Quaker Responses to Evolution
This chapter examines a variety of answers to the question: How did Quakers respond to Darwin’s theory of evolution? When Quakers were writing for fellow Quakers, the older evangelicals tended to be suspicious of evolution, while many younger Quakers adopted it enthusiastically as part of their engagement with modernism. However, by the time of the Manchester Conference (1895) — which marks the eclipse of evangelicalism and the rise of modernism — a doctrine of progressive revelation became aligned with evolutionary ideas. Turning to Quaker naturalists, while some encompassed evolution as an essential theory for any practising botanist or zoologist, others considered that natural selection needed to be supplemented by some other process, especially in accounting for the development of mind. Despite this diversity, Quakers were generally supportive of Darwin’s theory and were critical of those Christians who rejected the theory on religious grounds.
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