Saturday, 2 July 2011 Repeats Old Myths About the Legendary Debate Between Huxley and Wilberforce

Thomas Huxley was known as Darwin's bulldog. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Joel Kontinen

Recently, many Christians who consider themselves evangelicals have openly spoken in favour of theistic evolution. Christianity Today for instance doubted the testimony Genesis gives of Adam and Eve as real historical individuals.

Now it’s the turn of It repeats old myths about the earliest public debate on evolution. In 1860, Samuel Wilberforce exchanged views on evolution with Thomas Huxley, who is known as Darwin’s bulldog. erroneously describes the debate as one between science and religion and claims that Wilberforce did not know much about science.

Samuel Wilberforce, who was the son of the Christian politician and anti-slavery activist William Wilberforce (1759-1833), knew more about Charles Darwin’s theory than skeptics assume. Five weeks before the debate the bishop had written a review of The Origin of Species in the Quarterly Review.

In July 1860, Darwin himself wrote to his friend Joseph Hooker about Wilberforce’s criticism: ”I have just read the "Quarterly". It is uncommonly clever; it picks out with skill all the most conjectural parts, and brings forward well all the difficulties.”

It was Hooker who later claimed that Wilberforce used sarcasm in the debate instead of scientific arguments. Although Darwinists are fond of repeating this myth, one would have expected to check the reliability of its sources.

The writer(s) of the article did not do this. Instead, warns its readers of the dangers of rejecting “science”.

However, an ideology that has to rely on myths in order to be at least somewhat credible does not have much to do with empirical science.


Creation-Evolution Debate, Huxley vs. Wilberforce. This Week in Christian History newsletter. 1 July 2011.

Lucas, John. 1979. Wilberforce and Huxley: A Legendary Encounter.