Church 'owes Darwin an apology'

Monday 15 September 2008 11:45 BST

The Church of England "owes" an apology to Charles Darwin for misunderstanding his theory of evolution when it was first published nearly 150 years ago, a senior clergyman said today.

The Rev Dr Malcolm Brown said some people in the Church made a mistake in the way they reacted to the naturalist's theory outlined in the 1859 publication On The Origin Of Species.

"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."

Dr Brown, director of the Church of England's mission and public affairs department, was writing on a new section of the Church of England website launched to mark the bicentenary next year of Darwin's birth.

Next year will also see the 150th anniversary of On The Origin Of Species, the ground-breaking publication in which Darwin first put forward his theory that populations evolve over generations through a process of natural selection.

"It is hard to avoid the thought that the reaction against Darwin was largely based on what we would now call the 'yuk factor' - an emotional not an intellectual response - when he proposed a lineage from apes to humans," Dr Brown wrote.

The Church of England website explores Darwin's relationship with the Church of England.

The naturalist was educated at a Church of England school and once trained to become a Church of England clergyman but slowly lost his Christian faith.

The remarks by Dr Brown come after the Church of England voted two years ago to apologise to descendants of the slave trade.

A Church of England spokesman said Dr Brown's piece was a "personal view" of Darwin's contribution to science and did not amount to an official apology by the Church.

He said: "I think it is fair to say that he is summarising the relationship between the Church of England and science but it is not an official apology."

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