Charles Darwin: Shropshire hero or Shrewsbury sinner?
He is Shropshire’s favourite son – but to some his work was simply un-Christian.
And the ideas and theories of Charles Darwin continues to be divisive, some 136 years after his death.
The Shrewsbury-born naturalist, geologist and biologist is famous for his theories on evolution, work that is now accepted as fact by the vast majority.
But to some his work represents a sin, going against the Bible’s teaching on the seven-day creation.
Shrewsbury is about to celebrate Darwin with its two-week Darwin Festival. And the celebrated scientist’s birthday is coming up on February 12.
But anti-Darwin campaigners have this week taken to the streets of Shrewsbury claiming to disprove his theories.
Anthony Bennett has been amongst a group of Christians handing out campaign leaflets ahead of the Darwin Festival, which starts on February 8 and runs until February 24.
They say their campaign highlights Darwin’s claim in his 1859 manual Origin of Species that he had not yet found any fossils that showed ‘gradual change’ from one species to another.
Campaigners assert that, after trillions of fossils have been unearthed worldwide, there remains no evidence of intermediate forms, or ‘missing links’.
Anthony Bennett, campaign organiser, said: “No creature or plant can ‘improve’ its stock of DNA. It simply inherits its DNA from its parents. No new information is generated. The question therefore is: “Who gave us our DNA in the first place?”
They say that as Darwin neared the end of his life he admitted that no answer had yet been found as to how life could possibly emerge from inorganic ‘non-life’.
The campaign is a direct response to what the group calls the ‘over-the-top’ two-week Darwin Festival promoted by Shrewsbury Town Council and Shropshire Council, plus a number of local companies and groups, to celebrate the 209th anniversary of Darwin’s birth.
A series of fun and interactive events have been planned for the festival which will include a memorial lecture, talks and workshops and free guided tours of Darwin’s childhood.
For more information and ticket details for the DarwIN Shrewsbury Festival events visit originalshrewsbury.co.uk/Darwin.
Scientists hit back with petition as minister causes outrage
Darwin’s influence is worldwide – and controversy follows him across the globe too.
Thousands of scientists in India this week signed an online petition protesting against comments by a higher-education minister who publicly questioned the scientific validity of his theory of evolution and called for changes in educational curricula.
The comments were made by Satyapal Singh, a junior minister for human-resource development who oversees university education.
He told a conference on ancient Hindu texts that the Shrewsbury naturalist’s theory of evolution of humans “is scientifically wrong”.
Singh added that “nobody, including our ancestors, in written or oral, have said they saw an ape turning into a man”.
Two days later, he proposed holding an international seminar on the subject.
The comments provoked outrage in the Indian scientific community.
Vishwesha Guttal, an evolutionary ecologist at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, suggested the remarks are the first time that such anti-evolution opinions have been aired by high-ranking politicians in India.
He said: “I have seen this kind of anti-Darwin stance when I was a student in the US. This was totally unheard of, so far, in India. My first thought was, ‘Is this coming to India now?’”
Singh’s boss Prakash Javadekar, the senior minister for human-resource development, said that he had asked Singh to refrain from making such remarks.
“We should not dilute science,” Javadekar said.
He added that his ministry would not support any anti-Darwin activities such as Singh’s proposed.