Charles Darwin on slavery

“It is argued that self-interest will prevent excessive cruelty; as if self-interest protected our domestic animals, which are far less likely than degraded slaves, to stir up the rage of their savage masters. It is an argument long since protested against with noble feeling, and strikingly exemplified, by the ever illustrious Humboldt. It is often attempted to palliate slavery by comparing the state of slaves with our poorer countrymen: if the misery of our poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin; but how this bears on slavery, I cannot see; as well might the use of the thumb-screw be defended in one land, by showing that men in another land suffered from some dreadful disease. Those who look tenderly at the slave-owner, and with a cold heart at the slave, never seem to put themselves into the position of the latter;—what a cheerless prospect, with not even a hope of change! picture to yourself the chance, ever hanging over you, of your wife and your little children—those objects which nature urges even the slave to call his own—being torn from you and sold like beasts to the first bidder! And these deeds are done and palliated by men, who profess to love their neighbours as themselves, who believe in God, and pray that his Will be done on earth! It makes one’s blood boil, yet heart tremble, to think that we Englishmen and our American descendants, with their boastful cry of liberty, have been and are so guilty: but it is a consolation to reflect, that we at least have made a greater sacrifice, than ever made by any nation, to expiate our sin.” -Charles Darwin, 1845. Journal of researches into the natural history and geology of the countries visited during the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle round the world, under the Command of Capt. Fitz Roy, R.N. 2d edition. London: John Murray.

David Attenborough: Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life

David Attenborough’s new documentary, Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life, was broadcast earlier this evening on BBC1 in the UK, and will be available on iPlayer for a few days.  Watch it while you can, grab the DVD when it’s made available.

Meanwhile even if you’re outside the UK (and therefore unable to see this documentary immediately) you might like to pop over to to see the animation that forms the central core of one of the segments of  Attenborough’s 60 minute documentary.

Attenborough takes an ecological theme, starting with a reading from Genesis, in leading to Gen 1:28 implying that man has dominion over living creatures and can use them for his purposes, and moving on through Darwin’s “long argument”, which leads to a very different message: we do not have dominion over the animals, we are animals, and we are controlled by the same forces that control them.

Charles Darwin to receive posthumous official apology from Church of England

The Sunday Telegraph reports that, in the bicentennial year of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of the revolutionary book, Origin of Species, the Church of England is to issue an official apology to Charles Darwin for its initial rejection of his scientific theories.

The statement, on a church website dedicated to Darwin’s theories, will read:

Charles Darwin: 200 years from your birth, the Church of England owes you an apology for misunderstanding you and, by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand you still. We try to practise the old virtues of ‘faith seeking understanding’ and hope that makes some amends.

I’m not really sure why they feel the need to say this, but it’s nice all the same.

The most famous conflict between the church and advocates of Darwin’s theories was the Oxford Union Debate in 1860. most memorable for an exchange between Thomas Henry Huxley and Samuel Wilberforce, the Bishop of Oxford.  Wilberforce asked Huxley whether it was through his grandfather or his grandmother that he claimed his descent from a monkey.  Huxley responded that he would not be ashamed to have a monkey for his ancestor, but he would be ashamed to be connected with a man who used his great gifts to obscure the truth.

Church of England to launch website promoting Darwinism

Saturday’s Times reports that the Church of England is to produce a website promoting the evolutionary ideas of Charles Darwin.

Some Anglican clerics opposed Darwin’s ideas when they were first introduced, but the view of the Church of England has long been that religion and evolution are compatible.  The brainchild of the Rev. Dr Malcolm Brown, the website is to be launched on Monday.

The church is concerned at the resurgence of creationism.

Examining a creationist argument on the fossil record

This is a followup to an earlier posting that examined the first part of this posting by somebody who calls himself Sirius Knott.  Creationists tend to make bold claims that attempt to rubbish the consensus of biologists, geologists and paleontologists, reveal their ignorance of the field, and wonder why nobody takes them seriously.  Sirius seems to follow the same pattern.

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Examining a creationist case against modern geology

I encountered this posting by Sirius Knott and asked him to read some textbooks.  After a bit he got bored with my patient requests that he educate himself, and even grew tired of taunting me.  Fair enough.  Time for me to deal in detail with his errors–because there are a lot of people who have ideas like this and they probably, deep down, are seeking some kind of response from the scientific point of view.  I’ll present my response by links to standard answers, for the most part, because these objections have been raised by creationists many times in the past, and they have no scientific credibility.  There is absolutely nothing new about creationism or intelligent design.  The same arguments have been raised again and again down the decades, but not one of them has convinced the scientific community.

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