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Charles Darwin to receive apology from the Church of England
September 14, 2008 4:20 PM   Subscribe

"Charles Darwin: 200 years from your birth, the Church of England owes you an apology for misunderstanding you and, by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand you still." The comments are included on a Church of England website promoting the views of Charles Darwin to be launched on Monday.
posted by finite (41 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
On behalf of Charles, I accept. Next time, don't rush to judgment before careful study. And when you get a moment, tell your religious colleagues in the U.S. that perhaps time they took a careful look at that which they so readily reject out of hand.
posted by Postroad at 4:27 PM on September 14, 2008


Here is a second article on the subject from the same paper, which has a completely different quote from the statement and also says Darwin's great-great grandson Andrew Darwin 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."
posted by finite at 4:28 PM on September 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


Further resources:
Press Release by the CoE

On the Origin of Darwin (the site)

Welcome, by Bishop Swindon ( scientific insights and Christian belief are meant to be companions not competitors)

Good Religion needs Good Science (For the sake of human integrity – and thus for the sake of good Christian living – some rapprochement between Darwin and Christian faith is essential.)
posted by honest knave at 4:47 PM on September 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Church of England will concede in a statement that it was over-defensive and over-emotional in dismissing Darwin's ideas. It will call "anti-evolutionary fervour" an "indictment" on the Church".

wow. That's pretty astonishing.
posted by nickyskye at 4:56 PM on September 14, 2008


LOLPENITENTS
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:57 PM on September 14, 2008


200 years? That's amazingly quick. At least compared to the Roman Catholic Church apologising to Galileo.
posted by edd at 5:01 PM on September 14, 2008 [5 favorites]


This is a nice gesture, but this is just the Church of England, which as I have always understood it is itself something of an outcast when compared to all the other organised religions out there. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this won't stop the Catholics or Islam and, well, pretty much every other anti-Darwin church out there from still denying the bleeding fucking obvious.
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:11 PM on September 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Catholics church does not deny evolution Effigy and they teach it a hell of a lot more thoroughly in Catholic school than they do in the US public system. As for Islam, it's kind of a big religion with a lot of leaders. I doubt they are all creationists.
posted by fshgrl at 5:20 PM on September 14, 2008 [8 favorites]


I was taught evolution in Catholic elementary school in the 80s.
posted by empath at 5:31 PM on September 14, 2008


The Roman Catholic Church has been officially pro-evolution (as a scientific theory to explain the differentiation of species in the natural world) since 1950. They believe that humans have souls, which came into being through the agency of God, but that the theory of evolution is the best and most useful hypothesis to explain the variation of species.

In a 1996 address, Pope John Paul II posited something that sounds very close to Stephen Jay Gould's theory of "non-overlapping magisteria":

But in posing such a great ontological discontinuity, are we not breaking up the physical continuity which seems to be the main line of research about evolution in the fields of physics and chemistry? An appreciation for the different methods used in different fields of scholarship allows us to bring together two points of view which at first might seem irreconcilable. The sciences of observation describe and measure, with ever greater precision, the many manifestations of life, and write them down along the time-line. The moment of passage into the spiritual realm is not something that can be observed in this way...

The idea that the Roman Catholic Church is creationist, or discourages the teaching of evolution in any way, is just flat-out false.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:36 PM on September 14, 2008 [6 favorites]


Church of England: Now Only 200 Years Behind The Facts!
posted by DU at 5:38 PM on September 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


The idea that the Roman Catholic Church is creationist, or discourages the teaching of evolution in any way, is just flat-out false.

But the Church and the actual constituents do sometimes hold differing opinions. I've had more than my share of run-ins with Catholic creationists, many of whom were completely unaware of the Church's official opinion on evolution and brushed it off as nonsense when confronted with that information.
posted by Donnie VandenBos at 5:43 PM on September 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


But the Church and the actual constituents do sometimes hold differing opinions.

Which tells you what, exactly? I've run into members of groups who were much more atrocious things without blaming the whole group. The Church is one of the few purely hierarchical institutions left, so judge it by the official Magisterium or don't judge it at all.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 5:50 PM on September 14, 2008


The Bible is entirely explicitly anti-evolution. This is because the Bible was written before evolution was discovered. If a person truly believes the Bible is the word of God, they either believe evolution is false, or that God had a vested interest in making people believe evolution was false.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 5:57 PM on September 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


If a person truly believes the Bible is the word of God, they either believe evolution is false, or that God had a vested interest in making people believe evolution was false.

Or they understand "word of God" in a less boneheadedly literal sense.
posted by DaDaDaDave at 6:25 PM on September 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


If a person truly believes the Bible is the word of God, they either believe evolution is false, or that God had a vested interest in making people believe evolution was false.

No, you're leaving out a number of other options, including the one taken by most mainline Protestant denominations, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Eastern Rite Churches, which is the idea that the Bible we have today is a document that presents the word of God as written down by fallible human beings and copied and recopied by fallible human beings over thousands of years.

In other words, there's a lot of noise in with the signal.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:30 PM on September 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


EMRJKC, the Bible was written long, long before Darwin was even conceived. The Bible was written (and then inexpertly translated, mistranslated and then retranslated again) Myriad things have happened, and god knows how many people and new ideas have been born since the ink first dried on the rough drafts.

The Bible is only explicitly anti-evolution for those who really want it to be. The Bible is a vibrant, living, constantly changing work of literature. One of the great things about it is that no matter how vehemently you insist that you're the only one who understands it correctly, there are others who know that you're dead wrong, and believe just as passionately as you do that they're the ones who really understand it. That they believe that they're right is kind of irrelevant. No consensus will ever be reached.

You too can, and should read the Bible. Every Atheist worth her salt should. But even after you've read the Bible, don't fall into the trap that most people do. Don't decide that, as an atheist you're the one special person who's really read the Bible and truly understands it, and use its heft to beat forward-thinking people about the head. Don't argue that old interpretations invalidate new ones. Don't close your mind and insist that your understanding of the book is the right one. If you do, you'll be surprised and disappointed to learn who your bedfellows are.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 6:50 PM on September 14, 2008 [8 favorites]


I have read "the bible"--the O.T. is the bible for some; the NT is the better edition, built upon the older obsolete thing. I love the both the OT and the NT. But I love it for some beautiful writing, nice stories, poetry etc...I am unsure what Freshwater means or implies with his cryptic warning. If I am not careful I could bring about another named hurricane?
posted by Postroad at 7:11 PM on September 14, 2008


I am unsure what Freshwater means or implies with his cryptic warning

I'm pretty sure that what freshwater means is that ill-informed non-believers who go around telling better-informed believers what their major religious texts "REALLY MEAN" always look like complete idiots.

Actually, anybody who is not an actual scholar of theology looks like a complete idiot spouting off about what major texts of world religion "REALLY MEAN" in my opinion.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:22 PM on September 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


If a person truly believes the Bible is the word of God, they either believe evolution is false, or that God had a vested interest in making people believe evolution was false.

Catholics and Anglicans don't beleive that the Bible is the Word of God, seems to me that's mostly an American fundamentalist/sect kind of thing. The Catholic Church, at least, is adamantly against people reading the Bible and taking it literally. They beleive that the Bible and dogma in general is so contradictory and confusing and misunderstood that you needs trained priests to interpret it for you or you will make Terrible Mistakes.

Also, Christians in general are supposed to know that the New Testament overrides the Old(there are dozens if not hundreds of direct contradictions between the two). Quite a few sects seem to have missed that memo.
posted by fshgrl at 7:52 PM on September 14, 2008


This isn't that surprising. From my experience with members of Anglican churches, belief in God is purely optional anyway. This seems like more of a publicity exercise by the C of E.
posted by Ritchie at 7:55 PM on September 14, 2008


Which tells you what, exactly? I've run into members of groups who were much more atrocious things without blaming the whole group. The Church is one of the few purely hierarchical institutions left, so judge it by the official Magisterium or don't judge it at all.

My point was that if there is a implication that just because the Church officials say evolution is not contradictory to their belief system then no Catholics are creationists, then that position is incorrect. It was not an attempt to "judge" the Church or whatever it is you're on about.
posted by Donnie VandenBos at 8:31 PM on September 14, 2008


> The Bible is a vibrant, living, constantly changing work of literature.

It is to some people.

To others, it has been introduced as the incorruptible word of G-d and therefore cannot change and never will.

Of course, the people who hold that belief somehow think that their Bible is the true word of the lord, because He always spoke english, etc.

It is an amazing book, and as an atheist, I find it a beautiful testament to the ability of the human race to create, record and transform their cultural knowledge and history into something tangible as a way to make something better. Because I feel the Bible was created by, and as such is a reflection of, mankind. Maybe there is some great force pushing people to record, in the methods of their time, some secrets of life and the beauty of the universe, so we have to take that into consideration before we dictate that their words are Truth. We have to know the context of those words, before we can understand what they were trying to describe.

Re: Darwin, I am excited to hear this, because it is again stressing that the science and religion do not have to be at odds with each other.
posted by mrzarquon at 10:28 PM on September 14, 2008


Eddie Izzard on the Church of England (church of england bit starts at about 4:30, but the whole thing is worth watching)
posted by christy at 11:25 PM on September 14, 2008


"On behalf of Charles, I accept."

Who died and put you in charge of Charles Darwin? Other than Charles Darwin.
posted by nthdegx at 12:54 AM on September 15, 2008


I suppose they mean well, but the apology seems a bit random. I presume they're apologising for Wilberforce, mainly, but he was really only speaking for himself and I don't think the C of E was ever especially anti-Darwin. There were eminent Anglicans like Temple, who went on to be Archbishop of Canterbury, who welcomed Darwin's stuff from the beginning.
posted by Phanx at 1:37 AM on September 15, 2008


And in fact I see that Wilberforce made it absolutely clear that his objections were scientific, not religious. In a review of Darwin he wrote:

"Our readers will not have failed to notice that we have objected to the views with which we are dealing solely on scientific grounds. We have done so from our fixed conviction that it is thus that the truth or falsehood of such arguments should be tried. We have no sympathy with those who object to any facts or alleged facts in nature, or to any inference logically deduced from them, because they believe them to contradict what it appears to them is taught by Revelation. We think that all such objections savour of a timidity which is really inconsistent with a firm and well-intrusted faith."
posted by Phanx at 1:49 AM on September 15, 2008


Meanwhile...

Two Nobel prize winners - Sir Harry Kroto and Sir Richard Roberts - have demanded that the Royal Society sack its education director, Professor Michael Reiss. The call, backed by other senior Royal Society fellows, follows Reiss's controversial claim last week that creationism be taught in schools' science classes.

Reiss, an ordained Church of England minister, has since alleged he was misquoted. Nevertheless, several Royal Society fellows say his religious views make him an inappropriate choice for the post.

posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:54 AM on September 15, 2008


This is what Michael Reiss actually said. Make of it what you will.

I find it interesting that Dawkins' objection quoted in the first article is that he's a clergyman at all, not any particular views he might hold.
posted by Grangousier at 2:02 AM on September 15, 2008


I wonder how many Nobel Prize winners it would take to get religion out of science classes in the U.S.?


I know if it were only two we'd find their heads on pikes the next morning in front of MIT or something.
posted by louche mustachio at 2:13 AM on September 15, 2008


The C of E site seems to consist mostly of harmless platitudes -- all very well-meaning but you wonder why they bothered. It's the 'apology' I have trouble with:

Charles Darwin: 200 years from your birth, the Church of England owes you an apology for misunderstanding you and, by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand you still.

So, the Church of England's Director of Mission and Public Affairs believes that Darwin's theory of evolution is 'not such an earth-shattering idea'. And the conflict between science and religion? Relax, it's all just a 'misunderstanding'. What a relief! Now the Church of England can get back to doing the same old thing, in the same old way, without having to worry about these pesky scientists and their awkward questions.

As far as I know, the Victorian Church of England never had an official policy on evolution. It didn't officially endorse it, it didn't officially condemn it. Some Anglicans supported it, others didn't. So what's all this about 'the Church of England owes [Darwin] an apology'? Why? This is all part of the process of creeping centralisation which is gradually transforming the C of E into a corporate entity with a mission statement, a brand identity and an official policy on every issue from global warming to aromatherapy.
posted by verstegan at 2:36 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's about fucking time.
posted by chuckdarwin at 3:46 AM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


"But not you Galileo, you're an asshole."

Seriously though, I find it heartening that large institutions are capable of introspection and revisiting past mistakes to correct them.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:05 AM on September 15, 2008


Sidhedevil mentions Stephen Jay Gould's idea of non-overlapping magisteria. It seems to me that they're only non-overlapping because religion has to back down whenever scientific facts encroach on its turf. This is as good an example of this as any. I can't imagine that if science had failed to come up with evolution that the church wouldn't still be quite happy declaring that it knew how life had come to be as it is rather than stating the actual truth of "we don't know".
I'm also somewhat surprised that noone's stepped forward to say they don't think the Bible's that great as a work of literature either. It's got some good bits for sure, but it seems to be heavily overrated. When freshwater_pr0n says
"You too can, and should read the Bible. Every Atheist worth her salt should."
I disagree. Having read it makes it very convenient when someone tells you you should, but it's a hefty tome with some very boring bits in it, and there's plenty of much more readable texts that should come further up your list.
posted by edd at 4:11 AM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


If I were to find myself living in a post apocolyptic rise of the machines universe, and I found the source code for the robots, I'd read it even with the boring bits. If I were trapped in a world with Biblical literalists roaming the Earth, I'd read the Bible. I grew up expecting the former apocolyptic scenario, and am rather disappointed to be thrust into the latter.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:28 AM on September 15, 2008


Libruls: Apologise.
Church: No.
Libruls: Apologise.
Church: No.
Libruls: Apologise.
Church: OK. You're right. We're sorry.
Libruls: Fuck You. We don't accept your apology.

amirite?
posted by seanyboy at 4:29 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


They let him be buried at Westminster Abbey - so they can't have been that pissed off.
posted by rongorongo at 7:31 AM on September 15, 2008


"They let him be buried at Westminster Abbey - so they can't have been that pissed off."

Funny story about that...according to the fella giving the tour there. So groups of people have to petition on behalf of your dead self to get you into Westminster. They tried and tried to get Darwin in and at last they were given permission. But they had to bury him in the aisle*...you know, so people would walk on his grave. Didn't turn out to be the insult that, perhaps, they had intended it as other scientists and such started wanting to be burying in the aisle alongside Darwin. So there's a whole bunch of graves right in a row on your way up to the altar...which as I recall is where Newton is.

*in the common chapel part...just a tiny part of the overall abbey. Commoners, back in the day, were only allowed in the common chapel. Only nobility and such could go into (or be buried in the fancy part)
posted by Wink Ricketts at 8:39 AM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yeah, Wink Ricketts, I also learned that none of the big shots (the Archbishop, etc) showed up to his funeral. They were 'sick' that day.
posted by chuckdarwin at 8:40 AM on September 15, 2008


NT is the better edition, built upon the older obsolete thing.

I'm, uh, fairly certain that the 'obsolete thing' is extremely not obsolete for a lot of people. You may know them as 'Jews'.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:00 AM on September 16, 2008


Funny story about that .. according to the fella giving the tour there. So groups of people have to petition on behalf of your dead self to get you into Westminster. They tried and tried to get Darwin in and at last they were given permission. But they had to bury him in the aisle .. you know, so that people would walk on his grave. Didn't turn out to be the insult that, perhaps, they had intended it as other scientists and such started wanting to be buried in the aisle alongside Darwin.

I'm sorry you were so badly misinformed by the tour guide. Here's a more accurate version of events:

The Dean of Westminster, George Granville Bradley, was away in France when he received a telegram forwarded from the President of the Royal Society in London saying ".. it would be acceptable to a very large number of our fellow-countrymen of all classes and opinions that our illustrious countryman, Mr Darwin, should be buried in Westminster Abbey". The Dean recalled: "I did not hesitate as to my answer and telegraphed direct .. that my assent would be cheerfully given".

Although an agnostic, Darwin was greatly respected by his contemporaries and the Bishop of Carlisle, Harvey Goodwin, in a memorial sermon preached in the Abbey on the Sunday following the funeral, said "I think that the interment of the remains of Mr Darwin in Westminster Abbey is in accordance with the judgment of the wisest of his countrymen .. It would have been unfortunate if anything had occurred to give weight and currency to the foolish notion which some have diligently propagated, but for which Mr Darwin was not responsible, that there is a necessary conflict between a knowledge of Nature and a belief in God."


So the account you were given was actually the complete opposite of the truth. There was no attempt to keep Darwin out of Westminster Abbey. On the contrary, the church establishment were only too anxious to welcome him inside the Abbey in order to co-opt him as an honorary Christian. And even today this is still the standard Anglican line -- no threat, no problem, no conflict between science and religion, nothing to worry about.

The English have always been very good at taking their radicals and revolutionaries and turning them into members of the establishment. It's why we have a statue of Oliver Cromwell outside the Houses of Parliament.
posted by verstegan at 2:26 AM on September 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


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