BOOK: Louis Agassiz’s Introduction to the Study of Natural History (Classic Texts in the Sciences)

A new series of books from Springer aims to publish important papers/lectures from the history of science, with supplemental information about the original author and their work. Of the five titles so far, one may be of interest to readers here: naturalist Louis Agassiz’s series of lectures given in Boston in the fall of 1846. It is edited and annotated by Agassiz biographer Christoph Irmscher, who published Louis Agassiz: Creator of American Science in 2013.


Louis Agassiz,  Introduction to the Study of Natural History (Classic Texts in the Sciences). Edited and annotated by Christoph Irmscher (Basel, Switzerland: Birkhäuser Basel/Springer, 2017), 135 pp.

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Publisher’s description This book features Louis Agassiz’s seminal lecture course in which the Swiss-American scientist, a self-styled “American Humboldt,” summarized the state of zoological knowledge in his time. Though Darwin’s theory of evolution would soon dismantle his idealist science, Agassiz’s lectures are nonetheless modern in their insistence on the social and cultural importance of the scientific enterprise. An extensive, well-illustrated introduction by Agassiz’s biographer, Christoph Irmscher, situates Agassiz’s lectures in the context of his life and nineteenth-century science, while also confronting the deeply problematic aspects of his legacy. Profusely annotated, this edition offers fascinating insights into the history of science and appeals to anyone with an interest in zoology and natural history.

Given the high cost of this volume ($150), it is surely a title intended for libraries, so do indeed request your library purchase it if it will be useful to you or history of science students at your university.

BOOK: Darwinism, Democracy, and Race: American Anthropology and Evolutionary Biology in the Twentieth Century

This new book of possible interest to readers would be a good one to request your academic library purchase, as it is a hefty price, as one of the co-authors notes in this list of what you could purchase instead for the same price.


John P. Jackson Jr. and David J. Depew, Darwinism, Democracy, and Race: American Anthropology and Evolutionary Biology in the Twentieth Century (New York: Routledge, 2017), 252 pp.

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Publisher’s description Darwinism, Democracy, and Race examines the development and defence of an argument that arose at the boundary between anthropology and evolutionary biology in twentieth-century America. In its fully articulated form, this argument simultaneously discredited scientific racism and defended free human agency in Darwinian terms. The volume is timely because it gives readers a key to assessing contemporary debates about the biology of race. By working across disciplinary lines, the book’s focal figures–the anthropologist Franz Boas, the cultural anthropologist Alfred Kroeber, the geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky, and the physical anthropologist Sherwood Washburn–found increasingly persuasive ways of cutting between genetic determinist and social constructionist views of race by grounding Boas’s racially egalitarian, culturally relativistic, and democratically pluralistic ethic in a distinctive version of the genetic theory of natural selection. Collaborators in making and defending this argument included Ashley Montagu, Stephen Jay Gould, and Richard Lewontin. Darwinism, Democracy, and Race will appeal to advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and academics interested in subjects including Philosophy, Critical Race Theory, Sociology of Race, History of Biology and Anthropology, and Rhetoric of Science.

ARTICLE: Beating the Turkish hollow in the struggle for existence: Darwin, social Darwinism and the Turks

A new Darwin article in the journal Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences:

Beating the Turkish hollow in the struggle for existence: Darwin, social Darwinism and the Turks

Alper Bilgili

Abstract Despite the vast literature on Darwinism and race, the way in which Darwin’s opinions on race were received and used by non-Western circles has been little studied. In the case of the Turks, Darwin’s comments have been related to British-Ottoman relations, and Darwin was blamed for stoking anti-Turkish sentiment within Europe. This allegedly resulted in the British occupation of Egypt in the 19th century, the demise of the Ottoman Empire, as well as contemporary Neo-Nazi arson attacks in Germany which targeted Turkish migrants. Consequently, Turkish anti-Darwinists perceive Darwinism to be not merely a false scientific theory, but also a political-ideological instrument of Western hegemony wielded against Turkey and the Islamic World. Turkish Darwinists who responded to those claims, on the other hand, presented Darwin as an egalitarian who could overcome the prejudices of his social class. Further scrutiny, however, proves both accounts to be over-simplistic. This paper aims to throw some light on the context within which Darwin expressed his opinions on Turks and thus contribute to the broader discussion of the relationship between Darwinism and race. More importantly, it aims to familiarise Western readers with one of the cultures of creationism which is very little known, despite its great impact on Muslim masses.

ARTICLE: Darwin and the Ethnologists: Liberal Racialism and the Geological Analogy

New in Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences:

Darwin and the Ethnologists: Liberal Racialism and the Geological Analogy

Suman Seth

Abstract Toward the end of The Descent of Man, Darwin made a striking assertion. “I would as soon be descended,” he claimed, from a “heroic little monkey” than from a “savage” who practiced torture and infanticide, treated “wives like slaves,” and was indecent and superstitious. These lines have been often quoted but rarely analyzed. I argue here that they provide a means for following Darwin’s thought as he grappled with contemporary ethnological evidence that seemed—if today’s “savages” were to be taken as models for primeval humans—to work against his theory of sexual selection as it applied to humankind. In addition to explicating what I suggest is a crucial element of Descent, this paper has three aims, all of which help us better understand the relationships between ethnology and Darwinian thought. First, to offer a selective intellectual history of British ethnology between 1864 and 1871, focusing on those texts that Darwin deemed most problematic for his arguments. Second, and as a result, to better specify Darwin’s views on race by comparing him not to his opponents, but to his like-minded peers, a group I term “liberal racialists.” Third, to explore the utility of what I term the “geological analogy,” a mid-nineteenth-century version of the comparative method (which substituted study of “less developed” peoples today for humans in much earlier periods). Where liberal ethnologists deployed the geological analogy consistently, Darwin would be much more selective, denying its application at times in favor of analogies to lower animals. He would thus save his theoretical suppositions by denying that contemporary “lower” races, with their depraved morality, could serve as appropriate models for our apparently more decent, yet more animalistic forebears.

ARTICLE: A Yahgan for the killing: murder, memory and Charles Darwin

A new Darwin article from the British Journal for the History of Science:

A Yahgan for the killing: murder, memory and Charles Darwin

Joseph L. Yannielli

Abstract In March 1742, British naval officer John Byron witnessed a murder on the western coast of South America. Both Charles Darwin and Robert FitzRoy seized upon Byron’s story a century later, and it continues to play an important role in Darwin scholarship today. This essay investigates the veracity of the murder, its appropriation by various authors, and its false association with the Yahgan people encountered during the second voyage of the Beagle (1831–1836). Darwin’s use of the story is examined in multiple contexts, focusing on his relationship with the history of European expansion and cross-cultural interaction and related assumptions about slavery and race. The continuing fascination with Byron’s story highlights the key role of historical memory in the development and interpretation of evolutionary theory.

New issue of the Reports of the National Center for Science Education

The NCSE has changed how they publish RNCSE. Content from the latest issue is up online, inlcluding a book review by me:

NCSE is pleased to announce the second issue of Reports of the National Center for Science Education in its new on-line format. The issue — volume 31, number 2 — includes Matt Cartmill’s “Turtles All the Way Down: The Atlas of Creation“; Alice Beck Kehoe’s “The Lost Civilizations of North America Found … Again!”; and, in his regular People and Places column, Randy Moore’s “Billy Sunday: 1862-1935,” discussing the creationism of the ballplayer-turned-evangelist.

Plus a flurry of Darwinalia: Michael D. Barton reviews John van Wyhe’s The Darwin Experience; Steven Conn reviews James Lander’s Lincoln and Darwin; Piers J. Hale reviews David N. Reznick’s The Origin Then and Now; Allen D. MacNeill reviews James T. Costa’s The Annotated Origin; Michael Ruse reviews Phillip Prodger’s Darwin’s Camera and Barbara Larson and Fae Brauer’s The Art of Evolution; and Keith Thomson reviews Julia Voss’s Darwin’s Pictures.

All of these articles, features, and reviews are freely available in PDF form from Members of NCSE will shortly be receiving in the mail the print supplement to Reports 31:2, which contains, in addition to summaries of the on-line material, news from the membership, a new column in which NCSE staffers offer personal reports on what they’ve been doing to defend the teaching of evolution, and more besides. (Not a member? Join today!)

ARTICLE: Foreign Bodies; or, How Did Darwin Invent the Symptom?

From Victorian Studies:

Foreign Bodies; or, How Did Darwin Invent the Symptom?

Matthew Rowlinson

Abstract Beginning with a discussion of the sources in Darwin’s writing for Freud’s theory of the hysterical symptom, this essay proceeds to a symptomatic reading of Darwin himself. With reference to The Origin of Species, The Descent of Man, and The Expression of the Emotions, this essay shows that Darwin’s theories of involuntary expressive behavior and of aesthetic preference in sexual selection are linked by their role in his understanding of racial difference and also by their reliance on the idea that learned habits can be inherited as instincts, a view often identified with Lamarck. They are thus at once theories of the foreign body and theories that appear as foreigners within the body of Darwin’s work.

ARTICLE: Darwin’s progress and the problem of slavery

From the October 2010 issue of Progress in Human Geography:

Darwin’s progress and the problem of slavery

James Moore

Abstract Legendary as a ‘genius’ out of time, Charles Darwin is said to have revolutionized our understanding of life on earth by explaining nature-history as the purposeless product of directionless variation naturally selected through a chancy struggle for existence. Yet, whatever may be deduced from his theory of natural selection as understood today, Darwin himself was not bound by any such conclusions. His vision of nature-history, for all its haphazardness, was directional, meliorative and hopeful. In the 1830s he went out of his way to develop privately a subversive theory of human evolution, and he pursued the subject with tenacity for three decades before publishing The descent of man in 1871. Underpinning his research was a belief in racial brotherhood rooted in the greatest moral movement of the age, for the abolition of slavery. Darwin extended the abolitionists’ common-descent image to the rest of life, making not just the races, but all races, kin. Human slavery, however, did not evolve into or out of existence. To Darwin it was a ‘sin’ to ‘expiate’ by moral action, and the Origin of species was written with a view towards undermining slavery’s creationist ideologues, most notably the Harvard professor Louis Agassiz. Intractable slavery collided with Darwin’s post-Christian progressivism in the US Civil War, clouding his hopes for humanity, but the Northern victory in 1865 enabled him to carry ‘the grand idea of God hating sin and loving righteousness’ into The descent of man, where the driving of formerly enslaved races out of existence is naturalized as a byproduct of historical progress in which ‘virtue will be triumphant’ at last.

New and Forthcoming Darwin & Evolution Books

First up (chuckle chuckle):

Secrets of the Sixth Edition by Randall Hedtke:

Darwins On the Origin of the Species was originally released in 1859, and by 1872, the sixth and last edition was published, becoming the defining text for evolutionists. This controversial work has become the foundation of modern textbooks for scientific studies in origins, though Darwin himself expressed deep doubts about his own speculations and suppositions. Secrets of the Sixth Editionby Randall Hedtke exposes the critical flaws of this landmark book by using Darwin’s own words against him. Provides an examination of Darwins research and the faulty basis of his scientific writings. Filled with extensive documentation looking at the fatal flaws in Darwins assumptions. Addresses strategies for possible changes to curriculum to address weaknesses in the evolutionary hypothesis. Take an insightful look at Darwins work and its inaccuracies from a fresh and logical perspective. You will discover the often ignored reasoning behind his own abandonment of some of the core mechanisms of evolution later in his life, though they remain unchallenged pillars of unquestioning science today. This informative and east-to-read study boldly declares the powerful truth that only biblical creation can explain. [Randall Hedtke has read, written, and taught about the controversy of creation-evolution for decades. The basis for much of the Secrets of the Sixth Edition were originally formed in a series of essays originally published in the Creation Research Society Quarterly.]

Now to more serious books:

Emma Darwin: A Victorian Life by James D. Loy and Kent M. Loy:

After Charles Darwin’s world-changing HMS Beagle voyage, he found a loyal protector and editor when in 1839 he married Emma Wedgwood (1808–1896) as he sought to document his naturalist and revolutionary scientific ideas. The authors (James is an anthropologist at the University of Rhode Island; Kent is a freelance writer) give us the family’s life from the viewpoint of the “lively and outspoken” Emma, as derived from two volumes of her letters and daily notations. The events they describe include the family’s campaigns against slavery and vivisection. Darwin became increasingly agnostic while Emma was religious (their passel of children were spiritually indifferent), but they lived in mutual respect and upper-class comfort through much of the Victorian era. In spite of Emma’s concentration on her children and extended family, she passionately followed politics and global concerns such as the American Civil War and Irish unrest. The authors’ casual diagnosis of physical and mental ailments mildly mars an otherwise excellent portrait of the English elite during the age of British scientific discovery.

Literature After Darwin: Human Beasts in Western Fiction 1859-1939 (Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-century Writing and Culture) by Virginia Richter:

What makes us human? Where is the limit between human and animal? Is the human species the contingent result of blind evolutionary processes? These pressing questions haunt literature in the wake of Darwin’s shocking claim that humans and apes are descended from a common ancestor. Anxiety concerning the status of humankind is a central theme in Victorian and modernist fiction, ranging from ‘ape narratives’ (e.g. the Tarzan series) to fantastic encounters with missing links, primeval men and ‘races of the future’. All are pervaded by the spectres of degeneration and dehumanisation as well as by apocalyptic visions of the end of humankind. The exploration of these existential anxieties and their various literary expressions stands at the centre of this study which offers detailed and original analyses of a broad range of literary texts, covering the period between the publication of the Origin of Species and the beginning of the Second World War.

Evolutionary Restraints: The Contentious History of Group Selection by Mark E. Borrello:

Much of the history of the evolutionary debate since Darwin has focused on the level at which natural selection occurs. Most biologists acknowledge multiple levels of selection—from the gene, the trait, and the organism, to the family, the group, and  the species. However, it is the debate about group selection that Mark E. Borrello focuses on in Evolutionary Restraints. Tracing the history of biological attempts to determine whether selection could lead to the evolution of fitter groups, Borrello takes as his focus the British naturalist V. C. Wynne-Edwards, who proposed that animals could regulate their own population levels and thereby avoid overexploitation of their food and other resources. By the mid-twentieth century, Wynne-Edwards became the primary advocate for group selection theory, and precipitated a debate that engaged the most significant evolutionary biologists including Ernst Mayr, John Maynard Smith, G.C. Williams and Richard Dawkins. The resultant interpretations and arguments bled out into broader conversations about population regulation, environmental crises, and the evolution of human and animal social behavior. Evolutionary Restraints illuminates both the process of science and the role of controversy in the process. From its origins in Darwin’s own thinking, this debate, Borrello reminds us, remains relevant and alive to this day.

Darwinism and the Divine: Evolutionary Thought and Natural Theology by Alister McGrath:

There remains a widespread perception that Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection marked the demise of any viable Christian natural theology – most notably, that of William Paley. But did Darwinism really shake such fundamental beliefs to the core? Or did Darwin’s “dangerous idea” instead serve to transform and illuminate our views on the relation between the natural world and the divine? Darwinism and the Divine presents a detailed examination of the implications of evolutionary thought for natural theology, from the publication of On the Origin of Species more than a century-and-a-half ago through to the present day. Integrating and extending the latest scholarly research from across a wide variety of disciplines, world-renowned theologian Alister E. McGrath first explores the forms of natural theology that emerged in England from the late 17th century until 1850, showing us how these views were affected by the advent of Darwin’s theories. McGrath offers the most detailed account of the intellectual background to William Paley’s natural theology currently available, and offers an informed assessment of the impact of Darwin on such approaches. He then considers how Christian belief has adapted to Darwinism, and whether there is a place for design both in the world of science and the world of theology. Journeying well beyond On the Origin of the SpeciesDarwinism and the Divine offers a scholarly and thought-provoking consideration of the co-existence of natural theology with Darwinism in today’s world.

Evolution Before Darwin by Pietro Corsi:

In many people’s minds, biology was mired in confusion and superstition until Darwin came, and then there was light. But evolutionary ideas have a long history, and moreover to this day, in France, Lamarck is revered as Darwin’s great predecessor, not as ‘the man who got it wrong’. Evolution was a topic of much debate in France, and also to a lesser extent in Germany and in Italy. Early in the 19th century, geology was all the rage, while arguments about time and the nature of species – were they created, did they change with time – was much discussed. So why did a Darwin appear in England? And moreover why at the end of the 1850s? And why was the response and public take-up of evolutionary ideas so rapid and positive? These are the questions Pietro Corsi considers in this book. He describes the debates in France, Germany, and Italy surrounding Lamarck’s ideas about changing species, against the backdrop of changing political climates (the defeat of Napoleon and its aftermath). And while Continental Europe was convulsed by the 1848 revolutions, and Italy was in the throes of unification, in England perceptions of evolutionary ideas shifted from being associated with dangerous Continental radicalism and atheism, to part of reform and progress. Corsi shows how intellectual opinion shifted in England, driven by such figures as Baden Powell (grandfather of the founder of the boy scouts), and fierce debates on science and religion. The intention of this book is not to undermine Darwin, whose accomplishments as an individual require no justification, but to put him and his work in historical context, and more pertinently in the context of social, political, and intellectual developments in Britain and the Continent. This is an extraordinarily rich and novel discussion involving the history of the development of perhaps the single greatest idea in the life sciences, written by one of the foremost scholars in the field.

Charles Darwin and the Question of Evolution: A Brief History with Documents (The Bedford Series in History and Culture) by Sandra Herbert:

The publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in 1859 is widely regarded as a turning point in knowledge of the natural world. But Darwin’s theory of natural selection was not developed in a vacuum; rather, it represents the culmination of an enormous shift in scientific and popular opinion on the subject of species mutability from the late eighteenth century onward. Through her insightful introduction and engaging collection of documents, Sandra Herbert examines this era of scientific thought and the startling discoveries that led Darwin and others to the conclusion that life has evolved. A wide range of documents from over a dozen authors — including letters, illustrations, scientific tracts, and excerpts from Darwin’s own notebooks and On the Origin of Species — offer a fascinating glimpse into this crucial era of scientific thought. Thoughtful document headnotes, questions for consideration, a chronology, and a selected bibliography provide students with additional context and pedagogical support.

Did Darwin Write the Origin Backwards: Philosophical Essays on Darwin’s Theory (Prometheus Prize) by Elliot Sober:

Sensitive to the ways in which Darwin’s outlook differed from that of many biologists today, the main topics that are the focus of this book-common ancestry, group selection, sex ratio, and naturalism-have rarely been discussed in such penetrating detail.

From Man to Ape: Darwinism in Argentina, 1870-1920 by Adriana Novoa and Alex Levine:

Upon its publication, The Origin of Species was critically embraced in Europe and North America. But how did Darwin’s theories fare in other regions of the world? Adriana Novoa and Alex Levine offer here a history and interpretation of the reception of Darwinism in Argentina, illuminating the ways culture shapes scientific enterprise. In order to explore how Argentina’s particular interests, ambitions, political anxieties, and prejudices shaped scientific research, From Man to Ape focuses on Darwin’s use of analogies. Both analogy and metaphor are culturally situated, and by studying scientific activity at Europe’s geographical and cultural periphery, Novoa and Levine show that familiar analogies assume unfamiliar and sometimes startling guises in Argentina. The transformation of these analogies in the Argentine context led science—as well as the interaction between science, popular culture, and public policy—in surprising directions. In diverging from European models, Argentine Darwinism reveals a great deal about both Darwinism and science in general. Novel in its approach and its subject, From Man to Ape reveals a new way of understanding Latin American science and its impact on the scientific communities of Europe and North America.

The Victorian Reinvention of Race: New Racisms and the Problem of Grouping in the Human Sciences (Routledge Studies in Modern British History) by Edward Beasley:

In mid-Victorian England there were new racial categories based upon skin colour. The ‘races’ familiar to those in the modern west were invented and elaborated after the decline of faith in Biblical monogenesis in the early nineteenth century, and before the maturity of modern genetics in the middle of the twentieth. Not until the early nineteenth century would polygenetic and racialist theories win many adherents. But by the middle of the nineteenth century in England, racial categories were imposed upon humanity. How the idea of ‘race’ gained popularity in England at that time is the central focus of The Victorian Reinvention of Race: New Racisms and the Problem of Grouping in the Human Sciences. Scholars have linked this new racism to some very dodgy thinkers. The Victorian Reinvention of Race examines a more influential set of the era’s writers and colonial officials, some French but most of them British. Attempting to do serious social analysis, these men oversimplified humanity into biologically-heritable, mentally and morally unequal, colour-based ‘races’. Thinkers giving in to this racist temptation included Alexis de Tocqueville when he was writing on Algeria; Arthur de Gobineau (who influenced the Nazis); Walter Bagehot of The Economist; and Charles Darwin (whose Descent of Man was influenced by Bagehot). Victorians on Race also examines officials and thinkers (such as Tocqueville in Democracy in America, the Duke of Argyll, and Governor Gordon of Fiji) who exercised methodological care, doing the hard work of testing their categories against the evidence. They analyzed human groups without slipping into racial categorization. Author Edward Beasley examines the extent to which the Gobineau-Bagehot-Darwin way of thinking about race penetrated the minds of certain key colonial governors. He further explores the hardening of the rhetoric of race-prejudice in some quarters in England in the nineteenth century – the processes by which racism was first formed.

The Species Problem: A Philosophical Analysis (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy and Biology) by Richard A. Richards:

There is long-standing disagreement among systematists about how to divide biodiversity into species. Over twenty different species concepts are used to group organisms, according to criteria as diverse as morphological or molecular similarity, interbreeding and genealogical relationships. This, combined with the implications of evolutionary biology, raises the worry that either there is no single kind of species, or that species are not real. This book surveys the history of thinking about species from Aristotle to modern systematics in order to understand the origin of the problem, and advocates a solution based on the idea of the division of conceptual labor, whereby species concepts function in different ways – theoretically and operationally. It also considers related topics such as individuality and the metaphysics of evolution, and how scientific terms get their meaning. This important addition to the current debate will be essential for philosophers and historians of science, and for biologists.

Hosts of Living Forms (Penguin Great Ideas) by Charles Darwin:

Charles Darwin transformed our understanding of the world with the idea of natural selection, challenging the notion that species are fixed and unchanging. These writings from “On the Origin of Species” explain how different life forms appear all over the globe, evolve over millions of years, become extinct and are supplanted. “Great Ideas” – Throughout history, some books have changed the world. They have transformed the way we see ourselves – and each other. They have inspired debate, dissent, war and revolution. They have enlightened, outraged, provoked and comforted. They have enriched lives – and destroyed them. Now Penguin brings you the works of the great thinkers, pioneers, radicals and visionaries whose ideas shook civilization and helped make us who we are.

The Darwinian Tourist: Viewing the World Through Evolutionary Eyes by Christopher Wills:

In The Darwinian Tourist, biologist Christopher Wills takes us on a series of adventures–exciting in their own right–that demonstrate how ecology and evolution have interacted to create the world we live in. Some of these adventures, like his SCUBA dives in the incredibly diverse Lembeh Strait in Indonesia or his encounter with a wild wolf cub in western Mongolia, might have been experienced by any reasonably intrepid traveller. Others, like his experience of being hammered by a severe earthquake off the island of Yap while sixty feet down in the ocean, filming manta rays, stand far outside the ordinary. With his own stunning color photographs of the wildlife he discovered on his travels, Wills not only takes us to these far-off places but, more important, draws out the evolutionary stories behind the wildlife and shows how our understanding of the living world can be deepened by a Darwinian perspective. In addition, the book offers an extensive and unusual view of human evolution, examining the entire sweep of our evolutionary story as it has taken place throughout the Old World. The reader comes away with a renewed sense of wonder about the world’s astounding diversity, along with a new appreciation of the long evolutionary history that has led to the wonders of the present-day. When we lose a species or an ecosystem, Wills shows us, we also lose many millions of years of history. Published to coincide with the International Year for Biodiversity, The Darwinian Tourist is packed with globe-trotting exploits, brilliant color photography, and eye-opening insights into the evolution of humanity and the natural world.

Evolutionary Mythology in the Writings of Kurt Vonnegut: Darwin,Vonnegut and the Construction of an American Culture by Gilbert McGinnis:

This research monograph is an important contribution to the study of the author, Kurt Vonnegut and the great evolutionary scientist Charles Darwin. The book examines Darwin s influence on the American culture that were Vonnegut’s major focus and interest and the source of his importance as a major American writer of the later half of the 20th century. This book is relevant in its attempt to understand, in Vonnegut s novels, how Darwin s theory of evolution functions as a cosmogonic myth that is widely accepted in order to explain why the world is as it is and why things happen as they do, to provide a rationale for social customs and observances, and to establish the sanctions for the rules by which Vonnegut s characters conduct their lives. Moreover, this book deals with how and why Kurt Vonnegut s fiction represents the changing human image resulting from Darwinism. The author discovered and developed his literary theory of Evolution as a Mythology from the novel Galapagos (Kurt Vonnegut,1985). McInnis persuasively developed theory suggests changes to the American (and English) literary landscape with a new and dynamic way to interpret literature, something the literary field has not seen since since Jean-Francois Lyotard described his ideas on narrative in his essay, the Postmodern Condition, published in Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction in the early 1980s.

Lincoln and Darwin: Shared Visions of Race, Science, and Religion by James Lander:

Born on the same day in 1809, Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were true contemporaries.  Though shaped by vastly different environments, they had remarkably similar values, purposes, and approaches. In this exciting new study, James Lander places these two iconic men side by side and reveals the parallel views they shared of man and God. While Lincoln is renowned for his oratorical prowess and for the Emancipation Proclamation, as well as many other accomplishments, his scientific and technological interests are not widely recognized; for example, many Americans do not know that Lincoln is the only U.S. president to obtain a patent. Darwin, on the other hand, is celebrated for his scientific achievements but not for his passionate commitment to the abolition of slavery, which in part drove his research in evolution. Both men took great pains to avoid causing unnecessary offense despite having abandoned traditional Christianity. Each had one main adversary who endorsed scientific racism: Lincoln had Stephen A. Douglas, and Darwin had Louis Agassiz. With graceful and sophisticated writing, Lander expands on these commonalities and uncovers more shared connections to people, politics, and events. He traces how these two intellectual giants came to hold remarkably similar perspectives on the evils of racism, the value of science, and the uncertainties of conventional religion. Separated by an ocean but joined in their ideas, Lincoln and Darwin acted as trailblazers, leading their societies toward greater freedom of thought and a greater acceptance of human equality. This fascinating biographical examination brings the mid-nineteenth-century discourse about race, science, and humanitarian sensibility to the forefront using the mutual interests and pursuits of these two historic figures.

Until Darwin, Science, Human Variety and the Origins of Race by B. Ricardo Brown:

Until the publication of Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species”, the prevailing theory on ‘the species question’ was that humans were made up of five separate species, created at different times and in different places. This view – known as the ‘polygenic theory’ – was particularly favoured by naturalists of the early nineteenth century ‘American School’ as it provided a scientific justification for slavery. Darwin’s Origin demolished this view. This work fills a gap in recent studies on the history of race and science. Focusing on both the classification systems of human variety and the development of science as the arbiter of truth, Brown looks at the rise of the emerging sciences of life and society – biology and sociology – as well as the debate surrounding slavery and abolition.

Evolutionary Theory and the Creation Controversy by Oliver Rieppel:

Evolutionary theory addresses the phenomenon of the origin and diversity of plant and animal species that we observe. In recent times, however, it has become a predominant ideology which has gained currency far beyond its original confines. Attempts to understand the origin and historical development of human culture, civilization and language, of the powers of human cognition, and even the origin of the moral and ethical values guiding and constraining everyday life in human societies are now cast in an evolutionary context. In “Evolutionary Theory and the Creation Controversy” the author examines evolutionary theory from a historical perspective, explaining underlying metaphysical backgrounds and fundamental philosophical questions such as the paradoxical problem of change, existence and creation. He introduces the scientists involved, their research results and theories, and discusses the evolution of evolutionary theory against the background of Creationism and Intelligent Design.

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.

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):

PODCAST: [More] More Darwin Podcasts from Endless Forms Exhibit

As part of hosting the art exhibit Endless Forms: Darwin, Natural Science & the Arts (opened June 16th), the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England is doing a series of podcasts. I have posted the first 13 episodes so far (herehere, here, and here), and here are a few more:

14. Evolving Images: Race and Popular Darwinism in Nineteenth-Century Photography (with Elizabeth Edwards)

15. Between Apes and Angels: Representing the Darker Implications of Darwinism (with Dr. Marek Kohn)

16. Struggles and Strikes: The “Survival of the Fittest’ in Art and Literature (with Dame Gillan Beer)

A Bunch of Reviews of ‘Darwin’s Sacred Cause’

In the weekly newsletter Scientists’ Bookshelf Monthly is a round-up of a bunch of reviews of Desmond and Moore’s Darwin’s Sacred Cause. Robert J. Richards reviews the book for American Scientist, while

W. F. Bynum reviews Darwin’s Sacred Cause for Nature. Christopher Benfey discusses the book in the New York Times, and Thomas Hayden assesses it in the Washington Post. Matt Ridley evaluates it for the Spectator; Gregory M. Lamb critiques it in the Christian Science Monitor. Richard Carter reviews the book for the Beagle Project Blog, and it is reviewed by Charles Petztold on Petzold Book Blog. Darwin’s Sacred Cause and Darwin’s Island (by Steve Jones) are reviewed in the Guardian by Gillian Beer.

Recent & Forthcoming Darwin Books

Darwin’s Dogs: How Darwin’s Pets Helped Form a World-changing Theory of Evolution by Emma Townshend:

If you have ever looked at a dog waiting to go for a walk and thought there was something age-old and almost human about his sad expression, you’re not alone; Charles Darwin did exactly the same. But Darwin didn’t just stop at feeling that there was some connection between humans and dogs. English gentleman naturalist, great pioneer of the theory of evolution and incurable dog-lover, Darwin used his much-loved dogs as evidence in his continuing argument that all animals including human beings, descended from one common ancestor. From his fondly written letters home enquiring after the health of family pets to his profound scientific consideration of the ancestry of the domesticated dog, Emma Townshend looks at Darwin’s life and work from a uniquely canine perspective. 

Darwin’s Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot and Nineteenth-Century Fiction (3rd ed.) by Gillian Beer:

Gillian Beer’s classic Darwin’s Plots, one of the most influential works of literary criticism and cultural history of the last quarter century, is here reissued in an updated edition to coincide with the anniversary of Darwin’s birth and of the publication of The Origin of Species. Its focus on how writers, including George Eliot, Charles Kingsley and Thomas Hardy, responded to Darwin’s discoveries and to his innovations in scientific language continues to open up new approaches to Darwin’s thought and to its effects in the culture of his contemporaries. This third edition includes an important new essay that investigates Darwin’s concern with consciousness across all forms of organic life. It demonstrates how this fascination persisted throughout his career and affected his methods and discoveries. With an updated bibliography reflecting recent work in the field, this book will retain its place at the heart of Victorian studies.

The Voyage of the “Beagle”: Journals and Remarks [ABRIDGED Audio CD] by Charles Darwin and Richard Dawkins:

A definite precursor to “On The Origin of Species”, this non-fiction travel journal is a fascinating record of Darwin’s observations of far-flung civilisations and the flora, fauna and human life he found there. His journey took in: Santiago – Cape Verde Islands; Saint Peter and Paul Rocks; Rio de Janeiro; Maldonado; Rio Negro to Bahia Blanca; Bahia Blanca; Bahia Blanca to Buenos Aires; Buenos Aires and St. Fe; Banda Oriental and Patagonia; Santa Cruz, Patagonia, and The Falkland Islands; Tierra del Fuego; Strait of Magellan; Climate of the Southern Coasts; Central Chile; Chiloe Island and Chonos Islands; Concepcion: Great Earthquake; Passage of the Cordillera; Northern Chile and Peru Galapagos; Archipelago Tahiti and New Zealand; Australia; Keeling Island – Coral Formations; and Mauritius to England. Darwin spent much of the voyage exploring on-land rather than at sea, and his explorations led to the beginnings of ‘evolutionary’ theories. He observed, for example, how finches’ beaks varied and seemed localized in shape and form to particular islands or climates. Thus emerged the notion that a kind of ‘natural selection’ rather than a divine power may be responsible – each creature adapting physically to its particular environment over generations. This is an incredibly important and enlightening non-fiction work. 

Darwin in Scotland: Edinburgh, Evolution and Enlightenment by J.F. Derry:

This is the first book on Darwin and Darwinism that wholly concentrates on his time spent in Scotland and the key contributions to his future insights made by the Scottish Enlightenment and the University of Edinburgh. Darwin developed his theories because he attended Edinburgh University – although he participated little in formal tuition, it was through interaction with his tutors, peers and extracurricular groups that he was exposed to an ethos of naturalistic philosophy rooted in the Scottish Enlightenment and, by direct descent, the Ancient Greeks. If he had bypassed Scotland and gone straight to Cambridge, his education would have been theologically-based and unlikely to have given him the perspective that led him to question the prevailing doctrine. It is also the first book to explore the subsequent impact of his work on modern day biologists at the University of Edinburgh. How far have we moved on since Darwin made his discoveries? Are his theories still relevant to modern-day science? Can we say if they will be relevant in the future? And, what should we be teaching future generations? The relevance of Darwin in debate is as important and volatile now as when “The Origin of Species” was first published a century and a half ago. Science and religion seem to have reached an impasse. Intelligent Design, the conflicting view to Darwin’s theory of natural selection, is the new kid on the block that the science gang wants nothing to do with. All the major issues in evolutionary study are covered here, through interviews with scientists, educators and creationists. They include some of the world leaders in the biological sciences at Edinburgh University, and they are most revealing about what Darwin has meant to them and their work. 

The Darwins of Shrewsbury by Andrew Pattison:

Many people have written biographies of Charles Darwin, but the story of his family and roots in Shrewsbury is little known. This book, containing original research, fills that gap. The key player is Charles’ father, Dr Robert Darwin, a larger-than-life character whose financial acumen enabled Charles to spend his whole life on research unencumbered by money worries. Through Susannah, Charles’ mother, we are introduced to the Wedgwood family, whose history was so closely interwoven with the Darwins. The stories of Charles’ five siblings are detailed, and there is a wealth of local material, such as information on Shrewsbury School and its illustrious headmaster, Samuel Butler. The book is fully illustrated with contemporary and modern pictures, and will be of interest to anyone wanting to discover more about the development of Shrewsbury’s most famous son.

Darwin in the Archives: Papers on Charles Darwin from the Journal of the Society for the Bibliography of Natural History and Archives of Natural History, edited by Charles Nelson and Duncan M. Porter:

A Special Publication of the journal Archives of Natural History to coincide with the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth.

Philosophy After Darwin: Classic and Contemporary Readings by Michael Ruse

Charles Darwin: After the Origin by Sheila Ann Dean:

What did Charles Darwin do during the 22 years after the Origin of Species was published? “Charles Darwin: After the Origin,” a new book by Darwin scholar Sheila Ann Dean, answers that question and many others about the work Darwin undertook while controversies instigated by the Origin stirred the Victorian world. Published to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the international Darwin Day celebration, the book serves as a companion piece to the to the collaborative 2009 exhibition at Cornell University Library and the Museum of the Earth at the Paleontological Research Institution (PRI). Dean is a guest curator and visiting scholar at the Library, and her book is published by Cornell University Library and PRI.

Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: A Graphic Adaptation by Michael Keller and Nicholle Rager Fuller

The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins:

In a brilliant follow-up to his blockbuster The God Delusion, Dawkins lays out the evidence for evolution. 

Darwin in Ilkley by Mike Dixon and Gregory Radick

Voyage Round the World: Charles Darwin and the Beagle Collections in Cambridge University by Alison M. Pearn

Darwin: Art and the Search for Origins:

2009 is a double jubilee for Charles Darwin (1809-1882). The world celebrates his 200th birthday and also the 150th anniversary of the first edition of his epoch-making title On the Origin of Species. This book revolutionized the knowledge of biology and led to hot debates between scientists around the world. The present work for the first time documents the influence of Darwinism to the fine arts. The famous Frankfurt museum Schirn presents 150 paintings, drawings and lithographs as well as rare and ex?ceptional documentations. The exhibition includes works by Frederic Church, Frantiek Kupka, Odilon Redon, George Frederic Watts, Arnold Bcklin, Max Ernst and many more thus covering a period from 1859 to the middle of the 20th century.

Darwin’s Notebook: The Life, Times, and Discoveries of Charles Robert Darwin by Jonathan Clements:

Darwin’s Bards: British and American Poetry in the Age of Evolution by John Holmes:

Darwin’s Bards is the first comprehensive study of how poets have responded to the ideas of Charles Darwin in over fifty years. John Holmes argues that poetry can have a profound impact on how we think and feel about the Darwinian condition. Is a Darwinian universe necessarily a godless one? If not, what might Darwinism tell us about the nature of God? Is Darwinism compatible with immortality, and if not, how can we face our own deaths or the loss of those we love? What is our own place in the Darwinian universe, and our ecological role here on earth? How does our kinship with other animals affect how we see them? How does the fact that we are animals ourselves alter how we think about our own desires, love and sexual morality? All told, is life in a Darwinian universe grounds for celebration or despair? Holmes explores the ways in which some of the most perceptive and powerful British and American poets of the last hundred-and-fifty years have grappled with these questions, from Alfred Tennyson, Robert Browning and Thomas Hardy, through Robert Frost and Edna St Vincent Millay, to Ted Hughes, Thom Gunn, Amy Clampitt and Edwin Morgan. Reading their poetry, we too can experience what it can mean to live in a Darwinian world. Written in an accessible and engaging style, and aimed at scientists, theologians, philosophers and ecologists as well as poets, critics and students of literature, Darwin’s Bards is a timely intervention into the heated debates over Darwin’s legacy for religion, ecology and the arts. 

In the Wake of the Beagle: Science in the Southern Oceans from the Age of Darwin, edited by Nigel Erskine and Iain McCalman:

This book shows the importance of the southern oceans to Darwin’s theories. Publication coincides with the bicentenary of Charles Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of publication of “On the Origin of Species”. This highly illustrated and beautifully designed full-colour book will examine Darwin (and his contemporaries) from a very modern perspective, linking their voyages with today’s scientific developments and debates about climate change, ecology and creationism. Strange as it may seem, the long wake of the tiny HMS Beagle stretches from the nineteenth century into the future of our globe. Charles Darwin spent only three months in Australia, but Australasia and the Pacific contributed to his evolutionary thinking in a variety of ways. One hundred and fifty years after the publication of “On the Origin of Species” the internationally acclaimed authors of “In the Wake of the Beagle” provide new insights into the world of collecting, surveying and cross-cultural exchange in the antipodes in the age of Darwin. They explore the groundbreaking work of Darwin and his contemporaries Joseph Hooker, Thomas Huxley and Alfred Wallace, examine the complex trading relationships of the region’s daring voyagers, and take a very modern look at today’s cutting-edge scientific research, at a time when global warming has raised the stakes to an unprecedented level.

The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution by Carl Zimmer:

The Tangled Bank is the first textbook about evolution intended for the general reader. Zimmer, an award-winning science writer, takes readers on a fascinating journey into the latest discoveries about evolution. In the Canadian Arctic, paleontologists unearth fossils documenting the move of our ancestors from sea to land. In the outback of Australia, a zoologist tracks some of the world’s deadliest snakes to decipher the 100-million-year evolution of venom molecules. In Africa, geneticists are gathering DNA to probe the origin of our species. In clear, non-technical language, Zimmer explains the central concepts essential for understanding new advances in evolution, including natural selection, genetic drift, and sexual selection. He demonstrates how vital evolution is to all branches of modern biology–from the fight against deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria to the analysis of the human genome. Richly illustrated with over 300 illustrations and photographs, The Tangled Bank is essential reading for anyone who wants understand the history of life on Earth.

Darwin’s Camera: Art and Photography in the Theory of Evolution by Philip Prodger:

Darwin’s Camera tells the extraordinary story of how Charles Darwin not only changed the course of science; he forever changed the way pictures are seen and made. In his illustrated masterpiece, Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1871), Darwin introduced the idea of using photographs to illustrate a scientific theory–his was the first photographically-illustrated science book ever published. Using photographs to depict fleeting expressions of emotion–laughter, crying, anger, and so on–as they flit across a person’s face, he managed to produce dramatic images at a time when photography was famously slow and awkward. The things he wanted to photograph changed too quickly to be photographed easily, and he struggled to get the pictures he needed. So he scoured the galleries, bookshops, and photographic studios of London, looking for pictures to satisfy his demand for expressive imagery. He finally settled on one the giants of photographic history, the eccentric art photographer Oscar Rejlander, to make his pictures. It was a peculiar choice. Darwin was known for his meticulous science, while Rejlander was notorious for altering and manipulating photographs. Their remarkable collaboration, and the lengths they went to to create the pictures Darwin needed, is one of the astonishing revelations in Darwin’s Camera. Darwin never studied art formally, but he was always interested in art and often drew on art knowledge as his work unfolded. He studied art as a student and befriended the artists on the voyage of HMS Beagle, he visited art museums to examine figures and animals in paintings, he made friends with artists, and read art history books. He befriended the celebrated animal painters Joseph Wolf and Briton Riviere, and accepted the Pre-Raphaelite sculptor Thomas Woolner as a trusted guide. He corresponded with legendary photographers Lewis Caroll, Julia Margaret Cameron, and G.-B. Duchenne de Boulogne, as well as many lesser lights. Darwin’s Camera provides the first examination ever of these relationships and their effect on Darwin’s work, and how Darwin, in turn, shaped the history of art. 

The Darwin Experience: The Story of the Man and His Theory of Evolution by John van Wyhe

But Is It Science? The Philosophical Question in the Creation/Evolution Controversy, Updated Edition, edited by Robert T. Pennock and Michael Ruse:

Updated Edition On December 20, 2005, a U.S. district court in Dover, Pennsylvania, ruled in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School Board that teaching Intelligent Design in public school biology classes violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The judge explained that Intelligent Design is not science and “cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.” This case was just the latest attempt by proponents of Intelligent Design or Creationism to undermine the teaching of evolution in high school biology classes. The emotionally charged controversy, which has been going on since the publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, shows no sign of letting up. This excellent collection, now fully updated, will inform readers about the history of the debate and bring philosophical clarity to the complex arguments on both sides. The editors, both of whom served as expert witnesses in two different court cases, start by chronicling the heated discussion that surrounded the publication of Darwin’s famous work. In the next part, they present articles that explicate modern evolutionary theory, including philosophical critiques by Karl Popper and others. The selections that follow discuss so-called Creation Science, focusing in particular on the 1981 McLean court case in Arkansas. In the final section, the philosophical issues surrounding the distinction between religion and science in the most recent Kitzmiller case are considered. This outstanding overview of an important contemporary debate shows that philosophy has a vital role to play in major decisions affecting education and interpretations of science and religion. 

Charles Darwin’s Notebooks from the Voyage of the Beagle:

This is the first full edition of the notebooks used by Darwin during his epic voyage in the Beagle. It contains transcriptions of all fifteen notebooks, which now survive as some of the most precious documents in the history of science. The notebooks record the entire range of Darwin’s interests and activities during the Beagle journey, with observations on geology, zoology, botany, ecology, barometer and thermometer readings, ethnography, anthropology, archaeology and linguistics, along with maps, drawings, financial records, shopping lists, reading notes, essays and personal diary entries. Some of Darwin’s critical discoveries and experiences, made famous through his own publications, are recorded in their most immediate form in the notebooks, and published here for the first time. The notebook texts are accompanied by full editorial apparatus and introductions explaining Darwin’s actions at each stage, focussing on discoveries that were pivotal to convincing him that life on Earth had evolved.

Stephen Jay Gould and the Politics of Evolution by David F. Prindle:

Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould was, until his death in 2002, America’s best-known natural scientist. His monthly essays in Natural History magazine were widely read by both scientists and ordinary citizens with an interest in science. One of his books won the National Book Award, and another was a bestseller in three countries. Philosopher Daniel Dennett proclaimed him “America’s evolutionist laureate.” While many people have written about Gould’s science, pro and con, and a few have written about his politics, this is the first book to explore his science and politics as a consistent whole. Political scientist David F. Prindle argues that Gould’s mind worked along two tracks simultaneously –the scientific and the political. All of his concepts and arguments were bona fide contributions to science, but all of them also contained specifically political implications. As one example among many, Prindle cites Gould’s controversial argument that if the “tape of evolution” could be rewound and then allowed to unspool again, nothing resembling human beings would likely evolve. This was part of his larger thesis that people are not the result of a natural tendency toward perfection in evolution, but the result of chance, or as Gould put it, contingency. As Prindle notes, Gould s scientific ideas often sought to attack human hubris, and thus prepare the ground for the political argument that people should treat nature with more restraint. Prindle evaluates Gould’s concepts of punctuated equilibrium (developed with Niles Eldredge), “spandrels”, and “exaptation”; his stance on sociobiology, on human inequality and intelligence testing; his pivotal role in the culture wars between science and fundamentalist Christianity; and claims that he was a closet Marxist, which Prindle disputes. He continually emphasizes that in all these debates Gould’s science cannot be understood without an understanding of his politics. He concludes by considering whether Gould offered a new theory of evolution. Anyone with an interest in one of America’s great scientists, or in paleontology, evolutionary theory, or intellectual history will find Stephen Jay Gould and the Politics of Evolution to be a fascinating exploration of the man and his ideas. 

Defining Darwin: Essays on the History and Philosophy of Evolutionary Biology by Michael Ruse:

Michael Ruse is one of the foremost Charles Darwin scholars of our time. For forty years he has written extensively on Darwin, the scientific revolution that his work precipitated, and the nature and implications of evolutionary thinking for today. Now, in the year marking the two hundredth anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of his masterpiece, On the “Origin of Species”, Ruse re-evaluates the legacy of Darwin in this collection of new and recent essays. Beginning with pre-Darwinian concepts of organic origins proposed by the great German philosopher Immanuel Kant, Ruse shows the challenges that Darwin’s radically different idea faced. He then discusses natural selection as a powerful metaphor; Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-discoverer of the theory of evolution; Herbert Spencer’s contribution to evolutionary biology; the synthesis of Mendelian genetics and natural selection; the different views of Julian Huxley and George Gaylord Simpson on evolutionary ethics; and the influence of Darwin’s ideas on literature. In the final section, Ruse brings the discussion up to date with a consideration of ‘evolutionary development’ (dubbed ‘evo devo’) as a new evolutionary paradigm and the effects of Darwin on religion, especially the debate surrounding Intelligent Design theory. Ruse offers a fresh perspective on topics old and new, challenging the reader to think again about the nature and consequences of what has been described as the biggest idea ever conceived.

Darwin and the Memory of the Human: Evolution, Savages, and South America by Cannon Schmitt:

When the young Charles Darwin landed on the shores of Tierra del Fuego in 1832, he was overwhelmed: nothing had prepared him for the sight of what he called ‘an untamed savage’. The shock he felt, repeatedly recalled in later years, definitively shaped his theory of evolution. In this original and wide-ranging study, Cannon Schmitt shows how Darwin and other Victorian naturalists transformed such encounters with South America and its indigenous peoples into influential accounts of biological and historical change. Redefining what it means to be human, they argue that the modern self must be understood in relation to a variety of pasts – personal, historical, and ancestral – conceived of as savage. Schmitt reshapes our understanding of Victorian imperialism, revisits the implications of Darwinian theory, and demonstrates the pertinence of nineteenth-century biological thought to current theorizations of memory.

Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails) by Matt Young and Paul K. Strode:

Focusing on what other books omit, how science works and how pseudoscience works, Matt Young and Paul K. Strode demonstrate the futility of “scientific” creationism. They debunk the notion of intelligent design and other arguments that show evolution could not have produced life in its present form. Concluding with a frank discussion of science and religion, Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails) argues that science by no means excludes religion, though it ought to cast doubt on certain religious claims that are contrary to known scientific fact. 

The Art of Evolution: Darwin, Darwinisms, and Visual Culture, edited by Barbara Larson and Fae Brauer:

Inspired by the Charles Darwin bicentennial, The Art of Evolution presents a collection of essays by international scholars renowned for their ground-breaking work on Darwin. The book not only includes a discussion of the popular imagery that immediately followed the publication of On the Origin of Species, but it also traces the impact of Darwin’s ideas on visual culture over time and throughout the Western world. The contributors analyze the visual expression of a broad range of Darwin-inspired subjects, including eugenics, aesthetics and sexual selection, monera and protoplasm theories, social Darwinism and colonialism, the Taylorized body, and the natural history of surrealism. The visual imagery responding to Darwin and Darwinism ranges from popular caricature to state propaganda to major trends within Modern Art and Modernism. This rarely addressed subject will enrich our understanding of Darwin’s impact across disciplines and reveal how transformations in science were manifested visually in so many enticingly unexpected ways.

Charles Darwin, the Copley Medal, and the Rise of Naturalism 1862-1864 by Marsha Driscoll et al.:

Part of the “Reacting to the Past” series, this text consists of a game in which students experience firsthand the tension between natural and teleological views of the world–manifested especially in reconsideration of the design argument commonly known through William Paley’s Natural Theology or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity (1802).

Darwin/Lincoln Display at MSU

For the Darwin & Lincoln Bicentennials, George Keremedjiev of the American Computer Museum in Bozeman created an exhibit in Wilson Hall at Montana State University (in the same display case as the “From Bacon to Bits” exhibit). Titled “Evolution of the Future,” the exhibit offers objects relating to both Darwin and Lincoln, the Great Emancipators: “this exhibit seeks to honor the two men who most succeeded in liberating humanity from the shackles of scientific ignorance and human bondage, Charles Darwin & Abraham Lincoln.” Some photos:

Evolution of the Future

Evolution of the Future

Evolution of the Future

Evolution of the Future

See more photos here.

Imperial College Lecture with authors of ‘Darwin’s Sacred Cause’

Tim Jones)

Discussing Darwin's Abolitionism (photo: Tim Jones)

Over at Zoonomian, a science communication blog, Tim Jones discusses a program with Adrian Desmond and James Moore discussing their book Darwin’s Sacred Cause with Olivia Judson of The New York Times. He links to the audio/video of the program as well. Thanks Tim!

Darwin issue of Free Inquiry

Free Inquiry, Feb/Mar 2009

Free Inquiry, Feb/Mar 2009

The February/March 2009 issue of Free Inquiry has a special section on Darwin’s 200th:

Features: Darwins 200th

The Power of Darwin by Richard Dawkins (online, response from Larry Moran)

Creationism du Jour: The ‘Evidence against Evolution’ by Eugenie C. Scott and Glenn Branch

Nothing New Under the Sun: The Louisiana Science Education Act by Barbara Forrest

Rebel Giants: Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin, 1809—2009 by David R. Contosta

Darwin’s Views on Race Matter by R.G. Price

How to Discredit the Theory of Evolution: Advice for Believers by Christian Wright (online)

Taking Responsibility for Ourselves by Ronald Aronson

Radio show on “Darwin’s Sacred Cause”

As part of BBC’s Darwin season, you can listen to Adrian Desmond and James Moore discussing their new book, Darwin’s Sacred Cause, on Radio 4’s Leading Edge. Go here, then click on “Listen to the latest edition” above the photo of the show’s host. This aired on January 22nd…

February 2009 Magazines cover Darwin

Be looking forward to the February issues of Natural History, National Geographic, and Smithsonian.

Natural History contains an article (“Seeing Corals with the Eye of Reason,” not online) by Richard Milner about a rediscovered painting that celebrates Darwin’s view of life. Also, Natural History has their own blog that I didn’t know about, but there’s no RSS for it, factotem: findings and musings from Natural History’s fact checker.

Nat Geo, February 2009

Nat Geo, February 2009

National Geographic will have articles by David Quammen, “Darwin’s First Clues,” and Matt Ridley, “Modern Darwins.”  Also, a video with Quammen and a Darwin quiz.

Smithsonian, Febuary 2009

Smithsonian, Febuary 2009

Smithsonian‘s cover story is on Darwin and Lincoln, with three articles: “Lincoln’s Contested Legacy,” “What Darwin Didn’t Know,” and “Twin Peaks” (on their connection).

Darwin related historical seminars at

At the Institute for Historical Research in London. From their website:

Reconfiguring the British: Nation, Empire, World 1600-1900
Convenors: Catherine Hall (UCL), Keith McClelland (UCL), Clare Midgley (Sheffield Hallam University), Zoe Laidlaw (RHUL)

Venue: Wolfson Room, IHR

Time: Thursday, 5.30pm

Spring Term 2009

22 January James A. Secord (Cambridge)
Global Darwin

5 February Sally Shuttleworth (Oxford)
Children and monkeys in Victorian evolutionary philosophy

19 February Leonore Davidoff (Essex)
Darwin and his family

5 March Pamela Scully (US)
Sara Baartman

19 March David Feldman (Birkbeck), Cora Kaplan (QMUL) and Ali Rattansi
Round Table on Race Matters

“Darwin: shaped by slavery” by Adrian Desmond

In the Times Online (Jan. 22, 2009):

Darwin: shaped by slavery

The evolutionary ideas explored in On the Origin of Species may have been fostered by its author’s abolitionist beliefs

Adrian Desmond

Enormous strides have been made recently in understanding Charles Darwin. The latest evidence suggests that Darwin’s anti-slavery beliefs helped to shape his theory of evolution. He became an evolutionist in 1837, after the Beagle voyage, but did not publish On the Origin of Species until 1859. The unique theory that he devised after stepping ashore rested on the “common descent” of all animals and plants – an approach that spawned the “tree of life” image that was Darwin’s distinctive way of looking at nature.

Historians have wondered why he adopted such a genealogical perspective with its joined bloodlines. The answer, it now seems, is to be sought in his anti-slavery heritage. Darwin’s grandfather was Josiah Wedgwood, founder of the 250-year-old chinaware company that collapsed only weeks ago. Wedgwood’s cameo, depicting a kneeling slave begging “Am I Not a Man and a Brother?” is a highly recognisable icon. It suggests the very “brotherhood” image of race relations that may have influenced Darwin’s thinking on “common descent”. If black and white people can look so different yet share the same umpteenth grandparent, perhaps all animals could be similarly related.

To assess the Darwin family’s commitment to anti-slavery, Professor James Moore, from the Open University, has burrowed into the Wedgwood archives. He discovered an abolitionist obsession. Darwin’s aunt, Sarah Wedgwood, gave more to the anti-slavery movement than any other woman in Britain. Darwin’s mother and wife were Wedgwoods and anti-slavery was what Darwin called a “sacred cause”. He was taught to see the oppressed black as a “brother”. This explains why, when he went to Edinburgh University at 16, he could apprentice himself to a freed Guyanese slave to learn the art of bird preservation without thinking it infra dig. That former slave became an “intimate” friend.

Nowhere was Darwin more outraged by slavery than in South America. During the Beagle voyage he saw the aftermath of slave revolts and the instruments of torture, and heard of a planter who threatened to sell the children of recalcitrant slaves. “It makes one’s blood boil, yet heart tremble,” he wrote. Slave trading was ubiquitous here. State documents show that, on her previous journey, even Beagle’s supply ship was a former slaver – and after being sold it returned to slave-smuggling while Darwin was in South America.

White masters considered slaves subhuman. They were assumed to be another species. It is no coincidence that Darwin, fresh off the Beagle, took an opposite tack. In his first evolution notes he railed against this view and extended the Darwin-Wedgwood motto, making the black person a “Man and a Brother”. He joined the races by giving them a common ancestor, uniting all “animals, our fellow brethren in pain, disease death & suffering … our slaves in the most laborious work” by means of trillions of “common descents”. Each animal and plant had a pedigree that ultimately united it with every other one.

The “common descent” image is so common now that we have lost sight of its racial roots. Those who execrate Darwin may be staggered to learn that humanitarianism lay behind his profoundest achievement.

Darwin’s Sacred Cause: Race, Slavery and the Quest for Human Origins, by Adrian Desmond and James Moore, is published by Allen Lane on January 29, £25

See also a review of this book at The Friends of Charles Darwin.

Interview with Adrian Desmond and James Moore about "Darwin’s Sacred Cause"

From the publisher’s page for the book (hat-tip to Peter though):

What was the initial spark that inspired you to write a book arguing such a revolutionary thesis?

We asked the big question in our 1991 Darwin biography: “Why did such a rich and impeccably upright gent go out of his way to develop such a subversive and inflammatory image of human evolution? He had everything to lose!” But we only partially answered it, showing how Darwin covered his tracks and kept ominously quiet for thirty years on the subject, before publishing The Descent of Man in 1871. The question kept niggling: `Why did he do it – and why did he wait so long?’ We knew that contemporary radicals, Christian and otherwise, had opposed slavery, and then it dawned on us that the Darwin family’s anti-slavery brotherhood beliefs could have driven the ‘common descent’ approach of Darwin’s particular brand of evolution. About ten years ago our thesis began to jell. Jim was particularly interested in The Descent of Man, which no one seemed to have read. Why was two-thirds of a book supposedly about human evolution devoted to beetles, butterflies, birds and furry mammals? Darwin’s answer was: to prove his theory of `sexual selection’. But why was sexual selection so important to Darwin? Jim’s answer: because it was his prize explanation of racial common descent – why black people and white people looked different but were still members of the same family, not separately created species, as pro-slavery demagogues were arguing. Meanwhile Adrian realized how Darwin’s work on fancy pigeons and hybrids, leading up to sexual selection, also served to undermine pro-slavery science. What’s more, Darwin had originally intended all of this to go into his great work on evolution, which was finally published as The Origin of Species – a book that everyone knows `omits man’. No Eureka moment for us, then, but a lot of loose ends came together to tie a gloriously satisfying knot.

2009 is the Darwin Bicentenary, as well as the 150th anniversary of the publication of his Origin of Species. Why has it taken so long to discover the moral motivation behind Darwin’s theories of sexual selection and human origins?

The Descent of Man hasn’t been read, much less read carefully. Over and over, scholars have called it `two books’ crushed together (and it is unwieldy, over 900 pages). That’s one reason. Another is this: only in the last generation have Darwin’s private notebooks, letters and marginal jottings become fully available. Without these, it was difficult to trace the development of his views on human origins. Above all, though, there has been great reluctance to see Darwin as more than a heroic `genius’ uncovering pure gems of `truth’ beyond the vision of ordinary mortals. To most of his admirers, Darwin was a `great scientist’ getting on with a great scientist’s proper job, not a Victorian gentleman with a moral passion making all life kin by solving that contemporary `mystery of mysteries’, how living species originate. But historians today see Darwin quite differently: they emphasize the social and historical context that made it possible for Darwin or anyone to craft a theory from available cultural resources. One such resource in Darwin’s world was anti-slavery, the greatest moral movement of his age. Our thesis is that the anti-slavery values instilled in him from youth became the moral premise of his work on evolution. Many scientists and philosophers think that explaining genius and its insights as we do saps the power of science and, given the challenge of creationism, is an act of treachery. The reluctance to dig beneath the surface of Darwin’s books into the social and cultural resources of his times is as dogged as ever.

And why is Darwin’s moral motivation important?

This is perhaps the most radical and upsetting idea: that there was a moral impetus behind Darwin’s work on human evolution – a brotherhood belief, rooted in anti-slavery, that led to a ‘common descent’ image for human ancestry, an image that Darwin extended to the rest of life, making not just the races, but all creatures brothers and sisters. In his family `tree of life’, all share a common ancestor. It’s vital to realize that Darwin’s science wasn’t the `neutral’, dispassionate practise of textbook caricature; it was driven by human desires and needs and foibles. Even our most vaunted theories – such as human evolution by a common descent with apes and all other creatures – may be fostered by humanitarian concerns. This throws all Darwin’s work – so vilified for being morally subversive – into an entirely different light.

How long did it take for the book to come to fruition?

Our gestation goes all the way back to Darwin in 1991, and to our separate but parallel interests in anti-slavery beliefs (in Adrian’s case) among radical anatomists, and (in Jim’s case) among the evangelical ethnologists that helped Darwin make his case for sexual selection. But we didn’t really get going on the project until ten years later, when we started writing the introduction to (and editing) the Penguin Classics edition of The Descent of Man. This was published in 2004, and by then we knew that we had only scratched the surface of a very deep subject. As the 2009 Darwin bicentenary approached, our work took on a life of its own, and after starting Darwin’s Sacred Cause about two years ago, we clinched the ‘common descent’ angle and pieced together how Darwin’s research for the book that became The Origin of Species effectively combated the rising `scientific racism’ in America and Britain.

What sort of research did the book involve?

Loads. That’s number one. Everything we’ve done separately and together for decades got poured into Darwin’s Sacred Cause. But our new research was prodigious. Jim spent weeks one scorching summer in the English Potteries, ploughing through faded, cross-written, semi-decipherable Darwin family correspondence, literally thousands of letters and other archival materials. Most of his other digging was local, in the vast Darwin archive at Cambridge University Library, but a trawl of the National Archives at Kew netted the logbooks of HMS Beagle and other ships, which shed fresh light on Darwin’s face-to-face encounter with slavery in South America. Adrian meanwhile ransacked the esoteric breeders’ literature that Darwin read, on cattle, pigeons, poultry and the like; and he tackled the racist propaganda that riled Darwin, and much else besides. Darwin’s Sacred Cause may be one of the first historical studies to exploit the rich nineteenth-century sources recently made available on-line: for instance, newspapers from the British Library and the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers yielded wonderfully fresh contextual material for our thesis.

What do you think is the most surprising element of this book?

Our revelation that much of Darwin’s research over many years was about race. There was no ultimate difference for Darwin between a `race’ and a `species’, so his work on `the origin of species’ was also about the origin of races, including the human races – `man’ was never an exception for him. And while most of Darwin’s research was implicitly about human origins, the extent of his explicit interest in combating racist science is a real surprise. The fact that his most intense phase of work on racial questions came as the United States hurtled towards civil war, a war that the humanitarian Darwin dreaded, adds poignancy to the moral dimension of his research.

What sort of reaction are you anticipating from the scientific community? The history community? The evangelical community?

Many scientists will welcome a `moral’ Darwin’ to confound his religious critics; others will resent our polluting Darwin’s pure science with `extra-scientific’ factors and will declare his anti-slavery beliefs irrelevant. Historians may be more positive, if only because Darwin’s Sacred Cause locates Darwin for the first time on the well-trodden historical fields of transatlantic slavery, slave emancipation and the American Civil War. And those who study the history of `scientific racism’ will have a new Darwin to reckon with. Evangelicals may feel distinctly queasy, not least because William Wilberforce, the Clapham `Saints’ and others they revere as religious ancestors once supped happily with the freethinking Darwins and saw them as allies in the anti-slavery crusade. Darwin’s words, `More humble & I believe true to consider [man] created from animals’, will pose a challenge to every creationist.

What lessons does this book contain for the relationship between religion and science?

That `the relationship between religion and science’ never existed; that religion in science was the norm in Darwin’s day, and he never escaped its aura; that biological theorizing about human nature inevitably poses moral questions, and in so far as these questions have religious answers, to that extent `religion and science’ are inseparable.

When readers close Darwin’s Sacred Cause after finishing it, what do you hope they will be thinking?

`Gee, I didn’t know that about Darwin.’ `I never dreamt he cared.’ `Maybe evolution has something going for it after all.’ `Next time at the zoo, maybe I’ll drop in on the relatives.’

Darwin’s Sacred Cause: Book Launch

February 9, 2009 at Great Hall, Sherfield Building, South Kensington Campus. From Imperial College London:

As part of celebrations of Darwin’s bicentenary, Imperial College London and Pengiun books are co-hosting the book launch of Darwin’s Sacred Cause: race, emancipation and the quest for human origins.

Join evolutionary biologist and journalist Olivia Judson in conversation with Adrian Desmond and James Moore, co-authors of a groundbreaking re-evaluation of Darwin’s science and ideas, for an evening of lively debate, discussion and discovery, as part of Imperial College London’s Darwin200 celebrations.

The event is co-hosted by Imperial College London and Penguin books. Signed copies of the book will be available for purchase.

Entry is by ticket only. Email your name and full contact address details to

New insights from fresh and untapped sources have driven Darwin scholars Desmond and Moore to re-think the basis of Darwin’s theories. Their new book, Darwin’s Sacred Cause, gives a new explanation of how Darwin reached his views on human origins. Published for the worldwide Darwin celebrations of 2009 – the bicentenary of his birth and the 150th anniversary of the Origin of Species – this book restores the moral core of Darwin’s work by recovering its lost historical context.

Through massive detective work among unpublished Darwin letters, unplumbed family correspondence and newly discovered Darwin reading lists, as well as diaries, ships’ logs, and dozens of official documents and rare contemporary works on race relations and humans origins, the authors back up their compelling claim: Darwin began his career committed to the unity of the human family; his science flowed from the greatest moral movement of his age.

Adrian Desmond, co-author with James Moore of the seminal Darwin, has published five other books on evolution, including Huxley, a life of Darwin’s ‘bulldog’. He studied at Harvard and University College London, and has higher degrees in vertebrate palaeontology and history of science, with a PhD for his work on Victorian evolution. He is an Honorary Research Fellow in the Biology Department at University College London.

James Moore has many publications on Darwin and his age, including The Post-Darwinian Controversies and The Darwin Legend . He holds degrees in science, divinity and history, and a PhD from Manchester University for his work on Victorian evolution and religion. Having taught at Cambridge, Harvard, Notre Dame and McMaster Universities, he is now Professor of the History of Science in the Open University.

"What’s New" at Darwin Online

These were added to The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online between May 1 and 13, 2008:

New colour images of: [1835]. [Extracts from letters addressed to Professor Henslow]. Image PDF

New colour images of: Blomefield, Leonard Jenyns. 1887. Chapters in my life. Bath: [privately printed]. Text Image PDF A new Darwin recollection

‘Admissions 1818-1828’. Christ’s College, Cambridge. Images New images of the complete book.

Huxley, T. H. 1860. On species and races, and their origin. The Medical Circular No. 401 (7 March): 149-150. Text Image

Waterhouse, F. H. 1878. [Coleoptera collected by Charles Darwin]. Nature 19 (19 December): 162. Text Image

Waterhouse, F.H. 1879. Descriptions of new Coleoptera of geographical interest, collected by Charles Darwin, Esq. Journal of the Linnean Society. Zoology 14: 530-534. Text Image

Cockerell, T.D.A. 1932. Bees collected by Charles Darwin on the voyage of the ‘Beagle’. Journal of the New York Entomological Society 40 (December): 519-522. Text Image

Funkhouse, W.D. 1934. A new membracid collected by Charles Darwin (Homoptera). Entomological News 45 (8) (October): 203-204. Text Image

Bryant, G. E. 1942. New species of Chrysomelidae, Halticinae (Coleopt.), collected by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the ‘Beagle’, 1832-1836. Annals and Magazine of Natural History (Ser. 11) 9: 99-107. Text Image

Wilder, B. G. 1880. The two kinds of vivisection—sentisection and callisection [forwarded to Nature by Darwin]. Nature 22 (30 September): 517-518. Text Image

Rosen, B. 1982. Darwin, coral reefs, and global geology. BioScience 32 (6): 519-525. Text Image PDF [Source of the well-known ‘Darwin was right!’ sign placed by a borehole on a coral atoll.]