Also in Archives of Natural History:
Nils Petter Hellström
Abstract To speak of evolutionary trees and of the Tree of Life has become routine in evolution studies, despite recurrent objections. Because it is not immediately obvious why a tree is suited to represent evolutionary history – woodland trees do not have their buds in the present and their trunks in the past, for a start – the reason why trees make sense to us is historically and culturally, not scientifically, predicated. To account for the Tree of Life, simultaneously genealogical and cosmological, we must explore the particular context in which Darwin declared the natural order to be analogous to a pedigree, and in which he communicated this vision by recourse to a tree. The name he gave his tree reveals part of the story, as before Darwin’s appropriation of it, the Tree of Life grew in Paradise at the heart of God’s creation.