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The Church of England apologizes to Darwin

Dear gentle reader,

As someone who has had an ongoing struggle with the Anglican Communion his entire adult life, and to whom the current, obvious, and slow-motion destruction of the entire historical Anglican Church brings no joy, I have a few comments on the anticipated apology of the Church of England, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, to Charles Darwin.  Despite indications to the contrary, this clearly has had some thought put into it, as evidenced by the Darwin section of the Church of England and website: 

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. “

  1.  As perceptive observers have already pointed out, there is no historical reason for the Church of England to make an apology to Charles Darwin – please remember that he was awarded an honorary degree from Cambridge, and is buried at Westminster Abbey.  There was no persecution, no censure, only debates.   Thus the apology for “misunderstanding”.
  2. This fact then begs the question: What on earth is going on?
  3. The answer is that this move attempts to accomplish three things.  First, as is explicitly stated, it makes a condemnation of those wrong-thinking people that are under the impression there is a conflict between Christian teaching and Darwinian theory by “apologizing”, rather than make the statement directly.  Second, it attempts to put the Anglican Communion on par with the Roman Catholic Church in regard to the Galileo affair.  Third, the well-written meat of the website by Revd Dr Malcolm Brown gives coaching on how to be a Christian and a Darwinist.  To his credit, he also discusses the `dark side’ of Darwin, concluding “his [Darwin’s] theory … has been inflated into a general theory of everything – which is not only erroneous but dangerous.” 
  4. The bigger question is why Rowan Williams and other senior figures in the C of E feel that they need to make the apology.  After studying the actions of this man after he became archbishop of Canterbury, my answer to this question is the same to the motives of numerous other inexplicable actions he has made:  It makes no sense and I cannot discern any thoughtful leadership.  The only straw I can grasp is that the idea sounds good to a certain mindset, that it puts the C of E in the news, and gives him praise from some in positions of secular authority (though evidently the opposite has happened).  Perhaps he was thinking there has been a constant stream of bad news about the Anglican Communion in the press, and this would be a nice break.  What he doesn’t seem to appreciate is that it is precisely this kind of ridiculous statement (regardless of your views on theology or science) that is a symptom of the larger detachment from reality within the majority of the Anglican church of England, the US, and Canada.

The C of E has apologized for misunderstanding Darwin. Considering the website quotation from Bishop Rayfield, “Theology and science each have much to contribute in the assertion of the Psalmist that we are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’”, I suspect that most Darwinian biologists would comment that the C of E misunderstands Darwin even today.

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16 Responses to The Church of England apologizes to Darwin

  1. I suspect that most Darwinian biologists would comment that the C of E misunderstands Darwin even today

    Maybe not; but they would still talk about the NOMA of S. Jay Gould.

  2. As an active member of the Anglican Communion it is disheartening to read Malcolm Brown’s letter. As in the other controversies that continue to plague my church body, the notion of “open-mindedness” flows only one way — toward a more secularist communion.
    Sadly, the pretense of “seeking truth” in this loquacious apology is, in reality, an escape from reason.

  3. The Church of England is apologizing to Darwin.

    I don’t understand why the Anglican communion still pretends to exist. In its march through the institutions, it is an institution the Left has completely destroyed. Doesn’t there come a point when they just end the pretense and close up the shop? Isn’t there a point when all the faithful Anglicans realize their communion doesn’t exist anymore and decide to move to the Catholic or Orthodox churches?

  4. I do not see what they gain by doing that. They will not gain any credibility in the eyes of the pseudo-intellectual new atheists, or any respect from bigots like Dawkins. I think it will be interesting to see what happens when the religious realize that they are not going to gain any respect by kissing up to materialists.

  5. Am I living in an alternate universe? This story is completely baffling.

    Darwin’s theory, in it’s boldest (and subsequently) most-used form, suggest that mankind’s existence is solely the result of random interactions of Earthly materials (no Gods need apply).

    So the Church is going to apologize for…uhm…not getting it right?

    Hey Britain! Have your homeboys ever heard of Intelligent Design? Its like a debate thing, where one side says that the world is random and provides incredible speculation for evidence – and then – the other side says its designed and provides mathematics, biology, cosmology, information theory, and physics for evidence.

    Nice job of hauling the water for you belief system.

  6. I have lately read Morley’s Life of Voltaire and he insists strongly that direct attacks on Christianity (even when written with the wonderful force and vigor of Voltaire) produce little permanent effect: real good seems only to follow the slow and silent side attacks. ~ Charles Darwin

    In this mighty “war of culture,” affecting as it does the whole history of the World, and in which we may well deem it an honour to take part, no better ally that Anthropogeny can, it seems to me, be brought to the assistance of struggling truth. The history of evolution is the heavy artillery in the struggle for truth. ~ Ernst Haeckel

    Our science of evolution won its greatest triumph when, at the beginning of the twentieth century, its most powerful opponents, the Churches, became reconciled to it , and endeavored to bring their dogmas into line with it. ~ Ernst Haeckel

  7. This story continues to fascinate.
    The press version has evolved a bit: according to this source, “The Church of England said Brown’s statement reflects its position on Darwin but does not constitute an official apology.”  Whenever anyone says “a Church of England position” I have to smile, but there it is.  Either way, this had to be approved at high levels.

    I was reflecting more on the language used.  The apology to Darwin is for “misunderstanding you and, by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand you still.”   This statement is remarkable in the fact that it focuses on understanding.  The one thing that everyone was clear on historically was the understanding of the idea.  Darwin did not studder, Huxley did not speak in parables.  The key issue was and is now one of truth and falsehood; belief and disbelief.  If an apology was to be written, better it be said that we apologize for “not believing you, and by not believing you first, encouraging others to believe your theory is false still.” (see also this alternate wording for a proposed C of E apology).  Of course, such a wording might ring bells as to what C of E members are supposed to believe in.

    But this interesting substitution of “understanding” for truth and belief reminded me that this kind of language is fairly common in Anglican discourse in recent times.  There has been more and more focus on “listening”:  if we have a disagreement over issue X, Y or Z, the way to resolve that disagreement is to perpetually listen to the other side until we all see it the same way.  In this way, understanding and communication functions as a replacement for principled argument leading to positive conclusions.  This school of thought ruled at the most recent Lambeth conference, and it produced exactly what it was designed to produce: no conclusions.
     

  8. Here is the extent of the Church of England’s persecution of Darwin, according to a webpage of the church:

    Initial responses from the Church of England to Darwin’s theories were hostile – even from former Cambridge tutors Revd John Stevens Henslow and Adam Sedgwick (1785–1873), the latter drawing on his faith to propose a difference between moral and physical truths. In 1860, a public debate in Oxford saw the Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce (1805–1873), known as Soapy Sam due to his passion for public debating, arguing bitterly against the pro-Darwin voices of botanist Joseph Hooker (1817-1911) and biologist Thomas Huxley (1825-1895).

    That justifies an apology today?

    . . .the anticipated apology of the Church of England, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, . . .

    I am wondering if Archbishop Williams will be joining the apology — he recently called evolution theory a “pseudoscience” and other nasty things. A news article reported,

    Dr Rowan Williams, said “Neo Darwinism and Creationist science deserve each other. Creationism is a version of slightly questionable science pretending to be theology, and Neo Darwinism is a questionable theology pretending to be science.”

    The Archbishop hit out against the “two extremes” in the range of theories of how the world began in his Holy Week lecture on Faith and Science last night. He said “Science has more to do than is simply covered by these theories” . . . . . . .

    . . . . . Dr Williams admitted that Neo Darwinism, a theory supported by Atheist Professor Richard Dawkins, is “most problematic” to theology, but he called it “a pseudo science” and “deeply vulnerable to intellectual challenge because it is trying to be a theology.”

    In a sideswipe at evolutionary scientists such as Professor Dawkins, Williams warned “Science can be seduced into making exaggerated claims.” He added “Neo Darwinism of Dawkins’ kind carries with it a rather subjective agenda…It is as vulnerable as Christianity”. Both Neo Darwinism and Christianity are telling stories, the Archbishop continued, Christianity acknowledges that fact, Neo Darwinism doesn’t.

  9. Sorry. I stopped reading as soon as I read the phrase “begs the question” used in place of “raises the question”. Since William F. Buckley is no longer here to defend the English language, common folk like myself are duty-bound to take a stand.

  10. An apology isn’t enough, the real question is: will the Church of England be paying reparations to the intellectual descendents of Darwin? How much should Dawkins get?

  11. 11
    EndoplasmicMessenger

    (OFF TOPIC: Uncommon Descent’s RSS feed has been failing to load in my Firefox 2 browser for several days now. Never mind: if I switch it from Atom to RSS it works fine. :)

  12. I too would like to apologize to Charles Darwin. I’m sorry.

    From Merrium Webster’s
    Beg the question:
    1 : to pass over or ignore a question by assuming it to be established or settled
    2 : to elicit a question logically as a reaction or response *the quarterback’s injury begs the question of who will start in his place

  13. Perhaps, realizing that the historical, creedal Christians in the Anglican communion are leaving in droves, they simply want to advertise themselves to the more liberal folk in other denominations, on whom they will soon be forced to survive.

    2nd possibility: seeing the rise of Dawkinism and Islam in the UK (Sharia courts now officially recognized), they want to seem as harmless and irrelevant as possible, since the ascendancy of either one poses a threat to historical, creedal Christians.

    Maybe both?

  14. Russ said (#9) –

    Sorry. I stopped reading as soon as I read the phrase “begs the question” used in place of “raises the question”.

    You are going to be even sorrier when you read this:

    [Q] From George Beuselinck: “Recently, I have observed that begging the question has come to mean ‘raising the question’. Is this still an improper usage, or has the meaning of the phrase changed due to the usage?”

    [A] . . . . You can easily find examples of the sense you quote, which is used just as though one might say “prompt the question” or “forces one to ask”. . . .

    The original sense is of a logical fallacy, of taking for granted or assuming the thing that you are setting out to prove. . . . . The fallacy was described by Aristotle in his book on logic in about 350BC. His Greek name for it was turned into Latin as petitio principii and then into English in 1581 as beg the question. Most of our problems arise because the person who translated it made a hash of it.. . . .

    . . . .The meaning you give is the newest. It is gaining ground, and one or two recent dictionaries claim that it is now acceptable — the New Oxford Dictionary of English, for example, says it is “widely accepted in modern standard English”. I wouldn’t go so far myself. Because of possible confusion over what you actually mean, and inevitable condemnation from people who have taken the trouble to find out what it once did mean, it’s better avoided altogether.

    – from http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-beg1.htm

    To stop reading something just because the writer’s usage of a term appears to be incorrect says more about the reader than it says about the writer.

    Some words and/or their meanings gradually change through misuse. Consider, for example, the term “shoo-in,” which means a sure winner. It was originally a horse-racing term describing a rigged race where the chosen horse was so sure to win that it would win even if it stopped and had to be “shooed” across the finish line. People started spelling it “shoe-in,” probably because they assumed that it meant having one’s foot in the door or maybe being kicked across the finish line.

  15. If Williams imagines we’ll eat his ambrosia
    Whose saccharin sweetness is meant to bulldoze ya’
    To champ, “Ain’t they a-nice,”
    Then, he should heed my advice.
    Repent and re-learn well-wrought apologia!

  16. It is mostly the Darwinists who are pressuring the churches to take their side in the evolution controversy — there is the Clergy Letter Project (with a special letter for rabbis now), the Darwin Sunday sermons, scientists volunteering to advise clergy, etc.. IMO this is a controversy that the churches and clergy should not officially get involved in.

    The Darwinists have been falsely claiming that the Catholic church endorses evolution theory, but the Catholic church’s position has been mainly to be neutral except to oppose the use of evolution theory to deny the existence of god or god-given human souls.

    The issue of the acceptance of gays has caused a rift in the American Anglican church, with some local churches deciding to switch to the anti-gay Nigerian branch of the Anglican church.

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