Church of England apologises to Charles Darwin
Some scientists dismiss the gesture as ‘ludicrous’; Mr Darwin’s descendants describe it as ‘pointless’, and Ann Widdecombe wonders why the Italians aren’t apologising for Pontius Pilate.
The apology is written by the Rev Dr Malcolm Brown. It raises so many issues of credibility that Cranmer is at a loss to know where to begin.
Apparently, the apology is ‘for misunderstanding his theory of evolution’. Apart from the fact that the Church has historically ‘misunderstood’ far more important things, the Church of England did not actually ‘misunderstand’ Darwin’s theory at all, not least because (as always) it was divided on the issue. The bishops understood completely the significance of the nexus of the theory (and theory it remains) - that man is the progeny of apes. It really is so simple that even a bishop in the Church of England can comprehend it. Looking at the similarity between Mr Darwin and Dr Williams, it may indeed be adduced that they have a common hairy ancestor. But believers were and are divided into those who perceive this theory to be anti-Scripture and profoundly evil, and those for whom it is but another possible explanation of how God created, totally consistent with Scripture.
It is possible to be so preoccupied by atoning vicariously for the sins of one’s predecessors that one ceases to be aware of one’s personal failures and shortcomings.
While the Archbishop of Canterbury purports to apologise on behalf of the Church of England, he most certainly does not apologise on behalf of Cranmer, or, he suspects, on behalf of millions of Anglicans who have an understanding of church teaching or writing which is time-bound or culture-bound. If he continues along this path, Dr Williams will find himself apologising on behalf of Jesus for choosing to become incarnate in a backward time and strange land. He ought to at least apologise for not waiting until the era of mass communication – spreading the gospel could have been so much easier via the internet.
But even more bizarrely, the Church has addressed its contrition directly to the Victorian scientist himself, even though he died 126 years ago.
Why on earth is the Church of England addressing the dead?
At least Cranmer can agree with one line of the apology:
‘People, and institutions, make mistakes and Christian people and Churches are no exception.’
The Church of England is certainly no exception. One wonders if this ‘apology’ is simply a political move to distance itself from the furore surrounding ‘Creationism’. It seems it is now a sin to engage in the philosophical dimension of science, and heresy to question any aspect of the scientific method - even when practitioners of that method elevate theory to fact.