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Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae

On-line version ISSN 2412-4265
Print version ISSN 1017-0499


HALE, Frederick. The evolution of South African Christian responses to Darwinism after the publication of The descent of man. Studia Hist. Ecc. [online]. 2014, vol.40, n.1, pp.77-94. ISSN 2412-4265.

The impact of Darwinian evolutionary theory has remained an underexplored topic in South African historiography, and the early reactions of South African churchmen to this new current in biological thought have been almost completely neglected. The present article extends the frontier of scholarly knowledge about specifically Christian responses during the decade immediately following the publication of Darwin's The descent of man in 1871. Focussing chiefly on Anglophone denominations, it examines a representative sample of Christian opinion to reveal a diversity of reactions, which in the main were sceptical or staunchly hostile but also included more reserved positions. The latter half of the article brings the issue to a climax by examining how William Porter, the erstwhile attorney-general of the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope who had returned to his native Ireland in 1873 but nevertheless served as the chancellor of the new University of the Cape of Good Hope, and DP. Faure, the founding minister of the Free Protestant Church in Cape Town, had entirely different attitudes towards Darwinism. The article concludes with suggestions for further extending research on the general topic.

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