ARTICLE: Censoring Huxley and Wilberforce: A new source for the meeting that the Athenaeum ‘wisely softened down’

The following article is recently published in Notes and Records:

Censoring Huxley and Wilberforce: A new source for the meeting that the Athenaeum ‘wisely softened down’

Richard England

Abstract In mid July 1860, the Athenaeum published a summary of the discussions about Charles Darwin’s theory that took place at the British Association meeting in Oxford. Its account omitted the famous exchange between Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford, and Thomas Huxley, the rising man of science. A fuller report of the meeting was published a week later in a local weekly, the Oxford Chronicle, but this has gone unnoticed by historians. The Oxford Chronicle supplies a new version of Wilberforce’s question to Huxley, with more material about religious objections to human evolution and the proper role of authority in popular scientific discussions. Excerpts from the Athenaeum and Oxford Chronicle accounts show that they likely had a common ancestor, and other sources corroborate details given only in the Oxford Chronicle. This discovery reveals that the Athenaeum narrative—until now the longest and best known—was censored to remove material that was considered objectionable. The Oxford Chronicle gives us a fuller story of what was said and how the audience reacted to the encounter between Huxley and Wilberforce.

 

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3 thoughts on “ARTICLE: Censoring Huxley and Wilberforce: A new source for the meeting that the Athenaeum ‘wisely softened down’

  1. I’m looking forward to reading this (full article seems to be behind a paywall, but no doubt my uni library has it), especially since the encounter is now portrayed so differently by parties with different agendas

  2. Everything I had hoped for. Consider this, in the leadup to the most famous part of the exchange:

    The BISHOP OF OXFORD, on rising, was loudly cheered… he had given the theory advanced by Mr. Darwin his most careful and anxious consideration. The conclusion he had come to was, that when tried by the principles of inductive science, philosophy or logic, it entirely broke down.

    This is the earliest example I can find of the argument, repeated in Whitcomb and Morris, The Genesis Flood, and still heard today, that evolution does not match up to the standards of the scientific method.

    I feel a blog post coming on …

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