A spokesman for the Anglican Church says it should admit it wronged Charles Darwin, whose theory of evolution is still considered anti-Christian in some circles, even as it's become a cornerstone of science.

"The Church of England owes you an apology for misunderstanding you and, by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand you still," Rev. Malcolm Brown writes on a church Web site marking next year's 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species.

"There is nothing here that contradicts Christian teaching,"  he says, adding that the church's "reaction now seems misjudged."

While the church didn't take an official stance against Darwin, its officials — in a widely publicized 1860 debate — made nasty arguments against his theory that species evolve through natural selection, the church says on its Web site. Today, some fundamentalist Christians argue that evolution can't co-exist with the biblical story of creation — a concept gaining new traction thanks to Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who believes creationism should be taught along with evolution in schools.

Brown's statement, posted yesterday, reflects the church's position on Darwin but isn’t an official apology, the Church of England told the Associated Press. Pope John Paul II said in 1992 that the Catholic Church should say it was sorry for putting Galileo on trial over his assertion that Earth revolves around the sun.

Darwin's great-great grandson, Andrew Darwin, told Britain's Daily Mail on Saturday that he was "bemused" by the apology, which he described as "pointless."

"Why bother?" he told the newspaper. "When an apology is made after 200 years, it’s not so much to right a wrong, but to make the person or organization making the apology feel better."

Updated 5:05 p.m. Sept. 16: The Vatican says Darwin's theories are compatible with the Bible, and doesn't plan any apology like the one a Church of England spokesman suggests the Anglican Church should offer, Reuters and DPA are reporting. "Maybe we should abandon the idea of issuing apologies as if history was a court eternally in session," said Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, the Vatican's culture minister. Darwin's theories, he said, were "never condemned by the Catholic Church nor was his book ever banned," according to Reuters.


(Photo by J. Cameron, 1869, http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~ped/)