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The Edge of the Petri Dish

Can Humankind Avoid Its Biological Destiny?

Mann Cover

In June 30, 1860, Samuel Wilberforce, DD, 36th Bishop of Oxford, attended the 30th annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, held at Oxford University. Countless students have been taught that during the meeting, Wilberforce attacked evolution, setting off an impromptu debate which became a “tipping point” in the history of thought. I was one of those students. The debate, my biology professor explained, was the opening salvo of the war between Science and Religion — and Religion lost. My textbook backed him up. Wilberforce’s anti-evolution assault, it said, was swept aside by researchers’ “careful and scientific defense.” In a flourish unusual in an undergraduate text, it boasted that the pro-evolution arguments “neatly lifted the Bishop’s scalp.” That day the forces of empirical knowledge had beaten back the armies of religious ignorance.

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Source:  Charles Mann, Breakthrough Journal No.8, Winter 2018

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