Scientists, philosophers and theologians met to discuss Darwin’s theory of evolution in relation to belief in divine creation at a five-day academic conference in Rome.
The conference opened on 3 March, to mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species. It was organised by Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University and the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.
The Vatican used the occasion to claim that the Roman Catholic Church, unlike many Protestant churches, never condemned Darwin’s theory.
Professor Larry Moran, a professor of biochemistry from the University of Toronto called Darwin “the best scientist who ever lived”. He noted that Darwin underwent a rehabilitation of sorts in 2002, when Britain’s Natural History Museum moved his 2.2-tonne statue from the cafeteria to a place of prominence in the central hall.
Charles Darwin was born on 12 February 1809. He attended Shrewsbury School and studied at Cambridge University for the ministry.
Abandoning his theological studies, he set off in 1831 on a five-year expedition on the ship HMS Beagle as an unpaid naturalist.
Darwin eventually lost his faith and wrote in the 1830s, “I found it more and more difficult, with free scope given to my imagination, to invent evidence which would suffice to convince me. Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete.”
Despite his own lack of faith, it is speculated that he suppressed publishing his theories of evolution and natural selection because he feared the reaction of religious leaders and even his own devout wife.
Although early Christian response to Darwin’s theories was hostile, he was given a state funeral and was buried in Westminster Abbey, near the grave of Isaac Newton. [Based on a report from ENI]
Nevertheless his theory seems to be losing its hold on the younger scientists and the general public in our day.