New articles about Darwin and evolution or related

This first one is not an article, but a dissertation:

The ministry of chance: British Romanticism, Darwinian evolutionary theory & the aleatory

by Burkett, Andrew, Ph.D., Duke University, 2008, 319 pages; AAT 3346753

Abstract The Ministry of Chance proposes that Charles Darwin’s emergent understanding and depiction of organic variation must be seen in direct and significant continuity with Romantic representations of the aleatory – that is, those forms, processes, and phenomena that are understood as governed by the operations of chance. Romantic literature murmurs quietly but continuously about the unexpected, the accidental, and the desultory. Moreover, although the concept of the aleatory has been largely overlooked by Romanticist critique, Romantic-era texts including William Wordsworth’s The Prelude (1799, 1805, 1850) and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Queen Mab (1813), Mont Blanc (1817), and Prometheus Unbound (1820) meditate often on chance and, in so doing, reveal that Romantic literature is not only topically preoccupied with chance but that it is also structurally dependent on the aleatory. The transition from first- to second-generation Romanticism is characterized, I suggest, by a gradual change in the way in which these poets envision causality, and these two historical moments are each the topic of a subsequent chapter of this project. Furthermore, this study aligns Darwin’s conception and representation of evolution with this shift in Romanticism. Driven by complex plots encrypted in minute and variational organic forms, Darwinian evolutionary theory is similarly founded upon chance, both formally and conceptually. In the years leading up to the publication of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, Or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1859), Darwin becomes increasingly fascinated with the aleatory. Moving beyond his analyses of island populations, Darwin begins investigating the role of chance in the dispersion of continental floral populations as examined in his “Botanical Arithmetic” drafts, a set of largely unpublished documents held at the University of Cambridge’s “Charles Darwin Archive.” My project puts this Romantic poetry and Darwinian science into conversation by drawing upon the work of three critical and theoretical fields: Science Studies, the history and philosophy of biology, and Romantic criticism and theory. Such a cross-disciplinary approach to the aleatory in these narratives helps to illuminate the ways that British Romanticism and Darwinian evolutionary theory together “cohabit” a nineteenth- century paradigm change in reconceptions of chance and causality.

From Isis:

Vivisecting Major: A Victorian Gentleman Scientist Defends Animal Experimentation, 1876–1885

Rob Boddice

Abstract Through an investigation of the public, professional, and private life of the Darwinian disciple George John Romanes, this essay seeks a better understanding of the scientific motivations for defending the practice of vivisection at the height of the controversy in late Victorian Britain. Setting aside a historiography that has tended to focus on the arguments of antivivisectionists, it reconstructs the viewpoint of the scientific community through an examination of Romanes’s work to help orchestrate the defense of animal experimentation. By embedding his life in three complicatedly overlapping networks—the world of print, interpersonal communications among an increasingly professionalized body of scientific men, and the intimacies of private life—the essay uses Romanes as a lens with which to focus the physiological apprehension of the antivivisection movement. It is a story of reputation, self‐interest, and affection.

From Museum History Journal:

The Pitt-Rivers Collection from 1850-2011

Alison Petch

Abstract This paper examines the history of one man’s engagement with one of the most dominant intellectual ideas of the second half of the nineteenth century—evolution—and the way this was given physical form in the display of his collections up to 1884. It will also discuss the subsequent changes wrought to his work by his museum descendants at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. The collection does not contain any considerable number of unique specimens, and has been collected during upwards of twenty years, not for the purpose of surprising any one, either by the beauty or value of the objects exhibited, but solely with a view to instruction. For this purpose ordinary and typical specimens, rather than rare objects, have been selected and arranged in sequence, so as to trace, as far as practicable, the succession of ideas by which the minds of men in a primitive condition of culture have progressed from the simple to the complex, and from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous.

From Evolution: Education and Outreach:

Darwin’s Busts and Public Evolutionary Outreach and Education

Sidney Horenstein

Abstract For the 1909 Darwin Centennial, the New York Academy of Sciences gave a large bronze bust of Charles Darwin to the American Museum of Natural History. Created by the well-known sculptor, William Couper, the bust was placed on its tall granite pedestal at the entrance at the newly designated exhibition hall, the Charles Darwin Hall of Invertebrate Zoology. Later that year, the American Museum ordered a bronze copy of the bust and presented it to Christ’s College, in Cambridge, England at the British Darwinian celebration. In 1935, Victor Von Hagen requested a plaster copy of the bust for a monument he was erecting on San Cristóbal in the Galapagos Islands to celebrate Darwin’s arrival in the Galapagos. During 1960, the American Museum of Natural History returned the original bronze bust to the New York Academy of Science, where it is now on display at its headquarters in New York City. To celebrate the Darwin bicentennial, the National Academy of Sciences recreated the bust in a computer-generated copy for display at their Washington, DC headquarters.

From Biology and Philosophy:

Empathy’s purity, sympathy’s complexities; De Waal, Darwin and Adam Smith

Cor Weele

Abstract Frans de Waal’s view that empathy is at the basis of morality directly seems to build on Darwin, who considered sympathy as the crucial instinct. Yet when we look closer, their understanding of the central social instinct differs considerably. De Waal sees our deeply ingrained tendency to sympathize (or rather: empathize) with others as the good side of our morally dualistic nature. For Darwin, sympathizing was not the whole story of the “workings of sympathy“; the (selfish) need to receive sympathy played just as central a role in the complex roads from sympathy to morality. Darwin’s understanding of sympathy stems from Adam Smith, who argued that the presence of morally impure motives should not be a reason for cynicism about morality. I suggest that De Waal’s approach could benefit from a more thorough alignment with the analysis of the workings of sympathy in the work of Darwin and Adam Smith.

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