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Quaker responses to Darwin

By G. Cantor


[FIRST PARAGRAPH] In his seminal work Darwin and the General Reader (1958), Alvar Ellegird surveyed the British periodical press over the period 1859 to 1872 in order\ud to discover how Darwin's theory had been received in a hundred publications reflecting a wide range of social, religious, and political opinion. He paid attention\ud both to the amount of space devoted to Darwinian topics and also to each periodical's stance with respect to such issues as the theory of natural selection and the naturalistic account of the formation of humankind. In each case he summarized his findings using a numerical scale. Among the journals he examined were two Quaker periodicals- the Friend and the Friends' Quarterly Examiner-from which he concluded that Quakers paid little attention to Darwin's theory and that the few references that appeared were generally antagonistic to the new theory. The quotations Ellegird selected confirmed this judgment: for example, in characterizing the Friend as anti-Darwinian he cited an 1861 entry in which a reviewer regretted the large number of converts to Darwinism, exclaiming, "Alas, their name is legion." Despite the somewhat higher scores achieved by the Friends' Quarterly Examiner, Ellegird did not adequately distinguish between these two periodicals, which reflected significantly\ud different sections within the British Quaker community. Rather surprisingly, he also lumped Quakers with Congregationalists, Baptists, and certain other dissenting\ud groups that appear to have responded similarly to Darwin's theory but shared little of religious significance with Quakers. In contrast to these denominations, Unitarians\ud scored higher but Methodists were lower still on Elleglrd's scale

Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Year: 2001
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