left the Church of England to become a Roman Catholic, says: “It’s absolutely ludicrous. Why don’t we have the Italians apologizing for Pontius Pilate? We’ve already apologized for slavery and for the Crusades. When is it all going to stop? It’s insane and makes the Church of England look ridiculous.”
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