Since a revolutionary day in June 1860, when the Bishop of Oxford, “Soapy Sam” Wilberforce, rose before the British Association to put an end to Mr. Darwin’s impertinence, many proper people have had mixed feelings about evolution: (1) Evolution can’t be true. (2) Let us hope it’s not true. (3) Well, if it is true, let us hope it’s not bruited about. (4) At least, it mustn’t be taught to children!

There remains some dispute about that day’s details, but it was in fact Professor Huxley who, responding briefly for evolution, put an end to the Bishop’s impertinence. That was, however, a momentary thing, in which the pride of Victorians in their fairness overcame the hope for a good roast of the scientists. Among non-scientists, mixed feelings returned, and we are no longer Victorians, which need not be entirely to our credit.

Reputed parallels between Victorian...

 

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