American Catholic Responses to Evolutionary Theories, 1845-75
AIR FORCE INST OF TECH WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB OH
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Historians have often focused exclusively on Orestes Augustus Brownson, the leading Catholic journalist in America from 1845-75, and portrayed his strident anti-evolutionary rhetoric as exemplifying the religiously- motivated extremism of American Catholic responses to evolution. However, American Catholic responses to evolutionary theories reflected a distinctly American context. Brownsons opposition to evolution was motivated more by his political philosophy than by religious concerns. He abhorred individualism and the idea which assumed added significance during the Civil War that governments were self-developing or mutable, and his rejection of evolutionary theories was an extension of this sentiment. The abrupt dismissal of evolution by Clarence Augustus Walworth also reflected an American context. Walworth, a noted Catholic priest and amateur geologist, theorized that saltations, caused by some unspecified internal force or forces, occurred within species, but that species themselves always remained intact. American Catholics were generally illiterate in science, and those few who were literate were predominantly converts from Protestantism such as Walworth. Conservative Catholics such as Brownson also exploited the anti-Catholic rhetoric of scientists such as John William Draper to stifle discourse between the Church and scientists and to strengthen their hold on the Church. Keywords EvolutionBiology Theses Churches Religion.
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