Shrewsbury School

Academic Extension Lecture: ‘Made in the Image of God, or Modified Great Ape?’

Friday 2 March 2018

On Friday 23rd February, Professor Andrew Berry (OS) from Harvard University delivered a fascinating and thought-provoking lecture as part of the Academic Extension series of lectures on ‘Watersheds’. Three Sixth Formers share their thoughts about it.

Betty Chao (G UVI):
I was a bit surprised at first to find out that the lecture by Professor Berry on evolution was to be given in Chapel. I think that’s the first lecture I can remember being delivered there. However, the moment I walked into Chapel in the evening, I immediately got a sense of the message.

In the lecture, Professor Berry talked about Charles Darwin’s and Alfred Wallace's big ideas. We were all amazed to hear that both men independently came up with the “greatest evolution theory” – the theory of the natural selection – at the same time. Professor Berry dug down further, discussing why they had both came up with their theories in the 19th century and where they got evidence from.

He finished his talk with a deep call from his heart: save the earth and all the species on it. We all agreed with him. A lot of interesting questions followed up the lecture and Professor Berry answered all of them in neat and simple ways.

I have learnt about many new things from Professor Berry's lecture. However, there is one area in which I am particularly interested. It is the debate between evolution and religion. Professor Berry talked about people thinking evolution and creationism are mutually exclusive and showed us past and present evidence, like the church in the 19th century discarding Darwin's evolution idea. Nevertheless, he personally thought that people can believe in evolution and God at the same time, and I agree with that; hence his lecture title 'Made in the image of God, or Modified Great Ape?'. In this case, it can be both!

David Wright (SH UVI):
On Friday 23rd February I was lucky enough to be able to listen to Professor Andrew Berry talking on “Made in the Image of God or Modified Great Ape? Biology’s Seismic Idea”. The lecture took place, debatably fittingly, in the Chapel.

Professor Berry proved to be a fantastic speaker with a great deal to say. His style was quite relaxed with very little text on his presentation and no written notes, though he didn’t cut short on material. He was very impressive in how much he knew and when asked questions at the end was able to answer using areas away from his teaching focus, evolutionary biology.

His talk was about the history of the discovery and acceptance of evolution by natural selection, as well as about moments when Science contradicted the Church. He also went on to talk about the potential evolution of humans in the future, which I found very intriguing. He said that, in the potential event a group of humans moved to another planet and were isolated there, that a separate species of human could evolve.

His pitching was also very good, and he gave the talk at a suitable level so that those who knew nothing could understand and those who were more knowledgeable stayed attentive. Overall, I found the talk informative, interesting and delivered with enthusiasm.

Rob Ford (S UVI):
Having the Chapel as the venue for a lecture on evolution was brave and slightly controversial, but Professor Berry spoke on how the ideas had developed to the point we've now reached in the current day. Even though I have been in Darwin’s old school for five years and have even walked in his footsteps in the Galapagos, Professor Berry was able to teach me lots more about him – specifically about his relationship with the Church and how his theory was received among the creationist ideas that were so prevalent at the time. 

Surprisingly, Professor Berry revealed that there are still many ‘anti-evolution’ countries – arguably including the USA, where only 40% of the population believe in the concept of evolution. So overall it was a hugely insightful and enthralling description about this watershed moment in the history of our understanding of the world in which we live.

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