Reception of Darwinism and the Concept of Evolution
by the Religious Community in the English-Speaking World
Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
Yea, Chang Whan
Research Paper, Research Seminar History, Fall 2007
Table of Contents
II. Works on Evolution before Darwin
III. The Man and the Publication of "On the Origin of Species"
IV. The Characteristics and Implications of "On the Origin of Species"
V. The Religious Controversies over Darwinism in Britain
V.1 The Initial Responses from Britain
V.2 Darwinism at the British Association for the Advancement of Science
V.3 Varying Responses of Clergymen of the Church of England
V.4 Theological Challenges Posed by Darwinism
V.5 Attempts of Accomodation
VI. How the U.S.A. responded to Darwinism
VI.1 The Initial Responses from the U.S.A.
VI.2 American Protestants' Responses to Darwinism
VI.3 The American Catholic Responses: Progressive vs. Conservative
VI.4 The American Jewish reponses to the Evolutionary Theory
VII. The Response to Darwinism in Other Parts of the English-Speaking World
VII.3 New Zealand
As a high school student who has expressed must interest into the field of biology as a science, researching the social impact of a
phenomenal theory that utterly revolutionized how people viewed the world was a significant experience for me in many aspects. Through
this study, I have not only learned the proper methods required in a real comparative historical research but also found how to analytically
interpret and produce my own views on historical events. But mostly importantly, this paper has enlightened me with an enormous case study
of how science can socially affect people; a lesson I feel essential for all who wish to study science.
While writing this paper, I had encountered numerous several obstacles. Most importantly, it was difficult to clearly organize the flow of
how the religious groups responded to Darwinism from a list of overwhelming records. The common characteristic of various sources that
cover this topic is that they line up a lot of quotes from articles of religious papers and excerpts from sermons of noticeable clergymen which
makes the reader hard to catch the large picture. Also, my unfamiliarity with the various Christian groups and their difference in beliefs provided
me with a major amount of studying other than that of my original thesis. Especially, a concise understanding of these religious sects was
important as their responses to Darwinism were greatly influenced by their different nature. Lastly, I had singular sources for the topics in the
chapter "The Reception of Darwinism in Other Parts of the English-Speaking World." I admit this is the weakest part of the paper as a
comparitive study was virtually impossible.
Nevertheless, I have put much effort to provide a concise and thorough review of the history of Darwinism, which this paper has eventually
complied into. The following work dedicates special thanks to Mr. Alexander Ganse, my thesis advisor and teacher of history at the Korean
Minjok Leadership Academy, who had suggested the research topic from the beginning and provided me with the appropriate guidance in the
course of writing this paper. I'd also like to thank the National Library of Korea and the Seoul National University Library, both which I have
frequently visited during my research, for the prolific amount of references that provided me with the comprehensive knowledge on Darwinism.
There is no doubt that Charles Darwin is one of the most influential scientists in world history. He played a major role in the development
of modern science and thanks to the controversial nature of his theory provided the bases for modern values by freeing other intellectuals of
his time from the religiously fixed images of nature and the Creator. We all know that his evolutionary theory not only transformed his own religion
but, more than any scientific discoveries, also caused ordinary people to deal with issues affecting their outlook on the world. But what I believe
Charles Darwin really contributed to the scientific development was his success in popularizing the evolutionary hypothesis and initiating the
widespread series of debates all around the world. Indeed, there were those who announced theories of evolution, among those who even
suggested the same doctrines as Darwin, but he was the one who received all the credit with his name coined into the ideological term: Darwinism.
However, many misconceptions about these debates still exist among the common readers, who simply understand that the religious community
maintained an outrageous opposition and slowly abated their reactions to a partial acceptance of the theory. The Darwinian controversies were
somewhat more complex than that. In fact, many of those who possess such generalized view might find it surprising that among the theory¡¯s
earliest supporters, there were even Christian clerics or theologians like Baden Powell and Asa Gray. What is important is not to know that there
were various reactions from different religious groups, but rather to understand the different influences that evolution had given to each case. Only
by understanding the divergence of the reactions and their influences can one fully acknowledge the impact to which Darwinism had introduced the
world in the nineteenth century.
This paper is organized to first, discuss the background in which Darwin was able to introduce his natural selection theory, covering the earlier
works of evolution and the publication of the On the Origin of Species. The evolutionary theories prior to the emergence of Darwinism, such as
Lamarckism and how they were different from Darwin¡¯s doctrines are covered in this part. After such narration, the study goes on to discuss the
responses of various regions divided specially into three groups: Britain, America, and the other parts of the world. These chapters will cover the
initial responses of each region, analyze the different responses of various religious sects, and discuss the attempts of reconciling the theory and
II. Works on Evolution before Darwin
While the term 'evolution' is mostly associated with Charles Darwin and his theory of natural selection, he was not the first to introduce the
concept of continuous transmutation and development of organisms. By the time Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859, there
were already many works on evolution that preceded it and the scientific community was well aware of evolutionary thoughts and their
implications towards the traditional creationism. Therefore, despite the prevailing interpretation of Darwin as the father of evolutionary thought,
it is important to differentiate what Darwin had proposed from those of earlier thinkers in order to fully understand the impact of Darwinism later
One of the first works on evolutionary thought that marked a significant point in history was the theory of transmutation by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck
in 1809. He proposed in his work Philosophie Zoologique various conclusions regarding the origin of species. He argued that simple life
forms are created spontaneously and an innate internal force develops them into complex forms over time. (1). He also added
that species adapted to their environment by changing their organs on the basis of use and disuse, a mechanism of which his name eventually
became associated with. However, Lamarck could not find any adherents for his theories and was criticized by French naturalist George Cuvier
and Sir Charles Lyell of Britain.
Even direct anticipations of natural selection were observed in the earlier years of the 19th century. In 1813, William Charles Wells, an English
physician, wrote essays recognizing the principle of natural selection. Although Darwin was not aware of this when he published his initial work
in 1858, he later admitted that Wells had acknowledged the theory before him. Patrick Matthew also mentioned in his writings of 1831 about the
possibility of new species emerging out of generations of the same parents when they are placed in extremely different circumstances.
It was in the mid 1840's that the evolutionism debate received a wider attention when a book titled Vestiges of the National History of Creation,
which was published anonymously by Robert Chambers in 1844, gained enormous popularity in Britain. This book proposed an evolutionary scenario
for the origin of life on earth. It claimed that a progressive development of animals was evident in fossil records with current animals being branched
off a main line that eventually lead to humans. It also implied that the transmutation follows a preordained plan based on divine laws of creation that
goverened the universe. (2) Chambers suggested in the Vestiges that scientific knowledge is unable to tell us about the
first cause or the establishment of the laws of nature.
While Vestiges enjoyed an extreme popularity from the general public, religious figures splitted in their views towards the book. High
Church Anglicans and Catholics of Oxford supported it while the advocates of natural theology found it extremely dangerous and replusive to their
own arguments (3). Scottish evangelical members of the Free Church of Scotland, led by Thomas Chalmers, also shared
the Anglicans¡¯ views though they tended to admit the intervention of God in nature. Religious figures of the High Church and English evangelicals,
who opposed the ideas of natural theology, found Vestiges as a work that supplemented the impossibility of scientific discoveries leading
to the teachings of religion.
The Vestiges marked a significant point in the history of evolutionary thought by establishing the atmosphere for future discussion regarding
transmutation. People were now accepting the possibility that evolutionism powered with divine sources can serve as an alternative to creationism
and essentialism, which traditionally prevailed. Conservative scientists began to realize the need for finding some sort of progressive mechanism
within nature although few were confident to face the theological conflicts afterwards. More radical scholars strived to postulate a progressive
world view but failed to come up with an acceptable mechanism of evolution. It was under such social circumstances that one naturalist released
his revolutionary initiatives regarding evolution.
III. The Man and the Publication of "On the Origin of Species"
Charles Robert Darwin was born on February 12th, 1809 in Shrewsbury, England. He was the second son of Robert Waring Darwin and the
grandson of the physician and natural philosopher, Erasmus Darwin. Erasmus himself had made speculations on the origin of species earlier,
advocating a dynamic view of the struggle for existence. Although Erasmus died several years before Charles, young Darwin was already
exposed to evolutionary ideas in his early age through his grandfather's works like Zoonomia (4).
In his earlier years, Darwin attended a Church of England school and studied Anglican theology at Cambridge to become a clergymen. He
was attracted by William Paley's Natural Theology , believing in a static view of design and adaptation in species which was based
on God's intervention. However, after his famous Beagle voyage, he questioned his original beliefs and was convinced by his discovery
at the Galapagos archipelago that creatures that arrived at the islands were altered into different species. Thus, he opened his eyes towards
transmutation and began his works on recording his Beagle findings.
By 1838, Darwin was already finished with most of the important principles of his theory. However, his fear of criticism toward the implications
of his work had delayed him to publish two decades later. Working as the Secretary of the Geological Society of Britain in 1838, he was terrified
by how the members like Richard Owen severely expressed their hatred toward evolution and destroyed the reputation of Robert Grant, a
naturalist who originally inspired Darwin about the works of Lamarck and evolution. It was finally in Septemter 1854 that he seriously started
to work on his theory for publication.
Meanwhile, there was another naturalist who had been highly impressed by Chamber's Vestiges and started his own works on the
origin of species. Alfred Russel Wallace originally started out as a schoolteacher in Leicester but he later became interested in the geographical
distribution of species and started his own expeditions to the Malay archipelago in 1854 (5). In 1855, Wallace had already
published his first paper on how new species always came into existence already occupied by related speices. However, it was in 1858 that
he finally discovered the mechanism of natural selection to explain his argument of emerging species. He immediately sent this idea to the one
man that he thought would be most interested and encourage its publication: Charles Darwin.
Awestrucken by the fact that another naturalist had come up with a publishable paper about his long-founded idea, Darwin immediately arranged
to co-publish with Wallace and sent the joint paper to the Linnean Society under the title On the Tendency of Species to Form Varieties; and
on the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Selection. But this paper was virtually unnoticed with the president of the
Linnean Society even complaining at a general meeting that the year 1858 saw no surprising discoveries (6). Understanding
that the theory must be presented to the public in a larger scale, Darwin embarked on a single-volume account of his theory. Thus, on November
24th 1859, after a year-long effort of writing and correcting his ideas on natural selection, Darwin published his famous work,
On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection: or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.
IV. The Characteristics and Implications of "On the Origin of Species"
The On the Origin of Species consists of about 12 chapters that cover his natural selection theory and the fossil records that were
regarded as primary evidence. However, it is important to understand that Darwin did not contribute much new information on how
variations occurred in species and the ultimate causes that produced them. Rather like preceding evolutionary works such as the Chamber's
Vestiges and Erasmus Darwin's Zoonomia, he repeated that such problems were still unsolved. What Darwin did
accomplish was to take evolutionism which was generally dismissed by the majority of the scientific community and support it with
an acceptable hypothesis, known as natural selection (7).
Through On the Origin of Species, Darwin tried to establish a solution to the evolution problem not based on supernatural elements,
which were evident in the previous works of evolutionary thoughts. He realized that only the complete elimination of supernaturalism and
an introduction of a natural and more realistic explaination would promote a rational debate over evolutionism. Even in the book, he constantly
emphasized the difference between his own evolution theory and views of elementary species popping out by divine forces.
However, as a man who hesitated two decades to publish his theory because of fear of criticism, Darwin was obviously concerned about
the various implications and potential influence that his book was to conjure. Because of numerous opposing views, Darwin published over
six editions of the book with the last edition containing a chapter solely responding to the objections of the theory. Yet, whether edited or not,
the context of On the Origin of Species had alreadly aroused many controversary issues that were to be constantly debated over
the years to come.
One of most important things that Darwin did to offset the consequences of the dangerous implications and avoid religious problems regarding
his work was to not mention his thoughts on the origin of humans. Naturalists had long been interested in enlightening the relationship between
humans and animals that resemble them. Prior to Darwin, there were scholars like Buffon or Scottish anthropologist Lord Monbodd who had
already made speculations that men evolved from orangutans. But with evolutionism being promoted into a more respectable position in the s
cientific arena because of the On the Origin of Species, Darwin eventually pulled this issue into the light once again.
Through Darwin's journals and letters to close friends, we know that his studies had convinced him that humans were descented from
animals (8). Although not explicitely expressed in On the Origin of Species, there were various qoutes within
the book that anticipated his views of humans being a part of natural order and evolutionary process. In page 488 of the first edition, Darwin
wrote 'Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history.' This is an absolute implication of his belief that the origin of mankind
follows the same mechanism of evolution as with other organisms. Thus, while he refused to discuss the nature of humans to minimize the
resulting reaction, Darwin felt obliged to include this brief description of his beliefs.
Another feature of Darwin's theory that offended many Christian readers was its implications of accepting and promoting materialism which
holds the argument that matter is the only thing that exists. The ideas of materialism have been incompatible with almost all forms of Christianity
because the religious sects oppose the thoughts that the spirit and soul are consequences of the organization of matter. Darwin also tried to
avoid these materialistics views in his work by stating that the behavioral characteristics, instincts and intelligence are passed on independently
of physical structure. However readers were eager to understand Darwin as a materialist, especially after the publishment of another work,
The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, in which he explained the mental events of the brain with bodily causes. Such
materialistic characteristic contributed to the divergence of how Darwin's theory was accepted throughout Europe. In Germany, where the
materialistic movement was popular among young intellectuals, his work seemed to have received postive reactions. However, his Anglo-American
audience and the French Catholic readers who were introduced to the theory by a 1862 translation were deeply offended and considered Darwin
as an atheist.
Lastly, evolutionism expressed by Darwin differentiated itself from any of the previous theories and hypotheses regarding transmutation in that
it was based on non-teleological patterns which is to have no particular goal.. While Lamarck's theory or Chamber's Vestiges mentioned
a preordained plan of how living species are evolved, On the Origin of Species states that variations of species development is random
and possibly has no specific endpoint. The mechanism of natural selection simply chooses the "fittest" among these random divergents.
For those who supported the Kantian philosophies, the notion that any natural process or development could be held without any purpose or end
was unthinkable. Also, according to the theory expressed in On the Origin of Species, if the traditional Christian God was related to such
natural processes, it could only have established initial conditions and not have designed the evolutionary lines of each species. This idea was
clearly unacceptable to many Christians who viewed it as atheism.
The mentioned controversary issues implied within On the Origin of Species eventually spread into the core of the religious debates
over Darwinism in the years to come. While he knew that his ideas on God¡¯s intentions toward natural processes were incompatible with his
contemporaries, he had hoped that he could somehow reconcile with the general belief of powers given by a benevolent Creator. But until the
establishment of what is known as the 'modern synthesis' after the emergence of genetics in the early twentieth century, the theory was
constantly battered with endless debates and criticism. His inability to prove the causes of variation not only made Darwin difficult to rebut the
attacks of his opponents but it also unfolded a wealth of diverging responses of different groups and time period.
V. The Religious Controversies over Darwinism in Britain
In the years after the publication of On the Origin of Species, the thoughts of Darwin and his supporters were generally referred
to as 'Darwinism'. However, the term 'Darwinism' has changed into an amibiguous word in how one should define it. Despite its original
meaning, Darwinism tends to have a larger definition, being used by many not only to describe the theories related to Darwin but also any
scientific development that is about evolution in general. Even the evangelicals and other religious figures that played a role in the debates
were not scientifically precise in how they used the term. However, in discussing the religious responses of the period that followed the
emergence of natural selection theory, it is important that we should strictly restrict 'Darwinism' to the theories of Darwin and not evolution
in general (9).
V.1 The Initial Responses from Britain
With all copies of On the Origin of Species sold out on the day it was released, opponents of Darwin's theory from the religious
sector were quick to emerge. In the month that On the Origin of Species was published, Darwin had already detached himself
from the upcoming debates by fleeing to his countryside residence. Yet, it was inevitable to find himself facing acrid reactions from not
only scientific but also theological journals. In an article of Illustrated London News, a commentator criticized that the theory
"has been vehemently abused, and not less extravagantly commended, by illogical and intemperate partisans on both sides, who
supposed it could affect the truths of the Christian religion." Among the initial criticisms in the papers, the following Edinburgh Review
article which was written anonymouly best represents the general attitude toward Darwinism:
"It is impossible to over-estimate the magnitude of the issue. If our humanity be merely the natural product of the modified
faculties of the brutes, most earnest-minded men will be compelled to give up those motives by which they have attempted to
live noble and virtuous lives, as founded on a mistake¡¦and the revelation of God to us, and the hope of a future life, pleasurable
day-dreams invented for the good of society. If these views be true, a revolution in thought is imminent, which will shake society
to its very foundations by destroying the sanctity of the conscience and religious sense." (quoted after
Ellegard 1990, p.100)
Although the mainstream objections regarding Darwinism were based on regilious reasons, there were also voices that criticizing a scientific
claim solely with religious arguments was inappropriate. Bishop Samuel Wilberforce wrote in the Quarterly Review:
"...But this does not make it the less important to point out on scientific grounds scientific errors, when those errors tend to
limit God's glory in creation or to gainsay the revealed relations of that creation to Himself." (quoted after
Ellegard 1990, p.99)
However, it is surprising that the objections to Darwin's theory of the scientists were generally religious in nature. Many of the scientists,
including Darwin himself, who were on the cutting-edge of scientific discoveries in nineteenth-century England were also priests of the
Church of England or at least had theological education (10). England's renown comparitive anatomist and one
of the leading opponents of Darwinism, Richard Owen attacked the theory on theological grounds that it "restricts the Divine power."
Adam Sedgwick, a geologist who had been Darwin's longtime role model, severely criticized him that he did not follow the main purpose
of science which was to "teach us to see the finger of God in all things animate and inanimate." He was rather passionate to oppose
Darwin's theory because his own writings on interpreting the Genesis creation story would be threatened and eventually scar his reputation
However, this is not to say that the initial responses toward Darwinism were only negative. Surprisingly, one of the very first men to speak
explicitly was not just a Christian but an Anglican clergymen by the name of Baden Powell. Reverend Baden Powell, a professor of
geometry at the University of Oxford, expressed On the Origin of Species as a "work which must soon bring about an entire
evolution of opinion in favour of the grand principle of the self-evolving powers of nature." An Anglo-Catholic theologian Aubrey Moore
thought that science, especially Darwin's theory, proved that God was constantly everywhere around us.
James McCosh, Scottish-born philosopher who later became the president of the College of New Jersey, later known as Princeton
University, stated in his book Christianity and Positivism that evolution was consistent with theism. His logic was that the suggestion
of a secondary cause does not necessarily dismiss the existence of the final cause. Thus, natural selection could be understood as a method
of the creation of new species and simultaneously hold onto the belief that God created and designed each living race.
Thus, it is important to understand that the initial responses to Darwin's theory were diverse in nature. Many sources diverge in how they
interprete the theory just after the publishment. Despite the common assumption that Darwin's theory produced an emergent threat to the
religious community, some historians emphasize the clergymen's advocacy of evolution while others state the acrid criticisms of the theory
in the papers by scientists. One important feature that shows constanty is that the responses were associated with religious implications of
the theory. In spite of its nature as a scientific hypothesis, Darwinism found itself immediately submerged into the spotlights of religious
V.2 Darwinism at the British Association for the Advancement of Science
One of the major events that associate with the earliest debates over Darwinism was the annual meetings of the British Association for the
Advancement of Science. While the British Association for the Advancement of Science was established to support purely scientific research,
it also had a propagandistic purpose to spread science to the general public by have its annual meeting being held at different cities of England
and opened to those who were interested. What is interesting is that the general public's interest toward the Association sky-rocketed when it
entered the 1860's: The decade of the Darwinian debates. Alvar Ellegard shows in his writings that the British Association observed twice the
amount of attendance during the sixties than during the earlier decades (12).
The most famous confrontation between science and religion during the annual meetings of the British Association was the debates between
Thomas Henry Huxley and the Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce at the annual meeting of the Association at Oxford in 1860, just a year
after the publication of On the Origin of Species. T.H. Huxley was a crucial figure in the history of Darwinian debates, being Darwin's
most enthusiastic supporter in Britain. Earning the nickname 'Darwin's bulldog' by historians of this period, he was a strong advocate of
evolution and scientific naturalism. Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, on the other hand, was the leader of the High Church movement and a
high representative of the Church of England.
In front of an audience of seven hundred men, Bishop Wilberforce denounced Darwin's theory and mocked at Huxley on how he found himself
to be descent from apes. The following passage is a quote of Huxley's writing regarding his confrontation with the bishop at the meeting:
"I should like to ask Professor Huxley, who is sitting by me, and is about to tear me to pieces when I have sat down, as to his
belief in being descended from an ape. Is it on his grandfather's or his grandmother's side that the ape ancestry comes in?" And
then taking a graver tone, he asserted, in a solemn peroration, that Darwin's views were contrary to the revelation of God in the
Scriptures ... Then after showing how little competent the Bishop was to enter upon the discussion, he touched on the question of Creation.
"You say that development drives out the Creator; but you assert that God made you: and yet you know that you yourself were originally
a little piece of matter, no bigger than the end of this gold pencil-case." Lastly as to the descent from a monkey, he said: "I should feel
it no shame to have risen from such an origin; but I should feel it a shame to have sprung from one who prostituted the gifts of culture
and eloquence to the service of prejudice and of falsehood." (quoted after Ruse 2001 p.3)
Wilberforce's reaction was also similar to that of Pope Paul V who severly criticized Copernicus' heliocentric theory that it was "false in
theology, and heretical, because absolutely contrary to Holy Scripture." Huxley was tough enough to rebut that it was "shameful to be
connected with a man who used his great gifts to obscure the truth." He also firmly stated that he unhesitantly agreed to the idea that his
origin is descented from an ape. By the end of his long counterattack of Wilberforce's words, Huxley found himself receiving applauses by the
largely clerical audience.
With the conflict between the two turned into almost a legend in evolutionary history, it is commonly viewed that Huxley had demolished the
anti-evolutionary arguments of Wilberforce. Yet, historians have suggested otherwise that such assumption is exaggerated and falsified by
the advocates of scientific rationalism in order to emphasize their 'reputation' of winning in the endless battles with religion (13).
To what extent this tale of Darwinian debate was exaggerated is uncertain but the Huxley-Wilberforce 'monkey controversy' clearly marked
the start of the controversies between Darwinians and the Anglican Church in the decades of the late ninteenth century.
In the meetings of the sixties that followed the 1860 Oxford meeting, Darwinism was constantly mentioned although it was not a major issue
as the clash between Huxley and Wilberforce. Two of Darwin's long-time supporters, Sir Charles Lyell and J.D. Hooker took presidency in
the Bath and Norwich meetings. While Lyell was cautious not to mention his friend's name in the meeting, Hooker explicitly mentioned
Darwinian doctrines during his presidential addresses. He criticized natural theology by saying that it "is to the scientific man a delusion,
and to the religious man a snare, leading too often to disordered intellects and to atheism" Bad reviews followed the Norwich meeting of
1868 as religious papers like the English Churchman exclaimed that the Association was another "opportunity of puffing Mr.
Darwin's latest hallucinations."
The British Association for the Advancement of Science also greatly contributed to publicizing Darwinism. For the general public, the annual
meetings of the Association was one of the chief arenas of the Darwinian debates during the earlier years. By the year 1868, most scientific
biologists had already accepted some form of evolution and started to criticize specifically about natural selection.
V.3 Varying Responses of Clergymen of the Church of England
To fully understand the responses of the clergymen of the Church of England, it is important to distinguish the various religious groups.
Customarily, the Church of England in the nineteenth-century was divided into three groups, namely, High, Broad, and Low. Most of the High
Churchmen represented a conventional position in theology while an extreme sector was made up of Anglo-Catholic and Ritualistics section.
Theologically, the High Church Anglo-Catholicism was similar to Roman Catholicism. The Broad Church was based on neology and supported
rationalism in theology. Its lack of purely Broad Church journals contributed to its views being relatively unrepresented in the religious society.
The Low Church differentiated from the other two sectors in that it was much more Protestant and Evangelical in theology, giving more
emphasis to the individual's interpretation of the Bible. Thus, the Low Church was closer to the Dissenting sects of the religious community
such as the Protestants, Presbyterians, and Quakers.
Most of the earliest favorable reactions to On the Origin of Species came from the Broad Churchmen, who were capable of adjusting
evolution to their ideas of God working through natural laws (14). Charles Kingsley wrote in 1860 that "Darwin is
conquering everywhere and rushing in like a flood by the mere force of truth and fact." It was F.W. Farrar, a Broad Churchman, who
first suggested that Charles Darwin's funeral should take place in the Westminster Abbey, a graveyard where most famous scientists like
Isaac Newton were buried. Frederick Temple, the Archbishop of Canterbury, argued powerfully for the acceptance of Darwinism during a
public speech at Oxford in 1884.
The High Churchmen were initally neutral toward evolutionism but by the 1880's, they were also writing sympathetically on the issue.
Henry Parry Liddon, an English theologian and a revered orator of the Church of England, preached at St Paul's Cathedral that Darwin's work
was "regarded by religious men as containing a theory necessarily hostlie to fundamental truths¡¦ a closer study greatly modified any
such impression." One of the first Christian Darwinians, Aubrey Moore also argued through many books and articles that evolution was
not in conflict with Christianity, incorporating natural selection as merely the way God works. Generally for the High and Broad Churchmen
in general, accomodation of the theory seemed to be made too quickly and it was done without an adequate solution being found to the
theological implications of evolution.
The evangelicals' view of Darwinism was quite the opposite of those of the other sects in the Anglican Church. In the mid-ninteenth century,
the Low Church had remained consistently hostile to evolution. At first, evangelicals limited their thoughts on evolutions mostly to general
works on Genesis and largely tried to neglect the issue altogether. But evolutionism could not be merely rejected because it was alreadly
applied as a general principle and widespread since the initial emergence of Darwin's theory ? On the Origin of Species had already
sold 100,000 copies by the start of the twentieth century.
Two major reasons enabled them to confrontly evolutionism seriously. The evangelicals' doctrine that Bible is the absolute truth posed
an immediate threat. Basically, if the Bible was found erroneous in the points of which they were unable to prove, it would become
impossible for them to accept the authority of the Bible. A professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford, Payne Smith wrote in a
commentary on Genesis, "We could not believe a book to be inspired which was incapable of being shown to be in accordance with truth".
Also the common belief of Christians that science and religion share a common realm in that they are both derived from God's truth. Since
science also came from God, Church authorities could not merely dismiss without consideration.
V.4 Theological Challenges Posed by Darwinism
As seen in the implications of On the Origin of Species, Darwinism proposed various theological challenges that threatened
some of the foundations of Christianity. Among the major challenges, the design doctrine was highly brought up as a contradiction to the
natural selection theory. The argument of design refers to the Christian belief that th existence of God's power and will is evident in the
order and processes that consists the universe. It is based on the concept that a benevolent Creator working through a preordained law
with divine forces. In his renown work Natural Theology, which was published at the outbreak of the nineteenth century,
William Paley emphasized this so that it functioned as a reminder to many laymen prior to the debates of Darwinism.
However, by making natural selection a central feature of his hypothesis, Darwin suggested a different governing factor of the universe.
Natural selection embarked the alternative of supernatural explanations for naturalistic processes and showed that evolution could
occur without divine forces. Ends and purposes were demolished, according to Darwinian evolutionism, by a pocress of mere random
variations. To elaborate in the Christian's way of understanding, Darwin was explaining that God was typing randomly letters into paper
to produce writing that made perfect sense, something which theologians labeled as atheism. The challenge of design was eventually
designated as the feature of Darwinism that brewed up the most hostility from the Christians.
Originally, the missing links of geological records enlightened by paleontological research proposed that development could have
occurred through jumps and starts. That such process is catastrophic showed that the Design theory is much more scientifically
superior to Darwin's theory. However, as progress of science gradually leaned weight to Darwinism, supports of the design argument
drastically changed their views by saying that the design argument and Darwinism was compatible and theologically safe as long as
each variation was looked upon as designed. However, this was, of course, met with difficulties as natural selection was purely
based on accidental and random variations.
Apart from design, the incompatibility of Darwinism with the Bible in general was evident. The fundamental point in the religious
argument was that the Bible was the word of God and therefore, was impossible to be untrue. During the 1860's, no one dared to
suggest doubts on the Bible being God's own words and teachings. The upmost issue about Scripture was the narrative passages
of the Genesis chapter 1 and 2. As is well known, the Genesis tells how God created the universe in six days. According to James
Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh, the date of the Creation dates back to October 23, 4004 BC, only six thousand years from the
ninteenth century (15). Based on fossil records which, according to the geologists, dated back to millions of
year ago, Darwin's theory portioned long periods of time to small cumulative variations that eventually led to the emergence of
other species. Also, the Genesis teaches the specific creation for each species and at least implies in it that they were fixed in terms
'And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky."
So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according
to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that all was good." (Genesis.1.20)
Yet, Darwin's theory is entirely based on the transmutation of species. Thus, the Darwinism and theologians confronted difference
in the order of the appearance of various species.
More controversial than the order of creation was the issue on how evolution applied to the human race. The primary factor was
the Genesis narrative that God formed the first humans, Adam and Eve, according to his own image and Darwin's hypothesis that
men were evolved slowly over milleniums from apes. This Darwinian view clearly challenged the uniqueness of the human race
and found offensive to most clergymen, as we have already observed in the case of the 'monkey question' of Wilberforce during
the British Association meeting.
The second factor that was related to the human evolution issue was the doctrine of sin. Traditionally, mankind was created
perfectly according to the Bible, chose to disobey God's words and consequently fell from the perfection originally gifted, which
became to be known as sin. The Genesis introduces this historic event with a real couple, Adam and Eve. Evolution, on the other
hand, reversed such 'fall' to an ascent from the animal instincts to the morality observed in humans today. What is interesting to
note at this point is how Darwin's later work , The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, which focused on
human origins, was viewed. While in On the Origin of Species Darwin was careful to express his ideas on human
evolution, the Descent of Man outlined the very application of Darwin's theory to mankind and introduced the sexual
selection theory. The book included relevant issues like the differences between human race and how evolutionary development
influences the society. A leading Scottish journal stated that "If Darwin's views are proven correct, they will shake society
to its very foundations by destroying the sanctity of the conscience and the religious sense."
Evolution also implied hostility to miracles. The danger of providing an entirely naturalistic explanation for the origins of life became
explicit in this issue because this led to the argument that divine intervention was impossible. Some religious journals criticized
Darwin that he was trying to cast God out of his own Creation. To dismiss the miraculous rules in a larger sense denies not only
creation but also the incarnation and resurrection. What clergymen in general feared was that this issue of miracle could immediately
connect to evolutionism fostering atheism.
Darwinism was thus shown to conflict with various aspects of Christianity ranging from the biblical view of creation, of human
nature, and to the fall of mankind. If Darwinism was to be rejected completely, it would have to be on scientific grounds; otherwise,
as the Churchmen eventually realized, accomodation between evolution and traditional Christian teachings was inevitable.
V.5 Attempts of Accomodation
For accomodation to be successfully practiced, there were many issues that needed to be dealt with. Contradiction with Design
was the foremost confrontation that the churchmen had to solve. The main solution to this challenge was an alternative theory that
each living organism had some kind of power of development within their body that guides their evolution process. This law of
directionism was rather similar to the earlier works of Lamarck and churchmen such as J.A. Fleming named this guided power as
Directivity (16). Of course, this was contrary to what Darwinism and natural selection was all about, but
Directivity had provided a purpose to such evolutionism. This quickly bought the support of the theologians, many who opposed
Darwinism because of its rejection of purpose. Thus, it was possible to combine evolution and teleology.
There were also various issues of how the clergymen tried to solve the challenge of Darwinism to the Bible. Most importantly,
there was an attempt for a complete harmonization between the Scripture and the modern conclusions of science regarding the
issue on biblical chronology. Confronting the contradiction between the six day creation and the evolutionists' view of the world
being formed millions of years ago, some Evangelicals came up with an interesting modification of the Genesis. This theory was
based on dividing the Genesis 1:1 and the rest of the creation part in the Bible. According to scholars who advocated the theory,
the original creation of the universe took place at a 'period utterly ilimitable by us' and after countless ages, God created
all living beings including mankind in the course of the creative week (17). However, this idea lost its
popularity after the 1900's. Another suggestion provided a figurative interpretation of the 'days' within the Genesis, which the
advocates believed were referring to periods of undefined timelength. With seemingly agreement with the evolution theory, this
theory was extremely popular among the harmonizers.
Another issue of the conflict was on the origin of human race. Evolutionists were advocating the idea that humans were existing
far earlier than the time that the Bible indicates. One possible response that the churchmen provided was that there was a
pre-Adamite world in which human-like organisms were present in the world. But these pre-human beings lacked the spirtual
and elevated characteristics that Adam was gifted by God as indicated by the phrase "in the image of God." (18).
Therefore, the 'rational' and 'spirtual' mankind concepts were formed to reconcile the Genesis and science and simultaneously
preserve the ideology that humans were created special.
After the human origin issue was fairly settled, the reconcilers could easily confront the challenges that evolutionism posed.
If the pre-Adamite world was acceptable, then the doctrine of sin and the Fall could be seen as logic and compatible with
evolution. However, not all were open-minded to agree with the harmonization process altogether. Those who opposed the
pre-Adamite hypothesis expressed if the mind and physical features are in unity, a specially created mind could not possibly
fit into an ever evolving body. In other cases, the more conservative clerics like Aubrey Moore simply chosed not to sympathize
with the 'reconcilers' altogether.
VI. How the U.S.A. Responded to Darwinism
V.1 The Initial Responses from the U.S.A.
One of earliest favorable responses from America came from an Harvard botanist Asa Gray. Gray was a moderate evangelical and
was highly committed to natural theology and design argument. But when Darwin sent him a copy of On the Origin of Species
in November 1859, he responded that he had never learned more from a single book. Although he did point out some weak points,
Gray never criticized the work in terms of theological issues. Darwin was exceptionally delighted to find a respected scientist who
believed there was no incompatibility between his evolutionary theory and liberal religion.
It was not long until Gray became Darwin's trusted American spokesman. As the editor of the American Journal of Science and Arts,
Gray published a positive review of On the Origin of Species immediately after he read it. He also agreed to publish reviews
in pamphlets for circulation in Britain under the title, "Natural Selection not Inconsistent with Natural Theology."
Surprisingly, the grounds on which Gray supported Darwin's doctrines originates from the phrases of On the Origin of Species itself.
Gray pointed out the part in which Darwin mentioned that God was the primary cause of the universe. He commented that natural selection
was only a secondary cause, which the Genesis account of divine creativity does not exclude.
However, Darwin and Gray did not completely agree in some issues as Gray chose to retain a theological perspective. Gray diverged
his initial support of the natural selection theory in proposing a beneficial variation hypothesis, which argued that variation has been led
along beneficial lines and therefore, provides an evidence for a divine designer. Darwin wrote in one of his correspondences with Gray,
"I grieve to say that I cannot honestly go as far as you do about Design ... I cannot think that the world, as we see it, is the result of
chance; and yet I cannot look at each separate thing as the result of Design." It was only later that Gray partially dismissed his
original convictions and the two colleagues corresponded academically over many years.
Ironically, Harvard seemed to house not only Darwin's chief advocate in America but also his chief adversary in the earlier years of
Darwinism. Harvard zoology professor Louis Agassiz became the leader of the American campaign against Darwinism. According to
Agassiz, every living being on earth was a materialized version of an idea in God's mind. He stated that the common characteristics
among various animals were not a result of a common ancestry, but variations from a single ideal type of God's creation. For
geographical distributions of same species, he dismissed the theory that such phenomenon occurred by migration and rather suggested
that it was simply through repeated placement of the same idea in various regions.
Like Agassiz, many North Americans found Darwin's work repulsive. About an year after its circulation around the United States,
some journals began to comment on the work that no such book has been met with such commotion from not only the scientific
intellectuals but also by the general public. As such, with the Darwinian debates submerging into the American society, various religious
groups started to show diverging responses regarding the theory.
VI.2 American Protestants' Responses to Darwinism
In the years until the middle 1870's, the American Protestants were not supportive of the evolutionary theory. It is already well known
that around the years On the Origin of Species was published, the Protestants firmly believed that the history of nature itself
was heavily based on the deepest ideas and doctrines of Christianity. Virtually all spokesman of the American Protestant community
were bringing up how the earlier theories of evolution met their fate and consider Darwin's theoy to be nothing more advanced. These
responses were supported by the majority of the scientists who did not approve Darwinism in the early years.
By the middle of the 1870's, however, almost all naturalists began to accept some form of evolution. With the professional triumph of
evolutionary theories in the scientific community, the American Protestants also followed to shift their opinions. While rejecting
evolution unanimously, the Protestants turned to harmonizing scientific and religious views, introducing interpretations of both evolution
and Christianity working together. Although the harmonizer differed in their ideologies, the Protestants all agreed that science and religion
will be better off as allies than enemies. Also, they understood that if Darwin was correct about the randomness of evolutionary
development, religion will eventually lose all of its evidence it used to grasp in nature. One thing to understand the sudden change of these
Protestants' behavior is that many scientists such as Asa Gray, as mentioned before, were starting to advocate evolution wih teleogical
means. After Gray initiated this in his 1860 review of On the Origin of Species, other major evolutionists seemed to continue
this view in their writings. Consequently, American religious figures were relatively comfortable with evolution in general.
In their extreme form, some Protestants were part of what is called the "liberal" Christianity. Their views were actually one of the
most interesting responses to evolution, believing that scientific knowledgemight reasonably force changes in traditional Scripture. In
their point of view, religion was all but a part of the progressive evolutionary process itself, with spirituality being in the process of
growth and development. Totally rejecting the notions that the Bible could not possibly be erroneous, liberal clergymen like David N.
Beach, a minister in the Midwest, argued that the Bible is just a starting point of path toward the horizon of enlightenment and growth.
This culminated into one of the most extreme suggestion to be given by a Christian, when Lyman Abbott suggested a contemporary
Christianity without heaven, hell, sin, and even Christ himself.
Despite the majority of the accomodationists in the religious community, there were some who chosed to remain conservative in
America on the issue. Most of these conservatives placed their grounds that the Bible should be intrepreted literally, which meant that
evolution with teological means was also unacceptable. Basically, the following arguments are similar to the ones that the British
evangelicals had pointed out. They pointed out that evolution of all type hinders the special relationship between God and mankind.
Also, progressive evolution, according to their interpretation, was understood to contradict with the doctrine of the Fall (19).
And lastly, the scriptual chronology was evidently not congenial with the timeline the evolutionary theories were suggesting.
Methodist theologian, Miner Raymond wrote in 1877 that "..if the origin of the race is found anywhere else¡¦then the whole
Bible is a misleading and unintelligible book." The Prebyterian clergyman George Armstrong spoke in one of his lectures that
if there is a clear contradiction between Scripture and science, then people should accept the former because God has never
been erroneous while science have been proven to be wrong.
VI.3 The American Catholic Responses : Progressive vs. Conservative
In February 1896, the American priest John A. Zahm published his ideas of the compatibility of evolutionism and Catholic doctrine
under the title Evolution and Dogma. Around the time of the publication, the priest was appointed a position that required
a residence in Rome, which he reluctantly accepted. But when the Italian edition of the book was about to be released later in the
year, Zahm foresaw adverse reactions by the Vaticans and hastily return to the United States where he went to Notre Dame and
became the provincial of the Congregation of Holy Cross. Sure enough, by November 1897, only a year after the initial publication,
Evolution and Dogma was denounced and to be condemned by the Congregation of the Index. However, when the
publication of the book was to be prohibited by the pope, the decree required the submission of Father Zahm who never came to Rome
again (20). Thus, according to the records in the Vatican archives, the decree has remained unpublished and
therefore, unauthorized to block the publication of the book.
While Zahm was lucky for his book to have escaped being placed on the index, he would not have succeeded without the help of
some clerics who were advocates of Americanism. Americanism is an attitude of the Catholic minority who sought to 'Americanize'
the Catholic Church in the United States. Going through the political shifts in Europe, in which the pope was isolated from the new
Italian nation, the Americanists also pursued the policy of separating the Church and the political power of the United States. They
were also eager to apply the American virtues to the modern Christian, which eventually led Zahm¡¯s openess to modern science
agreeable in this sense. Thus, the Americanists were the progressive side of the American Catholics who tried to introduces the
teachings of modern science into Christianity.
On the other hand, the conservatives were consisted of the majority of the Catholic priests in America. In the immediate years
after the publishment of the Descent of Man, the conservatives dominated the debates on Darwinism. They severely
criticized Darwinism as the modern form of atheism using words like 'random' and 'godless' to explain the theory of natural selection.
In the late 1890's, the conservatives were encouraged by Pope Leo XIII's letter to Cardinal Gibbons, a leader of the Americanists,
warning the potential dangers of the scientific accomodations that the progressive side were promoting. After the Zahm affair,
which resulted with the condemnation of the controversy work Evolution and Dogma, conservatives were even delighted
to find their victory once more achieved.
It was not until the late 1930's that the Catholic Church decided to reconsider evolution. The main difference between the
Protestants' responses and the Catholic responses is found in their very nature. While the Protestants were much more bound
to the verses of the Bible alone, Catholics emphasizes the Christian traditions. Therefore, when confronting the issue of evolution,
the Catholics, whether progressive or conservative, were bound to focus on evolution's supposed conflicts with Christian traditions
rather than the theory itself. Therefore, the general depiction of the Catholics during the era of Darwinian debates is that they were
taken place with great ambivalence in a superficial matter.
VI.4 The American Jewish reponses to the Evolutionary Theory
American Jews, or Jewish Americans are typically American citizens who were born Jews or those who have converted to
Judaism. Most of the American Jewish community in the second-half of the ninteenth century were immigrants from Europe.
By the 1880's, American Jews were numbering over 250,000 and their immigration was accelerating because of the persecution
to which the Jews of Eastern Europe were exposed. The Jews were not conservative in accomodating into the American society;
they believed that new forms of Jewish life should be introduced to preserve a Jewish identity in their new home. But they were
divided into two groups according to how such accomodation should take place: Reform and traditionalist groups respectively.
As the name implies, the Reform Jews were more innovative in how to preserve the traditional doctrines of Judaism. While
they still held the belief that only one God exists, they did not necessarily think that they needed to keep on preserving traditional
ceremonies nor follow the traditional beliefs of revelation. Traditionalists Jews, on the other hand, tended to put equal importance
on both preservation and innovation. This division also was parallel with how Jews diverged in their responses to evolutionism as
Reform Jews and traditionalists Jews differed in their views on evolution.
In the first decade after the publishment of On the Origin of Species, there was practically no responses from the
Jewish society. Prior to 1870, there were seldom any writings on evolution by the American Jews authors. The Jewish Messenger,
a traditionalist paper, first mentioned the topic giving opposing views. The Britain-based organization, the Jewish Association for the
Diffusion of Religious Knowledge, addressed some moderate opposition to evolutionary theories by publishing pamphlets that
advocated Paley's natural theology. It was only after Darwin published Descent of Man did the American Jews enlighten
themselves about the issues on scientific theories on evolution. The responses became frequent but were based on the uniqueness of
By the 1870's and 1880's, the American Jews were discussing Darwin and evolutionary theories in general within the Jewish
community in association with the future of American Judaism. January 1874 was a turning point in the history of Jewish responses
toward evolution when Rabbi Kaufmann Kohler delivered his first sermon on science and religion in which he supported evolution (21).
The rabbi had immigrated into America from Germany in the late 1860's and within a few years, promoted himself as the leader of
the radical Reform Jews.
In the sermon, Kohler defined Darwinism as "the natural law of progressive development of life under favorable conditions."
He went on to advocate the characteristic of the theory that claimed evolution as a change through natural law rather than being
based on supernatural or miraculous rules. He connected this with the medevial Jewish philosophers who stressed the order of
the nature itself and rejected supernaturalism. His final claim was the one that made his entire sermon influential to other Radical
Jews and the Jewish debates afterwards. He proposed that evolution supported Reform Judaism by promoting progressive revelation.
Progressive revelation, in turn, justified reconciling Jewish ritual and theology with modern science which was basically what identified
the Reform Jews.
Kohler's sermons came as an outburst in the Jewish society, giving new insights to the previously groundless criticism of evolution.
Within a few months, several Reform rabbis, some who had previously opposed evolution, began to change their views on the issue.
Moritz Ellinger, the editor of the Jewish Times, immediately changed his opinions on the theory within days after the sermon.
Solomon Sonneschein and Jacob Mayer followed his lead as they all endorsed Kohler's arguments. Their major point leaned on
showing that Reform Judaism is superior to traditionalism Judaism and Christianity; a religion in ambience with modern science.
While some of the Reform Jews were turning to advocate evolution, others chose to confirm their position to continue opposing
evolution. Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, who had only criticized evolution through brief editorial notes in various articles, stepped into the
arena with an aggressive opposition of evolution through his work The Cosmic God. There were also other Reform Jews
who addressed opposing views on evolution including Rabbi Aaron Hahn and Rabbi Adolph Huebsch. However, such Reform Jews'
opposition to evolution soon abated and by the 1890's, almost all were advocating the theory.
The traditionalist Jews in America were more enthusiastic in rejecting evolution. The leader of the traditionalis Jews' opposition was
Rabbi Alexander Kohut, a recent immigrant from Hungary who quickly became a top scholar among the Jews. In his famous speech
on "Science and Judaism", he mentioned that human beings had originated only 5,740 years earlier. Most of the traditionalists
rejected evolution on the grounds that it was degrading to human dignity and threatening to the authority of Hebrew scripture.
The most scientifically detailed criticism of evolution to be given by a traditionalist Jew was produced by Rabbi Abraham de Sola.
He pointed out the lack of observation of species transmutation in fossil records. De sola was different from his fellow Jews in that
he was the only religious Jew to have a leadership position of an organization related to natural history. While other traditionalists
mentioned evolution briefly in one or two sermons, De sola produced lengthy articles on evolution.
The Reform vs. traditionalists controversy continued in the 1880's. Into the last decade of the ninteenth century, however, young
generations of the traditionalists group who supported Darwinism began to emerge. They found a way to use Darwinian arguments
in the Descent of Man to maintain the traditional Jewish laws and Jewish race purity. They interpreted Darwin as a man
who supported their value of religious ritual by promoting group cohesion in his theory. This led to develop certain doctrines for
especially the European Jews, that the very survival of Jews depended on preserving racial purity. They insisted that:
"The law of the fittest surviving aided by the breeding of hereditary qualities in a pure race has given Jews a physiological
and mental superiority which can be perpetuated only by perpetuation of the race purity." (quoted after Olson 2006 p.218)
What is ironical about this is that it was exactly these ideas that Hitler and the Nazis in Germany, implementing a different value system,
endorsed to promote their own 'race purity' and persecute the European Jews in decades to come.
What differentiates the American Jews from the other religious groups mentioned in this paper is that they did not debate evolutionary
theory for the sake of scientific controversy but rather assoicated the discussion of evolution with their own social division regarding
Judaism. To the Jews, whether natural selection violated the design of the divine creator or in what methods Darwin tried to use to
explain the doctrines of evolution was a matter of indifference. Rather, as Kohler proves, they took evolution superficially and applied
it as a mere tool to use in the controversies between the Reformers and traditionalists. Thus, the responses of the American Jews in the
ninteenth century were not based on viewing evolution as an independent scientific theory with controversial religious implications but
rather seeing it as an ideological ground for the ongoing debate of the future of American Judaism.
VII. The Response to Darwinism in Other Parts of the English-Speaking World
While the mainstream studies of Darwin's influence in Britain and America have been prolifically done by historians of science,
research on the historical events that followed the dissemination of Darwinism in other parts of the world were seldom made.
Yet, investigating responses in such regions brings in different colors into how Darwinism disseminated into the religious community.
The influence of the people on the top of the scientific community served as a major factor of the Darwinism influx. In Canada
and Australia, nonevolutionists had frequently occupied chairs of scientific societies and therefore, evolution entered rather late in
the academic arena. In New Zealand, which did not even had an established university until 1869, had evolutionists take over the
leadership of scientific organization. Consequently, evolutionism able to obtain a foothold to sink in rather quickly.
Local environments, both physical and social, greatly affected the reception of Darwinian theories. In Canada, the harsh physical
environment that the settlers faced to struggle with made some to acknowledge the Darwinian view of nature. New Zealanders,
on the other hand, had to face the Maori, the natives of the islands, who stood in the way of white expansion. Some settlers
eventually employed Darwinism as a racial ideology to use in their struggle with the Maori.
Darwinism was spread early in Australia. William Paley's natural theology had submerged into Australian science but scholars had
started to discuss evolutionism from the 1860s. Despite the immense geographical distance from Britain, Australia imported a lot of
English society life, ranging from theaters, museums to journals and books like On the Origin of Species which was on sale
in Sydney only four months after its initial publication. No time lag appeared between the Darwinian debates of Britain and Australia,
proving that the physical separation had little effect on the Australian responses to mainstream scientific ideas.
Possibly one of the first public introduction of Darwinism in Australia, the lecture 'Genesis and Geology' by Charles Perry,
the Anglican bishop of Melbourne, focused on how geological theories can be reconciled with creationism. He stressed the parallel
correspondences between the sequence of creation explained in the Genesis and the fossil discoveries that show the succession of life.
With such 'perfect matching', Perry concluded that only divine relevation could explain it. He continued to argue similarly even when
Darwinism was centered into severe criticism later on.
However, the early responses of Darwinism in Australia were generally hostile. At first, worried scientific societies and churchmen
were warning the general public about the dangers of the theory. Darwinism was colored with adverse reactions from the Australian
scientific community of which many scientists had expressed. It was George B. Halford, a professor of medicine at the University of
Melbourne, who initiated the Darwinian debates in Australia in 1863. In a series of public lectures addressed to politicians, churchmen,
and colonial leaders, Halford challenged Huxley's claim of evolutionary relationship between humans and apes. Halford himself was a
student of anti-Darwinian Richard Owen and established a non-Darwinian atmosphere in the Melbourne society. However, while he
earned the support of the local leaders in religion and colonial government, he was ousted from the international arena as Huxley's
doctrine became dominant.
The scientific community of Australia remained generally opposed to Darwinism until the 1880's. Their opposition were upheld when
leaders of the religious institutions joined with their scientific counterparts in opposing Darwinism. John Bleadsdale, a Roman Catholic
priest and president of the Colonial Royal Society, denounced Huxley's evolutionary arguments by saying that it was "fit only for the
half educated intellect fashioned in mechanics institutes." Ferdinand Mueller, a devout Lutheran and president of the Australasian
Association for the Advancement of Science in 1890, expressed warnings about accepting evolutionism in his presidential address.
The origin of humans was one of the main issues that were discussed among Australian clergymen. One of the first to come up with
the topic, Julian T. Woods, a Catholic priest and the president of the Linnaean Society of New South Wales, argued in a lecture given
in South Australia that humans had been on earth for approximately 6,000 years. Reverend John Bromby's 1869 lecture in Melbourne
was yet another attempt of harmonization between evolutionism and biblical scripture regarding the human antiquity. Bromby introduced
a pre-Adamite world populated by less developed humanlike creatures (22). According to his hypothesis, it was
only when God singled out Adam from the group that a fully human was created. Of course, this was viewed as unacceptable to the
religious community including Bishop Charles Perry, who was present at the meeting.
It was only by the 1880's and the 1890's that Australia saw a major shift in the Darwinian debates. The universities of Melbourne
and Sydney were bringing in new men trained by the Huxleyan education. The arrival of Walter B. Spencer, who was educated at
Victoria University in England, at the University of Melbourne brought evolutionism into the lectures inside classrooms and talks within
the science clubs (23). In the religious sphere, reconciling evolution theory and Christian belief became prevalent.
Moorhouse, Perry's successor, expressed his views that conclusions of science can come in aid, something that could not have occurred
during Perry's reign.
Over the years in the latter half of the ninteenth century, Australia's attitude toward the 'development hypothesis' drastically changed
since its initial opposition. While the intellectuals before were explictly opposing to evolutionism, major teaching institutions were teaching
Darwinism and many churchmen were accomodating the new science to Christian theology by the last decades of the century. This is
mostly attributed to the fact that there was a major shift of the figures involved and the influx of Darwinian supporters from England.
Thus, Darwinism was eventually triumphant in Australia.
The British North American naturalists of Canada at the time of the emergence of Darwinism remained rather reluctant to enter the
stage. Scholars suggest that since the theory of natural selection did not impinge directly upon the classifying activites in which most of
them were engaged in, no prominent defender of the theory emerged until the 1870's. Indeed, many Canadian naturalists were confined
to simply collecting specimens without addressing any theoratical explanations to them.
Yet, by the 1870's, growing numbers of middle-class Canadians were reading magazines and papers on a national scale that dealt with
evolutionism and religion specifically. Records tell that these intensified interest emerged after the publication of the Descent of Man.
Meanwhile, David Boyle, a schoolteacher in Ontario during that decade who later became Canada¡¯s prominent archaelogist, developed
a passionate interest in Darwinism. He even went on to urge the inclusion the theory in the elementary school curriculum.
The broader focus of public concern can be explained by the historical experiences of various religious denomination. Recent studies
on Canadian religious history shows that there were two diverging interpretations to the problem of Darwinism. Protestant culture in
Canada had long been exposed to evolution and accepted it through the idea of progress. Therefore, Anglican, Methodists, Presbyterians
and Baptists were able to meet many of the religious challenges of Darwinism without much alarm by the mid-1870's. Only the
evangelicals of Canada differed fundamentally from their Anglican counterparts. Conservatism was prevalent among them and thus,
they chosed to provide no contributor to the discussion of Darwin's theory.
Canadians in growing numbers and varieties pursued the implication of evolutionary theory after 1871. Various national literary magazines
were promoting discussion of its implications for Christian morality and the rise of materialism in physical sciences made Darwin more
acceptable. Natural history societies and universities witnessed also some support for Darwinian themes. The Nova Scotia Institute of
Natural Science in Halifax, for example, was working to reconcile modern evolutionary theories with Christian teachings. According to
them, the inclusion of human into the process gave scientific support of the traditional ideology that mankind are at the top of the "Tree of Life."
VII.3 New Zealand
In 1860, Samuel Butler, a young Englishman, sailed into Lyttelton harbor with the Bible and a copy of On the Origin of Species.
He left England escaping from his clergyman father and the Anglican Church in order to explictly express his advocacy toward Darwinism.
Not long from his arrival, Butler started to enlighten the New Zealanders with the doctrine of evolutionism. He published an interesting article
in the local press, writing a dialogue between a liberal thinker of evolutionism and a simple-minded Christian. The dialogue was based on a
scenario in which the freethinker tries to teach the Christian that Darwin's struggle for life can be observed everywhere in New Zealand.
The Reverend C.J. Abraham, Anglican bishop of Wellington, criticized this attempt of Butler by writing anonymously in The Press.
He commented that if it wasn't for the religious implications of the book, no one would be wasting their time reading On the Origin of Species
and figuring out "when polar bears will evolve to obtain fins to use when catching fish." Butler and the Bishop continued to argue
for several month on the issue.
However, most New Zealanders did not possess extreme positions such as those of Butler and Bishop Abraham. The Abraham stereotype
was not applied to the rest of the Anglicans. To fully understand the New Zealanders' view of evolution, it is first important to be aware of its
social and developmental status. Simply put, most New Zealanders had emigrated to get on with a better life rather than to be concerned about
scientific debates. There was no dominating state church in New Zealand and Christian groups were generally dispersed evenly. Relatively few
New Zealanders attended church regularly and churchmen were too busy establishing churches and school to be involved in debates on
While no serious debate on evolutionism was observed from 1859 to 1875, evangelicals began to accept evolution from about the late 1870's.
The main basis for the reconciling of evolution and Christianity was to interpret Genesis stories allegorically rather than literally. Reverent William
Habens told his audience in Christchurch 1872 that Christians had nothing to fear from evolution and even went on to say that natural evolution is
more wonderful than the creation itself.
The incident at the Dunedin Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) in 1876 was one of the major events in evolutionary history of
New Zealand. Reverend Alfred R. Fitchett, the liberal minister of Dunedin's Methodist church, advocated evolution in his sermons and
published writings that reconciled evolution and religion. He took the accounts of Creation and the Fall allegorically and therefore, believed
that Darwinism could not have any disputes with Christianity.
Shortly after, Fitchett applied to become a member of the Dunedin YMCA. Membership was opened to only those who acknowledged the
"Divine inspiration and authority of Scripture." Unfortunately, half of the board of management members blackballed Fitchett's
application solely because they thought his evolutionary views did not fit with this condition and thus, a general meeting was called to consider
the case. Fitchett¡¯s hearing started with Robert Borrows, a close friend of the Reverend, denouncing the YMCA's attempt to not accept the
application of a respected theologian. He said that the board had no right to insist that members hold a particular view of the opening. However,
he made a mistake by going beyond what he initially attempted saying, "Some of you require a little more Evolution. My ancestors have given
up that language ages ago." (24).
Rage among the Protestants that filled the crowd was prevalent in the following of Borrows' statement. Reverend James Copland who led
Fitchett's opponents stated that the Fall represented the main theological problem. If, according to Fitchett, human slowly obtained moral
conscienceness from a state of moral innocence, Copland stated that this led to the conclusion that sin became a fault of God. Copland's words
boosted up the opposing side's vote and the hearing ended with rejecting Fitchett¡¯s application. During the week following the announcement,
however, over fourty members of the Association forfeited their membership in protest of the treatment.
This incident represented the major controversy over evolution to occur within New Zealand religious community during the ninteenth century.
Copland went on with his 'crusade against Darwinism'. In one case, he tried to win the chair of the Presbyterian Synod owned by Duncan
MacGregor, an evolutionary advocate. After ousting MacGregor out of his position through various rumors, he started to support his
candidacy by brewing up an anti-evolution movement. However, much has changed already by the 1880's with educated New Zealand
Protestants deciding to embrace more conciliatory positions on evolution. Thus, Copland found himself isolated and eventually, his attempt to
win the chair was degenerated.
After the controversies during the decade 1875-1885, New Zealand saw its main scientific and religious institutions integrating evolution into
their views of the world. In 1902, Salmond, a professor of moral philosophy, declared that evolution was the method by which
"God made man from the dust." He also stated that it is time New Zealand stop clinging to the literal interpretations of Scripture and
"march on with all the life of reason and science, knowing that they, too, are divine." While oppositions of evolution continued to
exist, they were only found at the margin of the mainstream culture.
New Zealanders also embraced Darwinism for racist purposes. The colonial settlers had much problems with the Maori in their attempts
to retrieve whatever land the natives of New Zealand possessed. The editor's words of the Southern Monthly Magazine,
which is dedicated to disseminating science to the public, represents how the settlers applied Darwinism to establish new racial ideologies.
He stated that no one opposes the struggle for life in Darwin's natural selection theory and therefore suggested that a
"weak and ill-furnished race will necessarily have to give way befoe one which is strong." Criticizing the local Chrstian humanitarians
who believed that the Maori own the entire territory of New Zealand, the editor embarked an ideology that settlers should not evelate
the natives but embrace the natural selection laws affecting the decline of the "inferior race." Eventually, settlers who read Darwinism in
a similar perspective, decided to pursue their "scientific duty" by shooting Maori in the years of warfare.
Some striking evidence provided by evolutionary naturalists, which regarded the entrance of European plants and animals in the local
environment, seemed to intense the issue of racism. European rats were dominating indegenous ones, European honeybees were
proliferating in the jungles, and domesticated cattles were prevailing in the vast fields (25). One Maori commented
that "As the white man¡¯s rat has driven away the native rat, as the European fly drives away our own, so will the Maori disappear
before the white man himself." By the 1880¡¯s, scientists like Walter Buller went on to show that Maori-born children lacked enough
stamina to reach maturity and are dying out quickly to be placed by a superior race. Evolutionary racism continued to prevail in Victorian
New Zealand and Darwinism found itself contributing to the extinction of the Maori.
October 22, 1996 was a memorable day in evolutionary history. On that day, Pope John Paul II declared in a meeting of the Pontifical
Academy of Sciences in the Vatican that the Church no longer opposed the scientific theory of evolution. He stated that the evolutionary
theory was considered more than a hypothesis and was supported by various proofs from diverse branches of science. But, while the
Church's official acknowledgement had been announced almost a century after the emergence of evolution, scientific evidence had already
been culminated since the 1930's. When William Bateson, the British scientist to coin the word "genetics", made a famous address that all
evolutionary change is owing to mutation at the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1914, the world saw the beginning
of a new revolutionary impact on the ongoing Darwinian debate. After Hugo de Vries popularized the mutation theory and rediscovered
Mendel's law, various ideas within the scientific community began to synthesize with natural selection to produce population genetics,
which explained that mutations increased the genetic variation in the population. Thus, Darwin¡¯s doctrines of random variation and the
many controversies on Design and supernaturalism had finally found an answer to their longtime debates on Darwinism. Indeed, as Ernest
Messenger stated in 1931, opposition of the Christian societes abated quickly from this period.
Yet, we must not simply conclude that the Darwinian debates prior to the 1930's were pointless consequences that could have otherwise,
never existed with some crucial scientific discoveries. After a historical timeline of Galileo, Copernicus, and Newton who stood alongside
in what composed the Scientific Revolution, Darwinism and the controversies of evolutionism was the final turning point between science
and religion. Starting out from a book that immensely popularized the the theories of evolutionism, Darwinism's greatest significance lies in
the fact that it casted the religious community into the most serious confrontation with modern science, which was beginning to hold its
position as the new explanation of the universe by the late ninteenth century. Through Darwinism, the religious community had to face
various challenges that shaked the fundamental bases of Christian teaching, ranging from the doctrine of Design to the origin of mankind.
It is with no doubt that no one has done more than Charles Darwin to challenge the world view engendered by the dominating Christianity.
The complexity and the universial responses toward Darwinism also add to the historical importance of the debates. It is true that loud
religious voices opposing the new scientific conclusion were eminent during the era, but it is also true that there were those in the religious
community that supported it for various reasons. This is indeed one of the difficulties that the historians of this issue encounter as concepts
like teleological evolution, theistic evolution, and Christian evolutionists branched as time passed on. This diversity of colors in the Darwinian
debates was mostly due to the extreme variety of religious sects and their different beliefs. For example, Protestants in general were more
moderate towards Darwinism, especially after 1875, for they promoted the idea that every individual has the right to intrepret Scripture
independent of Church authorities. Religious sects like the Broad Churchmen of The Anglican Church were also immediate supporters
of Darwinism as they emphasized rationality in their teachings.
Evolution was also important in that it touched important social issues of that time. In such cases, evolution was not debated according
to the religious implications of the theory itself but rather on the compatibility of its application in the society. In America, when immigrants
were divided into the progressive and traditionalists side in how they were to adopt into their new society, Darwinism was also brought
up into light. The Reform Jews in America, for example, promoted evolution to support the Reform Judaism as a religion compatible
with modern science and thus, superior to their traditionalist counterpart. Darwinism was also used as a racist ideological weapon in
issues toward the New Zealand Maori and American Blacks. Especially, the decades of the Darwinian debates in New Zealand were
also the time when the warfare against the Maori was taking place, giving boost to such use in racial perspectives.
While Darwinian debates were clearly significant in many ways in the past, I believe a comprehensive understanding of the history of
evolution also enlightens one with insights of viewing modern controversies of science.Most directly, some cases of the modern debates
on Darwinism that still go on today seem to repeat the issues that were taken around the 1900's. Peter Bowler, a renown interpreter of
the Darwinian cause, writes in his book The Eclipse of Darwinism that "if biologists were to take serious accounts of earlier
episodes in which positions similar to their own were debated, they might avoid the kind of pitfall that awaits those who accept the simple-
minded judgements of hindsight about the implications of such theories." In a larger sense, acknowledging the impacts of a scientific
theory touching the bases of the society can provide us with insights toward the modern controversies over moral issues like stem cell
research and genetic engineering.
(1) Olson (2006) p.186
(2) While Chambers implied a supernatural force to explain evolution, he did not specify
on how such laws were established nor how the mechanism worked.
(3) Olson (2006) p.190
(4) Bowler (2000) p.36
(5) This was not his first trip on the search for species as he had made a previous voyage
to South America also to collect specimens in 1848.
(6) Bowler (2000) p.113
(7) Ellegard (1990) p.13
(8) While Darwin does not explicitly mention this in the Origin of Species, he expressed
these ideas on human origin in his correspondences with friends.
(9) Wellings (2003) p.189
(10) Were also known as Christian scientists
(11) Phipps (2002) p.82
(12) The average attendance had been around 1100 in the 1840's; it rose to 2300 in 1860's,
2500 in the early 1870's.
(13) Bowler (2000) p.145
(14) Their emphasis on rationalism in theology provided the bases for accepting evolution
without much opposition.
(15) Ussher's chronology was not accepted by the entire Christian society, but basically Christian
beliefs did not teach that the Earth was created millions of years ago.
(16) Wellings (2003) p.210
(17) This theory failed to explain the fossil records of life froms over thousands of years ago,
since it suggested the re-creation period around 5000 BC.
(18) Those who supported the pre-Adamite world hypothesis did not intreprete the Genesis
(19) Progressive evolution implies that men gradually acquired moral conscience from a state
of animal instinct which shows an ascendance instead of a downward 'Fall'.
(20) Artigas (2006) pp.156-158
(21) Kohler's sermons on science and religion were published later on, under the title Das neue
Wissen und der alte Glaube! (New Science and Old Belief).
(22) Bromby's pre-Adamite world suggestion in Melbourne is similar to the English
evangelical's reconciling theory.
(23) Numbers (2001) p.53
(24) Numbers (2001) p.67
(25) The reliability of this record is questionable, as this could had been an ideological offense
aiming the Maori affairs.
1. Artigas, Mariano, et al. Negotiating Darwin: the Vatican confronts evolution, 1877-1902.
Baltimore, Maryland: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006.
2. Bowler, Peter J. Charles Darwin. The Man and His Influence. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2000.
3. Bowler, Peter J. The Eclipse of Darwinism. Anti-Darwinian Evolution Theories in the Decades around 1900.
Baltimore, Maryland: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.
4. Darwin, Charles R. Charles Darwin's autobiography. Ed. Sir Francis Darwin. New York: Collier Books, 1961.
5. Ellegard, Alvar. Darwin and the General Reader. The Reception of Darwin's Theory of Evolution in the British
Periodical Press 1859-72. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1990.
6. Haught, John F. Deeper than Darwin: the prospect for religion in the age of evolution. Boulder,
Colorado: Westview Press, 2003.
7. Hull, David L. Darwin and his critics. The Reception of Darwin's Theory of Evolution by the Scientific
Community. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1983.
8. International Bible Society. The Holy Bible, New International Version. Colorado Springs, CO: 1997.
9. Lynch, John M. Darwin's theory of natural selection: British responses, 1859-1871.
Bristol: Thoemmes Press, 2001.
10. Numbers, Ronald L. and John Stenhouse. Disseminating Darwinism: the role of place, race, religion, and
gender. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
11. Olson, Richard G., Science and Religion 1450-1900. From Copernicus to Darwin. Baltimore, Maryland:
The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006.
12. Phipps, William E. Darwin's religious odyssey. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International c2002.
13. Ruse, Michael. Can a Darwinian be a Christian? The Relationship Between Science and Religion.
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
14. Ruse, Michael. Darwin and design: Does evolution have a purpose? Cambridge, Mass.:
Harvard University Press, 2003.
15. Ryan, Frank X. Darwinism and theology in America: 1850-1930. Bristol: Thoemmes Press, 2002.
16. Wellings, Martin. Evangelicals Embattled. Responses of Evangelicals in the Church of England to Ritualism,
Darwinism and Theological Liberalism 1890 - 1930. Bletchley, Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2003.
17. Witham, Larry A. Where Darwin meets the Bible: creationists and evolutionists in America. New York:
Oxford University Press 2002.