The John Hedley Brooke Lecture

On Tuesday, November 8, 2016, Prof. Emer. of Oxford University John Hedley Brooke delivered the annual lecture dedicated to one of the founders of the National Hellenic Research Foundation, K.Th. Dimaras. The title of the lecture was "Darwinism and the Survival of Religion". The lecture took place at the auditorium of the National Hellenic Research Foundation in Athens, Greece.

During the nineteenth century the meaning and understanding of “nature” was transformed in Europe and North America from a static “creation” to a historical process.  In illustrating this transformation, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection generally receives most attention.  The challenge it posed to a conventional Christian theism has meant that it also features prominently in historical reflections on the making of modernity.  As an agent of secularization, Darwinism has been seen as especially potent. In Richard Dawkins’ words, it was Darwin who first made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.  There are, however, many reasons why a simple “science versus religion” formula does not do justice to the complexities of intellectual debate.  In his lecture John Hedley Brooke examined some of the reasons why religious belief could survive the Darwinian impact.  Among the historical figures he discussed were Asa Gray, Thomas Henry Huxley, William James and Theodosius Dobzhansky.  Two themes received special attention: the role of Russian Orthodoxy in Dobzhansky’s interpretation of evolutionary science, and the survival of ultra-conservative religion in the expansion of “creationism” in Europe. 



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