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1860 Famous debate on Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution held at the Oxford University Museum and dominated by arguments between Thomas Henry Huxley and Bishop Samuel Wilberforce

June 30, 2022

The landmark historical debate at the Oxford University Museum on June 30th,1860, continues to spark curiosity among historians and religious scholars alike. In a way, it clearly demonstrates the existing conflict between religious doctrines and historical hypotheses and discoveries that provide evidence of human evolution.

The debate room was full to capacity, and the audience was larger than a full House of Commons. It is said that the room was noisy, and the atmosphere was tense. And it's possible that not everyone heard all that was said.

Although Darwin had planned to attend the meeting, he and his daughter Emma Darwin were ailing. At the time, Charles Darwin was Undergoing treatment for stomach complications.

In a time when explanations of the origin of species were yet to be offered, Charles Darwin offered a detailed theory, asserting that he had confirmed every aspect with facts rather than fiction. Prof. Huxley defended Darwin's theory from Bishop Samuel's claims that it was merely a hypothesis.

In the heated debate, Bishop Samuel asks Thomas Huxley if he is related to an ape on his grandmother's or grandfather's side. Huxley rebutted that he prefers having an ape for a grandfather to a man who employs his influence to introduce ridicule in this scientific debate.

The debate room had both religious individuals and science enthusiasts. And with emotions running high in the room, Prof. Huxley felt that personal sentiments would interfere with intellect. Although he was a protagonist of Darwin's Theory of Evolution, Prof. Huxley noted that the gift of speech was the major difference between apes and humans.

Although the debate at Oxford University attracted a lot of opposition to the Theory of Evolution, Darwin was pleased to note that the biggest names in science took an interest in his discoveries. He, however, noted that by opposing his theory, they opposed the interests of humanity and science.


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