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Huxley Wilberforce debate

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Kaitlyn Wilkins

on 29 July 2014

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Transcript of Huxley Wilberforce debate

Content of the debate between Huxley and Wilberforce
Huxley Wilberforce debate
Was an Anglican priest
Appointed as the bishop of Oxford in 1845, a critical time in the Oxford Movement
Attacked Darwin's theory of evolution
Encouraged the revival of Christianity and the Church
Was an excellent public speaker
Had a first class degree in mathematics and was an ornithologist (study of birds)
Known as 'Soapy Sam' for his smoothness in debate
Bishop Samuel Wilberforce
Huxley's arguments
Attacked the theory of evolution
Had written a scientific review of approx. 1900 words, Darwin reading it and saying “It is uncommonly clever; it picks out with skill all the most conjectural parts, and brings forward well all the difficulties.”
Lack of geological records showing any case of one species developing into another.
No new species are known to have developed during human history
Environmental pressures have not produce new species (but did have a small effect)
The infertility of crossbreeds supported the
fixed and unchanging nature of species
Wilberforce's arguments
Reasons for the conflict between Huxley and Wilberforce
This was the first meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science since the publication of Charles Darwin's
On the Origin of Species

Darwin's book was controversially viewed by the public and was the main topic in the scientific community.
Many had not accepted Darwin's theory yet due to lack of evidence to support it.
Both Huxley and Wilberforce had written reviews on Darwin's
Origin of Species
Origin of species
By Kaitlyn Wilkins
Thomas Huxley
Received little formal education or scientific training
Became a medical apprentice, from which he gained a job with naval medicine. He sailed on the H.M.S Rattlesnake to survey Australia.
This is how Huxley observed and completed his scientific work and theories.
He became one of the first people to accept Darwin's theory of evolution and natural selection.
Passionate defender of Darwin's theory, to the extent he was nicknamed 'Darwin's bulldog'.
The debate occurred at the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, on the 30th June, 1860.
It was held in the Oxford University Museum.
Audience of approximately 700.
The debate was not only between Thomas Huxley and Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, but also Admiral Robert Fitzroy, Dr Brodie, Dr Beale, John Lubbock and Dr Hooker.

What was the effect of the debate on the public's understanding and acceptance?
Darwin's theory of evolution
Biblical ideas/creation
'Famous' exchange
Wilberforce asked Huxley whether he was descended from an ape on his grandfather's or grandmother's side.
Huxley turned to his neighbor and said “The Lord hath delivered him into mine hands.” He then responded to Wilberforce that he would rather have an ape for an ancestor than a bishop who distorted the truth.

However, it is now questioned whether this dialogue actually occurred, now being widely considered as a myth. Additionally, as there is no official transcript of the debate and the room was very noisy, they could easily have been misheard.
J.R. Lucas argues it was only a joke, to emphasise
the lack of supporting evidence and how it
was degrading to humans.
This debate was a turning point in the public's acceptance of evolution
Increased the divide between Christianity and science
Public opinion is that science won the day, reflecting well on science's new theory.
Therefore, this debate had a positive effect on public acceptance of evolution
Evolution went from strength to strength and gained much more credibility.

It can be seen that the debate did have an impact on some members of the public, however not on everyone.
Public understanding scientific theories has increased, science being much more accepted in modern day society.
Not all science conflicts with biblical ideas, and some aspects of evolution can aline with the bible. (For example, some Christians believe Genesis is a metaphor, and so evolution could be a possibility).
The popularity and importance placed on the debate increased its effect
Due to no official transcript of the debate, people have been able to increase the significance of what occurred
Michael Brooks believes that the story of Huxley's victory only became really significant 20 years later, as it suited the cultural climate
Russell Grigg believes the story has generated a life of its own, affecting the significance of the debate.
As this debate occurred shortly after Darwin's proposed evolution, it is difficult to attribute the increase in evolution's popularity to this debate rather than the idea simply being proposed.
Wilberforce was the orator
Huxley did not reveal Wilberforce's weaknesses well, was quietly spoken and failed to engage/allow the audience to understand.
Despite this, it is widely viewed that Huxley won the day.
Wilberforce did argue well, Darwin even using some of the points he raised for further research.
Michael Brooks believes victory lies in the eye of the beholder.
Defended Charles Darwin's theory of evolution
Theory that all live has evolved from a single common ancestor
Change was driven by environmental pressures, causing the organism to form specific adaptations
Natural selection was the mechanism behind evolution - only the organisms with the best/correct adaptations would survive, over time creating a new species.
J.R. Lucas believes the “quarrel between religion and science came about not because of what Wilberforce said, but because it was what Huxley wanted.”
This debate was an opportunity for those who wanted to oppose the authority and influence of the Church to do so.
A foundation of Christian belief is that man was created in the image of God, by God.
Evolution erases the need for a creator (Huxley), while Christianity is based on God being the creator (Wilberforce)
Science and Christianity appeared to be incompatible.
The Church
As it had a positive effect on evolution, the effect on the church and creation was negative.
However not everyone was convinced by Huxley, such as Robert FitzRoy and John Lubbock.
Wilberforce was able to show through his scientific analysis that the church was not only approaching evolution from a religious view but a scientific one as well, reflecting positivley on the church.
The number of people NOT believing in creation has certainly increased since this debate, however many people do still believe in creation despite this....
Overall Effect
American survey's in 2006 revealed that only 40% accepted evolution, another 40% believing God created humans.
Full transcript