All these articles are “online first” for what I am assuming is a forthcoming Darwin issue of Comptes Rendus Biologies (I won’t link to every article, just the journal, here):
Jean Gayon, Michel Veuille, “A non-Darwinian Darwin: An introduction”
Michael Ruse, “Cross- and self-fertilization of plants”
This essay considers Charles Darwin’s late work, Cross- and Self-Fertilization of Plants, locating it in the overall context of Darwin’s thought and ideas. It is shown how it is part of a long-term interest in the purpose of sexuality, and how it complements Darwin’s earlier book on the fertilization of orchids. It is concluded, however, that Darwin had no full solution to his problem.
Gregory Radick, “Darwin’s puzzling Expression”
Charles Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872) is a very different kind of work from On the Origin of Species (1859). This “otherness” is most extreme in the character of the explanations that Darwin offers in the Expression. Far from promoting his theory of natural selection, the Expression barely mentions that theory, instead drawing on explanatory principles which recall less Darwinian than Lamarckian and structuralist biological theorizing. Over the years, historians have offered a range of solutions to the puzzle of why the Expression is so “non-Darwinian”. Close examination shows that none of these meets the case. However, recent research on Darwin’s lifelong engagement with the controversies in his day over the unity of the human races makes possible a promising new solution. For Darwin, emotional expression served the cause of defending human unity precisely to the extent that natural selection theory did not apply.
Bernard Thierry, “Darwin as a student of behavior”
In The Expression of the Emotions, Charles Darwin documents evolutionary continuity between animals and humans, emphasizing the universality of expressions in man. Most of the book addresses human behavior, and its influence on the study of animal behavior has been weak. The issue of natural selection is remarkably absent from this book, which relies on the inheritance of acquired characters rather than on a genuine Darwinian logic. Yet Konrad Lorenz considered Darwin to be a forerunner of behavioral biology. The reason was to be found in The Descent of Man and chapter VIII of The Origin of Species, where Darwin provides an explanation of behavior through selection, stating that the same mechanisms explaining morphological changes also account for gradual improvements in instincts. He assessed the accuracy of his evolutionary theory by directly studying animal behavior, hence laying the foundations of behavioral research for the next century.
Claudine Cohen, “Darwin on woman”
In his 1871 book The Descent of Man, Darwin exposed the idea of sexual selection as a major principle of human evolution. His main hypothesis, which was already briefly presented in The Origin of Species, is that there exists, besides “natural selection”, another form of selection, milder in its effect, but no less efficient. This selection is operated by females to mate and reproduce with some partners that are gifted with more qualities than others, and more to their taste. At more evolved stages, sexual selection was exerted by men who became able to choose the women most attractive to their taste. However, Darwin insists, sexual selection in the human species is limited by a certain number of cultural practices. If Darwin’s demonstration sometimes carried the prejudices of his times regarding gender differences he was the first who took into account the importance of sexual choices in his view on evolution, and who insisted on the evolutionary role of women at the dawn of humanity. Thus, he opened the space for a rich reflection, which after him was widely developed and discussed in anthropological and gender studies.
Camilo J. Cela-Conde, Lucrecia Burges, Marcos Nadal, Antonio Olivera, “Altruism and fairness: Unnatural selection?”
Darwin admitted that the evolution of moral phenomena such as altruism and fairness, which are usually in opposition to the maximization of individual reproductive success, was not easily accounted for by natural selection. Later, authors have proposed additional mechanisms, including kin selection, inclusive fitness, and reciprocal altruism. In the present work, we explore the extent to which sexual selection has played a role in the appearance of human moral traits. It has been suggested that because certain moral virtues, including altruism and kindness, are sexually attractive, their evolution could have been shaped by the process of sexual selection. Our review suggests that although it is possible that sexual selection played such a role, it is difficult to determine the extent of its relevance, the specific form of this influence, and its interplay with other evolutionary mechanisms.
Jean-Marc Drouin, Thierry Deroin, “Minute observations and theoretical framework of Darwin’s studies on climbing plants”
The role of movement in plants was unrecognised for a long time, due to the relative slowness of such movements by comparison with those of active animals such as insects and vertebrates, and to the difficulty with which they are distinguished from mere growth processes. Given this, the pioneer work of Darwin (On the Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants 1865) is a milestone in botany. It is always cited as the beginning of any rigorous analysis of plant movement. Such a successful approach results at once from Darwin’s broad knowledge of natural history, his use of numerous direct observations and simple experiments, but also from his own talent, which compensated for technical gaps in several instances. His use of metaphorical descriptions was a response to the lack of a firm theoretical background. It facilitated a preliminary classification of plant movement and a comparison of observations. Perhaps his most fruitful metaphors were those drawn from economic concepts, such as division of labour. Darwin’s legacy in plant physiology is impressive, as even the most recent biophysical interpretations of climbing plants (e.g. tendril perversion) take place inside the framework he constructed.
Gabriel Gohau, “Darwin the geologist: Between Lyell and von Buch”
Upon returning from his voyage on the Beagle, Darwin prepared reports of his geological observations. Together, these reveal Darwin’s approach to reasoning about geology. Darwin argued that successive terraces prove a very gradual elevation of the coast that lagoon islands show a reciprocal sinking of the oceanic floor. Hence, Darwin reinforced Lyell’s uniformitarian, or steady state theory. Unlike lagoon islands, the movement of erratic boulders onto the plains is evidence of forces, which do not now exist. Darwin and Lyell attributed this movement to floating icebergs. However, mountain formation remained difficult for them to explain with reference to contemporary causes. Lyell discovered uplifts in Scandinavia, which resulted from epirogenesis, whereas mountain formation is an orogenesis, which involves both folding and uplift. Darwin was more impressed by uplift than by folds. However, when in Cordillera he saw strata overturned by masses of injected rock, proving successive periods of violence, Darwin took a position, which was closer to the plutonic theories of von Buch and Humboldt than it was to Lyell’s uniformitarian views.
Jean Gayon, “Sexual selection: Another Darwinian process”
Why was sexual selection so important to Darwin? And why was it de-emphasized by almost all of Darwin’s followers until the second half of the 20th century? These two questions shed light on the complexity of the scientific tradition named “Darwinism”. Darwin’s interest in sexual selection was almost as old as his discovery of the principle of natural selection. From the beginning, sexual selection was just another “natural means of selection”, although different from standard “natural selection” in its mechanism. But it took Darwin 30 years to fully develop his theory, from the early notebooks to the 1871 book The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. Although there is a remarkable continuity in his basic ideas about sexual selection, he emphasized increasingly the idea that sexual selection could oppose the action of natural selection and be non adaptive. In time, he also gave more weight to mate choice (especially female choice), giving explicit arguments in favor of psychological notions such as “choice” and “aesthetic sense”. But he also argued that there was no strict demarcation line between natural and sexual selection, a major difficulty of the theory from the beginning. Female choice was the main reason why Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-discoverer of the principle of natural selection, engaged in a major controversy with Darwin about sexual selection. Wallace was suspicious about sexual selection in general, trying to minimize it by all sorts of arguments. And he denied entirely the existence of female choice, because he thought that it was both unnecessary and an anthropomorphic notion. This had something to do with his spiritualist convictions, but also with his conception of natural selection as a sufficient principle for the evolutionary explanation of all biological phenomena (except for the origin of mind). This is why Wallace proposed to redefine Darwinism in a way that excluded Darwin’s principle of sexual selection. The main result of the Darwin–Wallace controversy was that most Darwinian biologists avoided the subject of sexual selection until at least the 1950 s, Ronald Fisher being a major exception. This controversy still deserves attention from modern evolutionary biologists, because the modern approach inherits from both Darwin and Wallace. The modern approach tends to present sexual selection as a special aspect of the theory of natural selection, although it also recognizes the big difficulties resulting from the inevitable interaction between these two natural processes of selection. And contraWallace, it considers mate choice as a major process that deserves a proper evolutionary treatment. The paper’s conclusion explains why sexual selection can be taken as a test case for a proper assessment of “Darwinism” as a scientific tradition. Darwin’s and Wallace’s attitudes towards sexual selection reveal two different interpretations of the principle of natural selection: Wallace’s had an environmentalist conception of natural selection, whereas Darwin was primarily sensitive to the element of competition involved in the intimate mechanism of any natural process of selection. Sexual selection, which can lack adaptive significance, reveals this exemplarily.
Jonathan Hodge, “The Darwin of pangenesis”
The Darwin of pangenesis is very much another Darwin. Pangenesis is Darwin’s comprehensive theory of generation, his theory about all sexual and asexual modes of reproduction and growth. He never explicitly integrated pangenesis with his theory of natural selection. He first formulated pangenesis in the 1840s and integrated it with the physiology, including the cytology, of that era. It was, therefore, not consilient with the newer cytology of the 1860s when he published it in 1868. By reflecting on the role of pangenesis in Darwin’s life and work, we can learn to take a wider view of his most general theorising about animal and plant life.
Jean Deutsch, “Darwin and barnacles”
In this essay, I discuss the origin of Charles Darwin’s interest in cirripedes (barnacles). Indeed, he worked intensively on cirripedes during the years in which he was developing the theory that eventually led to the publication of The Origin of Species. In the light of our present knowledge, I present Darwin’s achievements in the morphology, systematics and biology of these small marine invertebrates, and also his mistakes. I suggest that the word that sheds the most light here ishomology, and that his mistakes were due to following Richard Owen’s method of determining homologies by reference to an ideal archetype. I discuss the ways in which his studies on cirripedes influenced the writing of The Origin.
Michel Veuille, “Darwin and sexual selection: one hundred years of misunderstanding”
Darwin’s book on the Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871) is often viewed as the continuation of The Origin of Species published 12 years earlier (1859), both because of the implicit parallelism between natural selection and sexual selection, and because Darwin himself presents the book as developing a subject (man) which he intentionally omitted in the Origin. But the Descent can also be viewed as the continuation of his book on Variation published three years earlier (1868). Firstly because Darwin’s hypothesis of pangenesis links the selection process to the origin of variation through use and disuse, an idea underlying his speculations on the origin of moral sense in humans. Second because like the action of the horticulturist on his domestic crops, sexual selection exerted by one sex on the other sex can develop fancy traits that are not easily accounted for by their utility to the selected organism itself, such as artistic taste, pride, courage, and the morphological differences between human populations. These traits are difficult to reconcile with pangenesis. They add up to other contradictions of the book possibly resulting from Darwin’s erroneous inference about the mechanism of inheritance, like those on the determination of sex-ratio, or the confusion between individual adaptation and the advantage to the species. These inconsistencies inaugurate a weakening of the Darwinian message, which will last 50 years after his death. They contributed to the neglect of sexual selection for a century. Darwin however maintained a logical distinction between evolutionary mechanisms and hereditary mechanisms, and an epistemological distinction between evolutionary theory and Pangenesis hypothesis. In the modern context of Mendelian genetics, Darwin’s sexual selection retrospectively appears as luminous an idea in its pure principle as natural selection, even though the mechanisms governing the evolution of sexual choice in animals remain largely unresolved.
Armand de Ricqlès, “On Darwin’s palaeontology in The Origin of Species”
I investigate the role of palaeontology within Darwin’s works through an analysis of the two chapters of The Origin of Species most especially devoted to this science. Palaeontology may occupy several places within the structure of the argumentative logic of Darwinism, but these places have remained to some extent ancillary. Indeed, palaeontology could well document evolutionary patterns, showing the actual occurrence of evolution as a general “historical fact”, but it was poorly adapted to demonstrate the main point of Darwinism: the actual evolutionary process: natural selection acting among individuals. I also show, in agreement with Gould, that Darwin had great confidence in the ultimate ability of palaeontology to support his theory, and that in interpreting palaeontological evidence, he expressed a vision of natural selection much wider and more eclectic than that which has generally been ascribed to him.
Thierry Hoquet, “Darwin teleologist? Design in the Orchids”
Focusing on the Orchids, this article aims at disentangling the concepts of teleology, design and natural theology. It refers to several contemporary critics of Darwin (Kölliker, Argyll, Royer, Candolle, Delpino) to challenge Huxley’s interpretation that Darwin’s system was “a deathblow” to teleology. The Orchids seem rather to be a “flank-movement” (Gray): it departs from the Romantic theories of transmutation and the “imaginary examples” of the Origin; it focuses on empirical data and on teleological structures. Although Darwin refers to natural selection, his readers mock him for his fascination for delicate morphological contrivances and co-adaptations – a sign that he was inescapably lured to finality. Some even suggested that his system was a “theodicy”. In the history of Darwinism, the Orchids reveal “another” quite unexpected and heterodox Darwin: freed from the hypothetical fancies of the Origin, and even suggesting a new kind of physico-theology.
Jorge Martínez-Contreras, “Darwin’s apes and ‘savages’”
Since his visit to Tierra del Fuego in the 1830s, Darwin had been fascinated by the “savages” that succeeded in surviving on such a “broken beach”, and because they were certainly similar in behaviour to our ancestors. However, he was also fascinated by baboons’ behaviour, according to Brehm’s accounts: hamadryas baboons showed a strong altruism to the point of risking their own lives in order to save their infants from attack by dogs. In 1871, he mentions he would rather have descended from brave baboons than from “savages”, considered egoistic. We study the two sources of these ideas and try to show how Darwin’s comparative reflections on apes and “savages” made him the first evolutionist anthropologist.