Darwin in Journal of the History of the Neurosciences

The May 2010 issue of the Journal of the History of the Neurosciences was devoted to Darwin:

Charles Darwin and Neuropsychology

The Charles Darwin Anniversary, C. U. M. (Chris) Smith, Pages 83 – 84:

No abstract

The Darwins and Wells: From Revolution to Evolution, Nicholas J. Wade, Pages 85 – 104:

In the biography of his grandfather (Erasmus Darwin), Charles Darwin hinted that his father (Robert Darwin) had received parental assistance in conducting and writing his medical thesis (which concerned afterimages). The experiments also involved visual vertigo, and they were elaborated by the senior Darwin in his Zoonomia, published in 1794. Erasmus Darwin’s interpretation was in terms of trying to pursue peripheral afterimages formed during rotation; it was at variance with one published two years earlier by William Charles Wells, who had investigated the visual consequences of body rotation when the body is subsequently still. Wells penned two retorts to the Darwins’ theory; although they were not accepted by Erasmus, he did devise a human centrifuge, models of which were employed in later studies of vertigo. Wells’s ideas on evolution were expressed in a paper delivered to the Royal Society (in 1813) but not published in its Transactions. Commenting on the case of a white woman, part of whose skin was black, he proposed a process of change that was akin to natural selection. His ideas were acknowledged by Charles Darwin in the fourth edition of On the Origin of Species.

Darwin’s Unsolved Problem: The Place of Consciousness in an Evolutionary World, C. U. M. (Chris) Smith, Pages 105 – 120:

“How does consciousness commence?” When Darwin set about developing his evolution theory on his return from the Beagle circumnavigation in 1836, he quickly realized that one major problem was, precisely, the existence of “mind” in a material world. This paper reviews his early struggles with this problem and pursues it into his later writings, especially the 1872 Expression of Emotions and in the work of his disciple G. J. Romanes. In the 1871 Descent of Man, Darwin admits defeat, writing that “In what manner the mental powers were first developed in the lowest organisms is as hopeless an enquiry as how life itself first originated. These are problems for the distant future” (p. 100). That “distant future” has now arrived and plausible answers to Darwin’s first question have been developed. The bicentennial celebrations provide an opportunity to ask again whether we are any closer to a solution of the second. They also provide an opportunity to emphasize Darwin’s lifelong interest in the relationships between mind, brain, and behavior.

Charles Darwin and the Evolution of Human Grammatical Systems, Hugh W. Buckingham; Sarah S. Christman, Pages 121 – 139:

Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theories of animal communication were deeply embedded in a centuries-old model of association psychology, whose prodromes have most often been traced to the writings of Aristotle. His notions of frequency of occurrence of pairings have been passed down through the centuries and were a major ontological feature in the formation of associative connectivity. He focused on the associations of cause and effect, contiguity of sequential occurrence, and similarity among items. Cause and effect were often reduced to another type of contiguity relation, so that Aristotle is most often evoked as the originator of the associative bondings through similarity and contiguity, contiguity being the most powerful and frequent means of association. Contiguity eventually became the overriding mechanism for serial ordering of mental events in both perception and action. The notions of concatenation throughout the association psychology took the form of “trains” of events, both sensory and motor, in such a way that serial ordering came to be viewed as an item-by-item string of locally contiguous events. Modern developments in the mathematics of serial ordering have advanced in sophistication since the early and middle twentieth century, and new computational methods have allowed us to reevaluate the serial concatenative theories of Darwin and the associationists. These new models of serial order permit a closer comparative scrutiny between human and nonhuman. The present study considers Darwin’s insistence on a “degree” continuity between human and nonhuman animal serial ordering. We will consider a study of starling birdsongs and whether the serial ordering of those songs provides evidence that they have a syntax that at best differs only in degree and not in kind with the computations of human grammatical structures. We will argue that they, in fact, show no such thing.

Darwin’s “Natural Science of Babies” , Marjorie Lorch; Paula Hellal, Pages 140 – 157:

In 1877, the newly founded British journal Mind published two papers on child development. The earlier, by Hippolyte Taine, prompted the second article: an account of his own son’s development by the naturalist Charles Darwin. In its turn, Darwin’s paper, “A Biographical Sketch of an Infant,” influenced others. Diary studies similar to Taine’s and Darwin’s appeared in Mind from 1878. In addition, the medical profession started to consider normal child language acquisition as a comparison for the abnormal. Shortly before his death in 1882, Darwin continued with his theme, setting out a series of proposals for a program of research on child development with suggested methodology and interpretations. Darwin, whose interest in infants and the developing mind predated his 1877 paper by at least 40 years, sought to take the subject out of the nursery and into the scientific domain. The empirical study of the young child’s developing mental faculties was a source of evidence with important implications for his general evolutionary theory. The social status of children in England was the subject of considerable discussion around the time Darwin’s 1877 paper appeared. Evolutionary theory was still relatively new and fiercely debated, and an unprecedented level of interest was shown by the popular press in advance of the publication. This article considers the events surrounding the publication of Darwin’s article in Mind, the notebook of observations on Darwin’s children (1839-1856) that served as its basis, and the research that followed publication of “Biographical Sketch.” We discuss the impact this article, one of the first infant psychology studies in English, made on the scientific community in Britain in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

Charles Darwin’s Emotional Expression “Experiment” and His Contribution to Modern Neuropharmacology, Peter J. Snyder; Rebecca Kaufman; John Harrison; Paul Maruff, Pages 158 – 170:

In the late 1860s and early 1870s, Darwin had corresponded with the French physician and physiologist, G. B. A. Duchenne, regarding Duchenne’s experimental manipulation of human facial expression of emotion, by applying Galvanic electrical stimulation directly to facial muscles. Duchenne had produced a set of over 60 photographic plates to illustrate his view that there are different muscles in the human face that are separately responsible for each individual emotion. Darwin studied this material very carefully and he received permission from Duchenne in 1871 to reproduce several of these images in The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872). Darwin had doubted Duchenne’s view that there were individual muscle groups that mediate the expression of dozens of separable emotions, and he wondered whether there might instead be a fewer set of core emotions that are expressed with great stability worldwide and across cultures. Prompted by his doubts regarding the veracity of Duchenne’s model, Darwin conducted what may have been the first-ever single-blind study of the recognition of human facial expression of emotion. This single experiment was a little-known forerunner for an entire modern field of study with contemporary clinical relevance. Moreover, his specific question about cross-cultural recognition of the cardinal emotions in faces is a topic that is being actively studied (in the twenty-first century) with the hope of developing novel biomarkers to aid the discovery of new therapies for the treatment of schizophrenia, autism, and other neuropsychiatric diseases.

Link 182 (actually, about 40)

Now that I’m back from Texas (sister-in-law’s wedding)…

… let’s see what I’ve missed. Here are some links:

National Fossil Day is tomorrow, October 13th. Check here for events.

For the next edition of The Giant’s Shoulders, get your entries in by October 15th!

Homologous Legs: This Week in Intelligent Design – 12/10/10

Point of Inquiry (podcast): PZ Myers, Jennifer Michael Hecht, and Chris Mooney – New Atheism or Accommodation?

USA Today/Jerry Coyne: Science and religion aren’t friends

Bad Astronomy: Creationists still can’t seem to evolve

Speaking of creationists, Comfort clowns passed out copies of the faux-Origin inn Texas at a Dawkins lecture. They posted some photos online, take a look at this one. The book now has “As seen on CNN” on the cover:

Evangelism at the Richard Dawkins event (The Wortham Center)

Dawkins was on Bill Maher

The Sensuous Curmudgeon: Discovery Institute Targets African Americans & Discovery Institute Demands Accurate Quotes

Sandwalk: The Casey Luskin Lesson Plan on Teaching the Controversy

Please be patient, I am evolving as fast as I can!: Damed by their own words

Carnival of Evolution #28 – Featuring Sandwalk

Playing Chess with Pigeons: The Rush to ignorance tour continues

Laelaps: When Pseudo-Crocs Walked Tall

So Simple a Beginning: 150 years of Darwin, from UCI Libraries

From the Hands of Quacks: Mind & Body: The Philosopher’s Body as a Subject

The beauty of Darwin

Did you know that Noah himself went out to catch birds? From a church in Texas on my trip:

NYT/Natalie Angier: Moonlighting as a Conjurer of Chemicals

Ether Wave Propaganda: Is There a Conflict of Interest between STS and History of Science?

AHA: Richard Dawkins and Neil deGrasse Tyson at Howard University

History of Science Centre’s blog: The Forgotten

Whewell’s Ghost/Evolving Thoughts: The historical way to do science

Whewell’s Ghost (@beckyfh): Yes, histories of science are worth reading! & David Willetts and the history of science

@beckyfh: Chronometer from HMS Beagle (91st object in British Museum’s History of the World in 100 Objects) info/podcast

PACHSmörgåsbord: Popular History of Science for the American G.I.

The Species Seekers: This is the Great Age of Discovery

Bozeman Daily Chronicle: Great minds gloomy about humans’ future

American Scientist: The 95% Solution (about informal science education). Also, from Physics Today: The evolution of the science museum

Why Evolution Is True: The Hall of Human Origins at the National Museum of Natural History (more about the funder of this exhibit and religion and other thoughts here, here, here, and here. PZ chimes in here and here.)

Periodic Tabloid: Making Connections: “The Big Picture” and the History of Science

Charlie’s Playhouse: Does Steven Pinker have kids? He should. & New podcast with Kate at Parenting Within Reason!

Quodlibeta: Doubting Darwin’s Doubt

Times Archive Blog (from 2009): Did Charles Darwin stick pins into babies?

Chicago Darwin conference videos…

… have been made available here. The following are history and philosophy-specific, video links at the aforementioned link.

Ronald Numbers (University of Wisconsin): Anti-Evolutionism in America: Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design

Pietro Corsi (Oxford): Is History Useful to Darwin Studies? Reflections at the End of a Year of Celebrations

Janet Browne (Harvard): Looking at Darwin: Making a Celebrity through Portaits and Images

Robert J. Richards (University of Chicago): Darwin’s Biology of Intelligent Design

John Hedley Brooke (Oxford): ‘God knows what the public will think’: Darwin and the Religious Response to the Origin of Species

Daniel Dennett (Tufts University): Darwin’s ‘Strange Inversion of Reasoning’: Confronting the Counterintuitive

Philip Kitcher (Columbia University): The Importance of Darwin for Philosophy

Elliott Sober (University of Wisconsin): Did Darwin Write the Origin Backwards?

Lynn Nyhart (University of Wisconsin): Geographic Isolation from Wagner to Mayr

Richard Burkhardt (University of Illinois): Animal Behavior in Evolutionary Perspective: Two Centuries of Inquiry

Jane Maienschein (Arizona State University): Embryos and Evolution: A History of Courting and Separation

Michael Ruse (Florida State University): Is Darwinism Past Its ‘Sell-by’ Date? The Challenge of Evo-Devo

“Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp”


For any Darwin stamp collectors out there:

The May-June issue of Topical Time, a philatelic (stamp) magazine, has a great article by Barry N. Floyd titled, “Charles Darwin: the great naturalist.”  There have been (apparently) 140 stamps honoring Darwin, his work, or his travels, and for those you who are stamp-collecting evolution fans, the American Topical Association has produced a checklist for you (you have to join first…then they’ll send you the list). I don’t have access to the checklist, but I can’t seem to find any Darwin stamps released by the United States.  (I know, I know — you are shocked.)  One might argue that the United States wouldn’t bother to issue a stamp honoring somebody who never even came to the country…but that didn’t stop  North Korea (see stamp block below), Democratic Republic of Congo, and many others.

Anyone a member of ATA and have access to the article and checklist?

Also, see here.

Chicago Darwin videos

Videos of some talks from the University of Chicago’s Darwin celebration have been put online:

Jerry Coyne (University of Chicago): “Speciation: Problems and Prospects”

Paul Sereno (University of Chicago): “Dinosaurs: Phylogenetic Reconstruction from Darwin to the Present”

David Jablonski (University of Chicago): “Paleontology and Evolutionary Biology: The Revitalized Partnership”

Neil Shubin (University of Chicago): “Great Transformations in Life: Insights from Genes & Fossils”

Robert J. Richards (University of Chicago): “Darwin’s Biology of Intelligent Design”

Via Why Evolution Is True.

Exhibit Review for “Darwin the Geologist” (Cambridge, UK)

Darwin the Geologist, Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge

Darwin the Geologist

Last summer, when I was viewing an exhibit about Darwin and geology at the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences in Cambridge, England, I did not think I would be reviewing it for the Journal of the History of Biology. But I have, and it is now up online:

Exhibit Review: Darwin the Geologist, The Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England. Opened July 2009, Permanent. Curator: Francis Neary. Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Opened in 1904 in memory of the geologist Adam Sedgwick, and containing the collections Sedgwick and John Woodward had previously accumulated, the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences houses a vast collection of geological and paleontological specimens, including some collected by Darwin himself during the voyage of the HMS Beagle. The Sedgwick acts as a fitting locale, then, for an exhibit exploring Darwin and his geological work. Darwin the Geologist, a permanent exhibit opened in July 2009 to coincide with Cambridge’s Darwin anniversary celebrations, evolved from a temporary exhibit at the museum that had been titled Charles Darwin – Becoming a Geologist and had been on display from September 2008 to June 2009.

Darwin the Geologist tells the story of Darwin’s career as a geologist, displaying not only some of the 1,500 of Darwin’s actual specimens that the Sedgwick holds, but also books, geological tools, maps, and even a pistol carried by Darwin on the Beagle. The exhibit is an exploration of the development of Darwin’s ideas about the Earth and how they related to the development of his theory of evolution by natural selection. Darwin is more commonly labeled as a naturalist, or biologist, because of his work on evolution, but as Sandra Herbert has convincingly shown in Charles Darwin, Geologist (Cornell University Press, 2005), he was a self-proclaimed geologist and pursued his interests in geology in many ways from the Beagle voyage (1831–1836) leading up to the publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859. Geology, as an exhibit label attests, dominated Darwin’s early scientific career, and his ‘‘reputation as a scientist was built on his training as a geologist.’’

Situated among the beautiful and tall glass and wooden display cases, Darwin the Geologist fills one end of the museum’s two-winged gallery, replacing what used to be displays about the Holocene epoch. The exhibit displays are organized chronologically, beginning with Darwin’s childhood fascination with collecting and into his education at Edinburgh, where Darwin was introduced to geology, and Cambridge, where Darwin met John Stevens Henslow and gained collecting and field-work experience on a geological field excursion to Wales with Adam Sedgwick. More displays are devoted to the Beagle voyage, as this afforded Darwin more opportunities to practice geology and to think about the forces that created the landscapes he visited. We learn about a raised coastline at Sa˜o Tiago in the Cape Verde Islands and the numerous fossils Darwin discovered, including the famous Megatherium; of the geology of the Andes and the formation of igneous rocks at the Galapagos Islands; and the growth of coral reefs in the Pacific. We learn about Syms Covington, Darwin’s assistant during and after the voyage, and the many specialists to whom Darwin farmed out his geological specimens for identification: William Miller for minerals, Robert Brown for fossil plants, Alcide D’Orbigny for fossil shells, Richard Owen for fossil mammals, and William Clift for the fossil teeth of Megatherium. We are shown how Darwin became a member and later secretary of the Geological Society of London as a result of his geological work on the Beagle.

A label reflecting on Archibald Geikie’s centenary celebration lecture in Cambridge (1909) [Charles Darwin as Geologist: The Rede Lecture, Given at the Darwin Centennial Commemoration on 24 June 1909 (Cambridge Library Collection – Life Sciences)] about Darwin’s geology—‘‘Since 1909 Darwin’s theory of evolution has played an increasingly important role in our understanding of life on Earth, while his geological theories have been largely forgotten’’—segues between Darwin’s own life and work and labels showing how more recent scientists have used Darwin’s collections and ideas in their geological work. For example, geologist Lyall Anderson studies rocks from the Beagle collection to consider Darwin’s collecting practices. Darwin received some specimens as gifts from other geologists, such as Andrew Smith. Through studying the rocks themselves, Anderson has been able to conclude that Darwin included in his collection specimens he did not collect himself. Similar research by Sally Gibson has helped to understand Darwin’s geological route on the island of Santiago in the Galapagos. While the Beagle collection is of importance to scientists, the specimens can help to answer questions important to historians of science as well. Darwin the Geologist stresses this point. Anderson is quoted in a label: ‘‘From a personal point of view I think my biggest surprise was that Darwin didn’t collect everything himself. Maybe that’s a misconception that the Darwin Industry has kept running.’’ While Darwin is surely an important figure, lesser-known figures in the work brought Darwin his scientific fame.

Smaller displays between the larger glass cases emphasize other aspects of Darwin’s geology. From the influences of Alexander von Humboldt and Charles Lyell to the letter of introduction inviting Darwin to join the Beagle, these displays flesh out the story and provide contextual information. Several consider various practices associated with geology, such as how to collect appropriate specimens, the use of field notebooks, and the analysis and interpretation of specimens, and how this work for Darwin resulted in various publications. Some of the smaller displays discuss Darwin’s ‘‘scientific failure’’ in theorizing how the Parallel Roads of Glen Roy in Scotland were formed, how geology figured into On the Origin of Species, and how Darwin continued to study geological topics after the publication of Origin, most notably with earthworms and the formation of soil, the subject of his last book. Also included in the exhibit are a recreation of Darwin’s cabin on the Beagle and an interactive globe showing the places where Darwin collected particular specimens. A touchscreen allows visitors to go behind the scenes of the exhibit, which is essentially a collection of the posts from the blog that accompanies Darwin the Geologist and is accessible at http://darwinthegeologist.org/.

The exhibit does a fine job of placing Darwin’s work in the context of geological questions at the time. It does not address the ‘‘Genesis and geology’’ dispute in the nineteenth century beyond one label stating that ‘‘Heated debate and controversy over science and religion captured the public imagination,’’ nor is there a label stressing the importance of correspondence to scientific practice. These minor quibbles aside, Darwin the Geologist offers a wealth of interesting material in both the objects on display and the accompanying labels, and it does it in a rather small space. It is a well-organized exhibit, and includes a wonderful artistic tribute to Darwin. While a life-size bronze of a young Darwin, by Cambridge alum and zoologist-turned-artist Anthony Smith, now adorns a garden in Christ’s College at Cambridge, a bronze bust also by Smith oversees Darwin the Geologist as if to suggest that Darwin himself is either the epitome of humankind (for Darwin is situated at the most recent end of the geological and paleontological timescale that is the Sedgwick Museum) or a typical specimen of humankind. The former runs the risk of claims of hagiography. The latter is more likely, as the exhibit suggests that scientific discovery follows from curiosity, and Darwin the Geologist surely expresses throughout to its visitors the act of scientific discovery. If nothing else, the statues help to emphasize that for much of the work that made Darwin a reputable scientist, he was an energetic young man eager to explore the world around him, not always the long-bearded sage of Downe.

Michael D. Barton
Montana State University

The photos I took of the exhibit can be seen here.

BOOK: Darwin (Darwin College Lectures)

Darwin (Darwin College Lectures)

Darwin (Darwin College Lectures)

In 2009, Darwin College at the University of Cambridge held a lecture series on Darwin. The lectures are accessible online (why so many ways to find these lectures?). The eight lectures are now available as a book in Darwin (Darwin College Lectures):

Charles Darwin can easily be considered one of the most influential scholars of his time. His thoughts, ideas, research and writings have had a far reaching impact and influence on modern thought in the arts, on society, and in science. With contributions from leading scholars, this collection of essays explores how Darwin’s work grew out of the ideas of his time, and how its influence spread to contemporary thinking about creationism, the limits of human evolution and the diversification of living species and their conservation. A full account of the legacy of Darwin in contemporary scholarship and thought. With contributions from Janet Browne, Jim Secord, Rebecca Stott, Paul Seabright, Steve Jones, Sean Carroll, Craig Moritz and John Dupré. This book derives from a highly successful series of public lectures, revised and illustrated for publication under the editorship of Professor William Brown and Professor Andrew Fabian of the University of Cambridge.

A multi-disciplinary overview of the influence of the legacy of Charles Darwin, with contributions from the history of science, economics, philosophy and English literature as well as the biological sciences, appealing to a number of interests • Contributors are internationally-famed leading authorities from their fields, providing the most current research findings • The authors write for the general reader from the standpoint of the leading researcher, making it thoroughly accessible to the non-specialist reader


1. Darwin’s intellectual development: biography, history, and commemoration, Janet Browne
2. Global Darwin, James A. Secord
3. Darwin in the literary world, Rebecca Stott
4. Darwin and human society, Paul Seabright
5. The evolution of utopia, Steve Jones
6. The making of the fittest: the DNA record of evolution, Sean B. Carroll
7. Evolutionary biogeography and conservation on a rapidly changing planet: building on Darwin’s vision, Craig Moritz and Ana Carolina Carnaval
8. Postgenomic Darwinism, John Dupré

This will be published in August.

Darwin College, University of Cambridge

Darwin College, University of Cambridge

Journal: Darwin issue of ‘Comptes Rendus Biologies’

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.

ARTICLE: Darwin and Lincoln: Their Legacy of Human Dignity

In Perspectives in Biology and Medicine (Vol. 53, No. 1, Winter 2010, pp. 3-13):

Darwin and Lincoln: Their Legacy of Human Dignity

Felton Earls

Abstract The legacy of Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln is to champion the dignity inherent in every human being. The moment of the bicentennial of their births provides an opportunity to celebrate and reflect on ways they have shaped our understanding and commitment to human rights. The naturalist and the constitutional lawyer, so different in circumstance and discipline, were morally allied in the mission to eradicate slavery. The profound lessons to be extracted from the lives of these two icons bind us to the agonizing reality that nearly 150 years after Gettysburg and the publication of the Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, there remains much work to do toward advancing the security, respect, and equality of our species. This article describes how Darwin and Lincoln’s inspiring legacies guided the author’s personal choices as a scientist and activist. The essay concludes with a set of questions and challenges that confront us, foremost among which is the need to balance actions in response to the violation of negative rights by actions in the pursuit of positive rights.

Also in the same issue, a review of Darwin’s Sacred Cause by Jane Maienschein.

Happy Darwin Day 2010

Although the 2009 celebrations have come to an end, we still get to honor our friend Charles Robert Darwin every year on February 12th. Today is Darwin 200 +1. Hope you have fun, especially if you have any events to attend where you live. I don’t… so, when Patrick comes home from preschool today, we’ve got an evolution timeline playmat to pull out and some Galapagos animal figurines to play with! He knows very much that we are animals just like any other!

Natural History Museum, London

If you haven’t signed the Darwin Day petition, go here. And this one, too, since I have been noticed, too, at Uncommon Descent.

CBC’s “The Evolution of Charles Darwin”

CBC's The Evolution of Charles Darwin

CBC's The Evolution of Charles Darwin

Back on November 11, 2009, I mentioned this:

“The Evolution of Charles Darwin,” a 4-part series on CBC Radio One: “Ideas pays tribute to Charles Darwin and celebrates the 150th anniversary of the publication of his transformational and contentious book, On the Origin of Species. Darwin’s theory of evolution through Natural Selection completely changed how we think about the world. In this 4-part series, Seth Feldmanguides us through the life and ideas of Charles Darwin, a creative genius. The series is produced by Sara Wolch.” Via Adrian.

There is now a CD version of the series, with a video preview:

– Part 1, The Prepared Mind:
From Darwin’s early years to his voyage of discovery on H.M.S. Beagle.

– Part 2, From The Beagle to the Book:
Darwin thinks his way to ‘The Origin of Species’.

– Part 3, Primates vs Primates:
What ‘The Origin of Species’ said, and what was said about it.

– Part 4, Darwin’s Enduring Legacy:
Why science and society today are still wrestling with Darwin’s big idea.

The CD set can be had here.

The Discovery Institute needs a dictionary

On February 7, I posted about my reshelving intelligent design and anti-Darwin books from the science section to the religious section of a local bookstore here in Butte, Montana. I’ve done it before, but this is nothing new – as I pointed out, there is a blog devoted specifically to doing just this, Biologists Helping Bookstores. But my post, just days before Darwin Day, got the attention of John West, a Senior Fellow of the intelligent design think tank Discovery Institute and whose book Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science is, well, a diatribe that:

tells the disturbing story of scientific expertise run amuck, exposing how an ideological interpretation of Darwinian biology and reductionist science have been used to degrade American culture over the past century through their impact on criminal justice, welfare, business, education, and bioethics.

See these links (1, 2, 3, and 4) for take downs of West’s claim that essentially Darwin was responsible for eugenics in the twentieth century. West posted on the Discovery Institute’s blog Evolution News & Views about my actions in “Vandalizing Bookstores and Censoring in the Name of Darwin” (February 10):

Just in time for Academic Freedom Day, Feb. 12 (aka Darwin Day), graduate student Michael Barton at Montana State University boasts of regularly going into his local bookstore and purging books critical of Darwin from the science section of the store and reshelving them in the religion section. This past Sunday Barton posted a report about his most recent act of vandalism:

Today I moved [Michael Behe’s] The Edge of Evolution and [Benjamin Wiker’s] The Darwin Myth away from the shelve directly under where copies of Dawkins’s The Greatest Show on Earth were, and placed them next to–I just had to–the Adventure Bible and the Princess Bible in the religion section.

Whatever Barton claims, his actions constitute censorship, pure and simple. Barton is trying to hide books he doesn’t like in order to prevent others from being exposed to views with which he disagrees. Indeed, he is apparently so insecure about the ability of Darwinists like Dawkins to make their case that he thinks he has the duty to vandalize private bookstores in order to keep the books of Darwin’s critics away from the public. Barton’s activities are not only juvenile, they may well be illegal.

Censors like Barton aren’t doing Darwinian evolution any favors. They merely prove to the public just how bigoted and intolerant the Darwinist establishment has become. Much like certain global warming fanatics, Darwinist ideologues increasingly place themselves above the law and try to exempt themselves of any sort of real accountability.

Ironically, Darwin himself was a lot more fair-minded than his latter-day defenders. Writing at the beginning of On the Origin of Species, Darwin acknowledged that “a fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.”

First, note that their blog allows no commenting on its posts. Hmm…

There are several things I would like to say about West’s remarks, which have given my post the most comments any post on The Dispersal of Darwin has received.

West is right that I am a graduate student. And he is right that I am at Montana State University. Yes, I did move books to a section I felt they more properly belonged. My post about it may very well be boasting, but I feel it acts more as bringing something to the attention of my readers – that bookstore owners and employees unknowingly shelve unscientific books in the science section. This stems from the books themselves appearing to be scientific, and in many cases the Library of Congress cataloging of the book placing it in science subjects rather than religion or religion and science subjects. See this post on Biologists Helping Bookstores about the LOC and a petition from PSU:

As scientists, we feel strongly that categorizing Intelligent Design (“ID”) as science is both inappropriate and misleading. Local bookstores and libraries unintentionally exacerbate this misleading categorization when they shelve ID books and legitimate science texts in the same section . Our goal is to convince the U.S. Library of Congress to re-classify ID books into sections other than the science section.

So, this idea of reshelving books and finding ways to get intelligent design books re-cataloged is not new. So, why the uproar from the Discovery Institute about my actions? Simply, five days before Darwin Day 2010. And five days before their anti-Darwin Day propoganda initiative: Academic Freedom Day.

West then goes on to claim my actions as my “most recent act of vandalism.” To my Oxford American Desk Dictionary and Thesaurus! Vandalism, from:

vandal n. person who willfully or maliciously damages property, see DAMAGE, MUTILATE

Did I commit acts of vandalism? Did I destroy, damage, or mulilate copies of The Edge of Evolution or The Darwin Myth. No. Not at all. In no way, shape, or form.

West next states after quoting from my post that “Whatever Barton claims, his actions constitute censorship, pure and simple.” Again, to the dictionary! Censorship, from:

censor n. person who examines printed matter, movies, news, etc., to suppress any parts on the grounds of obscenity, security, etc.

suppress v.tr. 1 put an end to, esp. forcibly. 2 prevent from being done, seen, heard, or known.

Did I commit acts of censorship? Did I remove the books from the store, throw them in the dumpster out back, hide them behind books in the travel section? No. The books remain in the store, and accessible to book buyers. I even posted a picture of where I put the books, far from “Barton is trying to hide books.”

Mr. West, may I suggest you invest in a dictionary?

He continues: “[Barton] thinks he has the duty to vandalize private bookstores in order to keep the books of Darwin’s critics away from the public.” Again, what definition of vandalize are you using?

“Barton’s activities are not only juvenile, they may well be illegal.” My actions may very well be juvenile – I’ll leave that to each to decide – but illegal? To whom? Bookstore police?

Mr. West, you have seriously exaggerated my actions – as vandalism, censorship, and as being illegal (as The Sensuous Curmudgeon rightly notes).

There’s more, unfortunately. West closes his post:

Ironically, Darwin himself was a lot more fair-minded than his latter-day defenders. Writing at the beginning of On the Origin of Species, Darwin acknowledged that “a fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.”

Oh, dear. An intelligent design proponent and critic of Darwin has quoted Darwin to support his ends. Where do I start? Wait, I already did! Here, on this very blog, just one week before West’s rant on Evolution News & Views, in “Creation Science Conference in Bozeman.” I repeat:

It’s a quote from Charles Darwin. Nothing to worry about here. Wait, hasn’t that quote been taken out of context before by, um, the intelligent design think tank Discovery Institute, to promote their anti-Darwin Day campaign, Academic Freedom Day. See here:

Fresh on the heels of Darwin Year, Discovery Institute announces the launch of the 2nd Annual Academic Freedom Day in honor of Charles Darwin’s birthday, February 12, 2010. Yes, it’s that time of year again, and Discovery Institute is gearing up for the celebration by supporting what Darwin supported: academic freedom. Academic Freedom Day couldn’t come at a better time, as academic freedom is threatened around the country. We have seen Darwinists launch cyber attacks on a pro-ID conference website in Colorado and engage in an illegal coverup in the censorship of a pro-ID film in California. It’s time like these when Darwin’s own words should instruct everyone on how to have an open and honest debate over evolution and intelligent design. In On the Origin of Species, Darwin wrote, “A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.” This quote is the cornerstone of the Institute’s Academic Freedom Day efforts. [emphasis mine]

Fair enough, except that the Discovery Institute is not being fair to Darwin, at all.

John Pieret and John Lynch both note how the DI uses this quote elsewhere. Here is the quote as the DI and MORE use it:

A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.

It does indeed come from the introduction of the first edition (1859) of On the Origin of Species, and here it is in context:

This Abstract, which I now publish, must necessarily be imperfect. I cannot here give references and authorities for my several statements; and I must trust to the reader reposing some confidence in my accuracy. No doubt errors will have crept in, though I hope I have always been cautious in trusting to good authorities alone. I can here give only the general conclusions at which I have arrived, with a few facts in illustration, but which, I hope, in most cases will suffice. No one can feel more sensible than I do of the necessity of hereafter publishing in detail all the facts, with references, on which my conclusions have been grounded; and I hope in a future work to do this. For I am well aware that scarcely a single point is discussed in this volume on which facts cannot be adduced, often apparently leading to conclusions directly opposite to those at which I have arrived. A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question; and this cannot possibly be here done.

Darwin is stating that in the book you are now reading – Origin – he cannot properly offer all the facts he has in support of evolution. He originally planned to publish a much longer book titled Natural Selection (which was later published in 1975) but was hurried into publication when he found out Alfred Russel Wallace had come up with the same theory of natural selection. Darwin is not, as the DI claims, saying that all sides are equal concerning debate over evolution. Once again, creationists resort to the tactic of quotemining Darwin or his supporters to their benefit (see here and here).

Time and time again, Mr. West, the DI’s misquoting of Darwin is pointed out. Why do you insist on continuing to misrepresent Darwin’s intentions in his writings?


As for all the comments on my post, I have been bombarded by antievolutionists while several FCDs (@kejames/site, @naontiotami/blog, and @summerwino/blog) have come to my defense in the posts and on Twitter. I am really enjoying my exploded inbox, it’s not something I am used to here at The Dispersal of Darwin. Some highlights:

The first comment on the post (before the DI got to it) was: “This is the way the theory of Evolution has successfully conquered the classroom. Tag one interpretation of the data as ‘Religion,’ and your own interpretation as ‘Science,’ and you can keep a real quest for learning from happening.” Who is it that is tagging one side as religion? See here.

Another: “I hope they realize who you are and ban you from their store.” Oh, no!

Mr. West, did you see this comment from Joe G? “Ummm INtelligent Design is not anti-evolution. But anyway I have been doing something similar for years-  I have been taking books by Dawkins, Carroll, Mayr, Darwin, Gould, Eldridge, et al., and placing them in the children’s fiction section.  I also have some nice pictures.  Oh BTW I do the same at local libraries.  Now I will step-up my practice- of to a Barnes and Nobel today…” I surely hope you will call out Joe G. for his illegal acts of vandalism and censorship.

“but a criticism that is actually based on the content of the book.” We all know that antievolutionist reviewers of Darwin/evolution books on Amazon actually read the books… right?

How can you even respond to this: “As such, the almost religious devotion of Darwinists to his dogma, even in the face of clear refuting evidence, makes perfect sense. If you can use the Darwinian mechanism to produce a unicorn from a horse, then I’ll admit it’s science. After all, horned animals frequently appear in the fossil record.”

From summerwino: “I think you need to read more about evolutionary theory. There is a good children’s book out by Daniel Loxton that may be able to help you.” Too good.

From a Matt: “So, a scientist who moves books around in a bookstore is a bad person, but creationists who ban and censor books from public libraries and public schools are good people and going to heaven? The logical disconnect there goes a long way to explain why certain people believe in “intelligent design” and spend their lives trying to redefine the definition of science.”

“I think Michael said he hid it in the Religion section. But seriously, a lot of evidence does get hidden there. I went to the Library to check out a book on Design for a friend. I knew they had one because I donated it. We finally found it hidden in the Religion section.” If you found the book, it’s not hidden. Since you went to the religion section, you obviously recognized a likely place for the book to be. Hmm…

Rick: “My suggestion to the author is to find a more constructive means of getting his point across.” Now that’s a valid point. Go sign this.

Daryl: “Talk to me when you can show me any evidence for evolution.  Science?! Yeah, whatever.”

Ken: “To be engaging in vandalism and then to blog this without remorse is just astounding to me, and I pity this blogger…” Pity me all you want, Ken, but tell me, where is the vandalism?

And the best and most relevant, thought-provoking comment yet: “Sorry, but militant Darwinists just keep getting gayer and gayer.” I am quite happy, thank you.


The ENV post was also picked up by Christian Web News (why is a Christian website concerned with intelligent design?) and Faithandthelaw’s blog, while the Censorship Research Center (@CRCNEWS) twittered it.

Presidential Recognition for Darwin Day?

Darwin Day 2010

There’s a campaign/petition afoot from the American Humanist Association to get President Obama to officially declare February 12th as Darwin Day. The AHA is the official organization in charge of Darwin Day. The petition:

As an American who values scientific inquiry and integrity, I urge you to issue a presidential proclamation recognizing Darwin Day on February 12. Darwin Day is celebrated every year on the anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birthday in 1809, and is a day in which people gather together to commemorate his life and work. Charles Darwin was the first to propose the groundbreaking scientific theory of evolution by natural selection—a theory that has done more to unify and bring understanding to the life sciences than any other—and Darwin Day is a celebration of this discovery and of scientific progress.

I believe that issuing this proclamation will send a powerful message that scientific discovery and integrity in our society are top priorities—priorities that are needed now more than ever as extremists with narrow ideological agendas are attempting to undermine science in our schools.

Please stand with me and countless others who value science and discovery by issuing the following or a similar proclamation on Darwin Day.

A Proclamation

Charles Darwin was the first to propose the scientific theory of evolution by natural selection. On Darwin Day, celebrated on the anniversary of Darwin’s birth on February 12, 1809, we celebrate the life and discoveries of Charles Darwin and express gratitude for the enormous benefits that scientific knowledge, acquired through human curiosity and ingenuity, has contributed to the advancement of humanity.

It is sobering to imagine where the human race would be today without advances in science. Science has helped us to live longer by enabling us to find cures for diseases and alleviating pain and suffering. It has allowed us to travel before unimaginable distances, to interact with and understand people of other cultures and recognize what makes us similar as well as what makes us unique. It has allowed us to understand and maneuver in our world and has provided us insight into the complexities of life.

Charles Darwin recognized the importance and power of scientific discovery, and perhaps no one has influenced our understanding about life on earth as much as he. Darwin was an English naturalist, who on his legendary five-year voyage on the HMS Beagle made important observations about the geological and zoological diversity of the lands he visited, which helped spark his theory of evolution by natural selection. Most of what we understand about the diversity of life and the process by which it has adapted and changed has come from his profound insights, and his contribution to the canons of science cannot be overstated.

On this anniversary of Darwin’s birthday, it is important to recognize the contributions he has made to the advancement of science. It is also important that we continue to educate future generations about evolution by natural selection in our science classrooms. We must not water down the significance of Darwin’s theory, nor the breadth of evidence supporting it, and we must at every turn challenge efforts to undermine science so that we can keep alive in our children and grandchildren the wonder of discovery and the eagerness to obtain knowledge.

Now, Therefore, I, Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim February 12, 2010, as Darwin Day. I call on all Americans to recognize the importance of Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution by natural selection, to endeavor to preserve scientific discovery and human curiosity as bedrocks of American society, and to commemorate this day with appropriate events and activities. In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this twelfth day of February, two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.

I signed it. The petition has almost 3,000 signatures, but needs more. Click here to sign it, follow the American Humanist Association (@americnhumanist) on Twitter and retweet their tweets about the petition, and join their Facebook group and spread the petition there as well (and attend the event, too). And it probably wouldn’t hurt to mention it on your blog!

Darwin/evolution video miscellany

So what if Darwin was a racist? (The Atheist Experience):

Lincoln and Darwin (with Sandra Herbert):

Darwin FormfromForm (Univ. of Cincinnati’s Darwin-inspired art exhibit):

Darwinian Grandeur: A Biologist’s Journey Through Evolution’s Tangled Bank (lecture with Kenneth Miller):

Darwinian Grandeur: A Biologist’s Journey Through Evolution’s Tangled Bank (Q&A with Kenneth Miller):

“beagle” (Composed and performed in the Spring of 2009 for the bicentennial of Charles Darwin):

Darwin’s Edinburgh and An Entangled Bank (exhibits):

Pakistani coverage of Darwin Now’s conference “Darwin’s Living Legacy” in Alexandria

Darwin Now

From the British Council/Darwin Now:

In partnership with the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the British Council will host a three-day international conference on evolution and society in Alexandria, Egypt, in November 2009. It will cover wide-ranging topics, from the latest developments in evolutionary science to the relationship between faith, science and society.

I found two videos of Pakistani coverage of the “Darwin’s Living Legacy” conference:

NCSE‘s Josh Rosenau attended the conference. He has some photos and thoughts on his blog, Thoughts from Kansas.

VIDEOS: “Why Darwin Still Matters” at Pepperdine University

On November 20-21, 2009, Pepperdine University hosted the conference “Why Darwin Still Matters.” Below are the various talks:

Ronald Numbers

Michael Ruse

Edward J. Larson

First Roundtable Discussion

Nancey Murphy

David Mindell

Eugenie Scott

Patricia Gowaty

Second Roundtable Discussion

Some other Darwin stamps & a coin

Two thoughts:

1. It’s nice to see a younger Darwin on the stamps.

2. It’s a shame that the USPS didn’t produce a Darwin stamp!

Stamps from the Falkland Islands (more info here):

Falkland Islands (click to see larger)

Stamps from Ascension Island (more info here):

Darwin  - Mint Set

Ascension Island (click to see larger)

Coin from the Falkland Islands (more info here):

Falkland Islands

Darwin’s Westminster life showcased in new display

Darwin in London

Darwin in London

From the HIST-NAT-HIST listserve:

Darwin’s Westminster life showcased in new display

Press Release Source: The Linnean Society of London

Published: 25th November 2009

As a year of activities and events celebrating the 200th Anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin nears completion, visitors to his final resting place – Westminster Abbey, have had the opportunity to find out more about his life and work through a new display.  Compiled as part of the “Charles Darwin, A Genius in the Heart of London” project, co-ordinated by the Linnean Society of London and Westminster Archives and generously funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the display focuses on Darwin’s life in Westminster both as a member of a number of Learned Societies and as a resident.  “Darwin was a member of many Learned Societies in Westminster” said Camilla Bergman, Project Officer.  The Geological Society of London, the Linnean Society of London, the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), the Royal Society and the Zoological Society of London have all contributed to this display which features many different aspects of Darwin’s work”.

The display also features artwork and textiles created by young people from Westminster Schools highlighting important elements of Darwin’s life, particularly his Voyage on the Beagle and has created a lot of interest from visitors to Westminster Abbey.  ”We think the exhibition in the Abbey is excellent and lots of people are looking at it” said Canon Jane Hedges.  .  The display will remain at Westminster Abbey until 27th November before moving to Westminster Archives, the Royal Society and The Linnean Society of London.  For details of dates and viewing times please visit the Charles Darwin: A Genius in the Heart of London project website http://www.darwininlondon.co.uk/index/exhibition-dates/

Darwin200 Final Newsletter

Darwin200 sent out occasional newsletters during the anniversary celebrations this year. I suggested to Bob Bloomfield that one newsletter should inform newsletter readers of the variety of blogs that shared or discussed Darwin anniversary events and gave him a bunch of links. The program’s final newsletter was sent out yesterday and included a list of blogs:

Here are just a few of the blogs that have commented on activity during Darwin year and touch on some of the variety that has been achieved:

Two Darwin/evolution issues of ‘Science & Education’

The journal Science & Education is devoting two 2010 issues to “Darwin and Darwinism: Historical, Philosophical, Cultural and Pedagogical Studies” [Volume 19 (3-8), 2010, PDF], including the following articles (click the links for their abstracts):

Science & Education Volume 19 Nos. 3-5 March-May 2010, “Darwin and Darwinism: Historical, Philosophical & Cultural Studies”:

DAVID W. RUDGE & KOSTAS KAMPOURAKIS / Darwin and Darwinism: An Introduction

Science & Education Volume 19 Nos. 6-8 June-August 2010, “Darwin and Darwinism: Pedagogical Studies”:

MIKE U. SMITH / Current Status of Research in Teaching and Learning Evolution: I. Philosophical and Epistemological Issues

MIKE U. SMITH / Current Status of Research in Teaching and Learning Evolution: II. Pedagogical issues

MARINA L. TAVARES ,MARÍA PILAR JIMÉNEZ-ALEIXANDRE, & EDUARDO F. MORTIMER / Articulation of Conceptual Knowledge and Argumentation Practices by High School Students in Evolution Problems

MARIA FÁTIMA MARCELOS & RONALDO L NAGEM / Structural Models of Similarities and Differences between Vehicle and Target in Order to Teach Darwinian Evolution

PAUL THAGARD & SCOTT FINDLAY / Getting to Darwin: Obstacles to Accepting Evolution by Natural Selection

KOSTAS KAMPOURAKIS & WILLIAM F. MCCOMAS/ Charles Darwin and Evolution: Illustrating Human Aspects of Science

ESTHER MARIA VAN DIJK & THOMAS A.C. REYDON / A Conceptual Analysis of Evolutionary Theory for Teacher Education

TONIE L. STOLBERG / Teaching Darwinian Evolution: Learning from Religious Education

THOMAS GLICK / The Comparative Reception of Darwinism: A Brief History

C MACKENZIE BROWN / Hindu Responses to Darwinism: Assimilation and Rejection in a Colonial and Post‐Colonial Context

DENIZ PEKER, GULSUM G COMERT & AYKUT KENCE / Three Decades of Anti-Darwinism in Turkey and Its Results: Turkish Undergraduates’ Acceptance and Understanding of Biological Evolution Theory

ROBERT PENNOCK / The Postmodern Sins of Intelligent Design Creationism

ANYA PLUTYNSKI / Should Intelligent Design be Taught in Public School Science Classrooms?

JOACHIM ALLGAIER / Scientific Experts and the Controversy about Teaching Creationism in the UK Press

JOURNAL: Darwin Special Issue of ‘History of Science’

The December 2009 issue of History of Science (Vol. 47, No. 4) is devoted to Darwin:

Iwan Ryhs Morus

Charles Darwin Solves the “Riddle of the Flower”; or, Why Don’t Historians of Biology Know about the Birds and the Bees?
Richard Bellon

Darwinian Struggles: But Is There Progress?
Michael Ruse

The Eclipse of Pseudo-Darwinism? Reflections on Some Recent Developments in Darwin Studies
Peter J. Bowler

The Undead Darwin: Iconic Narrative, Scientific Controversy and the History of Science
Amanda Rees

Darwin Online and the Evolution of the Darwin Industry
John van Wyhe

Essay Reviews

Origins: Selected Letters of Charles Darwin, 1822–1859(Anniversary edition), edited by F. Burkhardt, and other works by Charles Darwin
Jim Endersby

Bursting the Limits of Time: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Revolution, and Worlds Before Adam: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Reform, by Martin J. S. Rudwick
Adelene Buckland