I was re-reading an old article from the 2006 issue of Skeptical Inquirer with the title1 I picked for this blog post. The author is W.G. Weyant, an historian at the University of Calgary (Calgary, Alberta, Canada). He says,
Why, then, did they bury Darwin in Westminster Abbey? The brief answer is "because he was dead," but that, while true, clearly is not the whole story."The whole story is interesting because it reflects the attitudes of late Victorian society in England. This was a time when scientists were honored even if, or especially because, their ideas were upsetting. It appears to be an age when smart, rational, people were admired.
Weyant also writes,
Approximately a decade after publication of the "Origin of Species" in 1859, most educated Englishmen, including many of the clergy, had accepted the fact of evolution. More that a few of them were uneasy about where the evidence and their reason were taking them, but they went nevertheless.That's an interesting way of putting it. Today, we see many people who are faced with the same uneasiness but the response is quite different. When the choice is faith or facts, they choose not to follow the path of reason.
I think we're finally beginning to realize that science and religion are not compatible, confirming the worst fears of educated Victorians back in 1882. Jerry Coyne's new book is likely going to start a serious debate, one that has been largely ignored in the interests of accommodationism.
1. I wasn't the first to do this; see Why did they bury Darwin in Westminster Abbey?