Monday 15 September 2008


As the Church of England issues an apology to Charles Darwin, it's hard to know whether to laugh or cry. More usefully, perhaps, we might apply the Lenin question, Who? Whom? Who is apologisingg here, and to whom? Apparently a self-appointed representative of the modern C of E is making the apology, with official sanction - not the persons who caused the alleged offence. This is very much 'on behalf of' those long dead people - and the apology is issued to a man 126 years dead, who apparently has no representatives to accept or reject the apology.
And what exactly is being apologised for? The statement is notably vague about this. Perhaps some ancestral memory of the clash between Thomas Huxley and 'Soapy Sam' Wilberforce is at work here - but, as many have made clear (e.g. A.N. Wilson in God's Funeral), that occasion has been mythologised until it barely resembles what actually occurred. It would be more appropriate, surely, for Punch magazine to issue an apology for all those unkind cartoons of Darwin as an ape. Punch no longer exists, of course - but in the crazy world of postdated apologies, that shouldn't make any difference at all.


  1. Didn't bloody handed Blair start the current trend, the gov't apologising on our behalf for the beastly behavior of our ancestors during the years of the slave trade. Thanks but no thanks Tone, if I ever need to apologise I will do it personally, but as you say Nige, to whom?
    Here's a thought, we could write an open letter of apology to Rommel for writing off his nice shiny Afrika corps.
    Or the pope for that dastardly Henry the Eighth, seriously denting Romes property portfolio.

  2. The notion that we are all descended from Charles Darwin is a little implausible.