Synopses & Reviews
The ideas and terminology of Darwinism are so pervasive these days that it seems impossible to avoid them, let alone imagine a world without them. But in this remarkable rethinking of scientific history, Peter J. Bowler does just that. He asks:and#160;What if Charles Darwin had not returned from the voyage of the Beagle
and thus did not write On the Origin of Species
? Would someone else, such as Alfred Russel Wallace, have published the selection theory and initiated a similar transformation? Or would the absence of Darwinandrsquo;s book have led to a different sequence of events, in which biology developed along a track that did not precipitate a great debate about the impact of evolutionism? Would there have been anything equivalent to social Darwinism, and if so would the alternatives have been less pernicious and misappropriated?
In Darwin Deleted, Bowler argues that no one else, not even Wallace, was in a position to duplicate Darwinandrsquo;s complete theory of evolution by natural selection.and#160;Evolutionary biology would almost certainly have emerged, but through alternative theories, which were frequently promoted by scientists, religious thinkers, and moralists who feared the implications of natural selection. Because non-Darwinian elements of evolutionism flourished for a time in the real world, it is possible to plausibly imagine how they might have developed, particularly if the theory of natural selection had not emerged until decades after the acceptance of the basic idea of evolution. Bowlerandrsquo;s unique approach enables him to clearly explain the non-Darwinian traditionandmdash;and in doing so, he reveals how the reception of Darwinism was historically contingent. By taking Darwin out of the equation, Bowler is able to fully elucidate the ideas of other scientists, such as Richard Owen and Thomas Huxley, whose work has often been misunderstood because of their distinctive responses to Darwin.
Darwin Deleted boldly offers a new vision of scientific history. It is one where the sequence of discovery and development would have been very different and would have led to an alternative understanding of the relationship between evolution, heredity, and the environmentandmdash;and, most significantly, a less contentious relationship between science and religion. Far from mere speculation, this fascinating and compelling book forces us to reexamine the preconceptions that underlie many of the current controversies about the impact of evolutionism. It shows how contingent circumstances surrounding the publication of On the Origin of Species polarized attitudes in ways that still shape the conversation today.and#160;
"Who better than Desmond and Moore, Darwin's acclaimed biographers, to bring a fresh perspective to Darwin's central beliefs? 'No one,' they say, 'has appreciated the source of that moral fire that fuelled his strange, out-of-character obsession with human origins.' This masterful book produces a perspective on Darwin as not only scientist but moralist. Darwin's deep abolitionist roots, say the authors, led him to ask the questions he did. Homing in on Darwin's moral and intellectual formation, and drawing on notebook jottings and marginalia, Desmond and Moore argue persuasively that the centerpiece of Darwin's work was demonstrating the 'common descent' of all human races, using science rather than activism to subvert the multiple origins view promoted by slavery's advocates. His humanitarian approach to science, the authors say, makes him more of a moral agent than his critics would concede, while the moral drive behind his science goes against today's ideal of disinterested scientific objectivity. Desmond and Moore build a new context in which to view Darwin that is utterly convincing and certain to influence scholars for generations to come. In time for Darwin's bicentennial, this is the rare book that mines old ground and finds new treasure." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Praise for Darwins Sacred Cause
"Arresting . . . confront[s] the touchy subject of Darwin and race head on . . . Adrian Desmond and James Moore published a highly regarded biography of Darwin in 1991 . . . the case they make is rich and intricate, involving Darwin's encounter with race-based phrenology at Edinburgh and a religiously based opposition to slavery at Cambridge. Even Darwin's courtship of Emma, whom he winningly called 'the most interesting specimen in the whole series of vertebrate animals,' is cleverly interwoven with his developing thoughts on 'sexual selection' . . ." - New York Times Book Review
"'Darwins Sacred Cause' shows that there is still new material to be gleaned from the life of a man much picked over, and who turned the world upside down." - Economist
"This book dispels the legend, long attached to retrospective accounts of Darwins research, that the great scientists interest in evolution was spurred by Galapagos finches. It was people all along . . . [Desmond and Moore] shed welcome light on lesser-known features of Darwins work, while also providing an exceptionally crisp account of mid-nineteenth-century debates over the origins of racial differences." - Edward J. Larson, Bookforum
"An illuminating new book." - Smithsonian
"In this controversial reinterpretation of Charles Darwins life and work, the authors of a highly regarded 1991 biography argue that the driving force behind Darwins theory of evolution was his fierce abolitionism, which had deep family roots and was reinforced by his voyage on the Beagle and by events in America." - Scientific American
"'Darwins Sacred Cause' is a compelling narrative, well researched and convincingly presented, offering a new understanding of who Darwin was and the passions that motivated his thought. Particularly eye opening is the surprising connection between Darwins theory and the Christian abolition movement as they together fought a scientific community that rejected the Christian belief that all mankind was descended from a single pair. The story of that unlikely alliance is fascinating to follow, full of colorful characters both noble and vile, revealing how science and religion were debased by the evil of racism." - BookPage
"Who better than Desmond and Moore, Darwin's acclaimed biographers, to bring a fresh perspective to Darwin's central beliefs? . . . This masterful book produces a perspective on Darwin as not only scientist but moralist . . . Desmond and Moore build a new context in which to view Darwin that is utterly convincing and certain to influence scholars for generations to come. In time for Darwin's bicentennial, this is the rare book that mines old ground and finds new treasure." Publishers Weekly, starred, boxed review
"Rush[es] forward with the urgency of the abolitionist spirit. Magnificent. Booklist, starred review
"[A] stimulating, in-depth picture of 19th-century scientific thinking and racial attitudes." Kirkus Reviews
"Well researched, likely to be controversial . . . this book provides [an] enlightening glimpse into a life of seemingly infinite complexity." Library Journal
"Desmond and Moores fascinating new look at Darwin forces us to revise and expand the way we look at this revolutionary figure, and to see him wrestling with moral as well as scientific questions. And it is a reminder of just how much the issue of slavery loomed over everything in the nineteenth century, including even fields that were apparently far distant." Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopolds Ghost and Bury the Chains
"This exciting book is sure to create a stir. Already widely admired for their pathbreaking biography of Charles Darwin, Desmond and Moore here give an entirely new interpretation of Darwins views on humankind, bringing together scholarship and sparkling narrative pace to explore theories of ape ancestry and racial origins in the Victorian period. Darwins part in making the modern world will never be the same again!" Janet Browne, Aramont Professor of the History of Science, Harvard University, and author of Charles Darwin: Voyaging
and#8220;Darwin Deleted offers a journey into the history of evolutionism well worth taking. Through his scenario in which the Origin never appeared, Bowler improves our ability to think about the assumptions underlying contemporary debates.and#8221;
andquot;Without Darwin, Peter Bowler concludes, we would probably have ended up in much the same place we are today, with an evolutionary theory based largely on natural selection, and with most of the big historical events of the past century unfolding as they did. Where Darwin really mattered was in timing. Here, ironically, the shock of his book, and the polarisation it caused, may have delayed the acceptance of evolution. The great man was ahead of his time, and science may have paid a price for that.andquot;
"In this extremely entertaining and meticulously detailed book, Peter J. Bowler explores the development of evolutionary biology sans
the grand old bearded one. . . . Removing Darwin from the picture altogether might be seen as rather drastic and many will raise an eyebrow at the approach Bowler adopts, yet it is a powerful and stimulating idea."
does the scientific community a great service by reminding it of ideas that are often mentioned only in passing, if at all, in basic biology classes, or even those that teach evolutionary theory. The mainstream history of science so dominants the story that failed contingencies of history have little bearing once a scientific theory becomes fact. Unless one is a science historian, learners should be engaged in studying and applying the best ideas, rather than retracing dead ends. But the dead ends can present their own fascination. Ideas like inheritance without genetics, the rigid view that once a species emerged it remained unchanged, or spontaneous generation from primitive forms, created ideas against which evidence could be applied.andquot;
andldquo;A coup in counterfactual history. Only Peter J. Bowler, with his unique command of intellectual history, would dare to propose this bookandrsquo;s radical heresy. Darwinian atheists will excommunicate him; andlsquo;God delusionistsandrsquo; will slate him for deposing their tribal deity. But it is only by denying Darwinandrsquo;s historical necessity that the freedom to augur a world of post-Darwinian alternatives becomes possible.andrdquo;
andldquo;What would science, and the world, have been like if Charles Darwin had never published On the Origin of Species
?and#160;This exhilarating book is Peter Bowlerandrsquo;s answer.and#160;He draws on unrivalled knowledge of evolutionary theorizing and its social lives to build up a compelling case for what might have been.and#160;Along the way, he shows by example how to pursue andlsquo;counterfactualandrsquo; inquiry into the scientific past and why, if we seek genuine understanding of that past, we need to do so.andrdquo;
andldquo;Using his unrivaled knowledge of Charles Darwin and the revolution associated with his name, Peter J. Bowler digs deeply and profoundly into the ideas and events that Darwinandrsquo;s On the Origin of Species started by asking what would have happened had Darwin died young and the Origin never been written.and#160;Would science have gone on much the same; would social ideas associated with Darwin make no appearance?and#160;Bowler raises and discusses these and related questions in a work that is fun and informative.and#160;Whether or not he is right or wrong in his judgments, he makes you rethink yours.and#160;Buy the book and challenge Bowlerandrsquo;s counterfactual history.andrdquo;
andldquo;In this fascinating new book on the history of evolutionary biology, Hale explores the effects of Darwinism on the intertwined political, social, and natural economies of nineteenth-century Britain. Yet it is Darwinism with a difference. Instead of Charles Darwin, it is Malthus who is the focus of attentionandmdash;and the rise and fall of Malthusandrsquo;s ideas of competition, survival, overproduction, and success. Some biological thinkers rejected Malthusian ideas expressly because of their link with capitalism and explored other forms of evolutionary progress in human society. Others such as Thomas Henry Huxley continued to believe in a Malthusian gladiatorial arena. Hale presents incisive accounts of theorists such as Spencer, Mill, Hume, and the Duke of Argyle, and relocates Darwinandrsquo;s theories of moral and social evolution into the broader context of political change. This new light on the explosion of evolutionary thought after Darwin is extremely welcome.andrdquo;
andldquo;In his exploration of the crucial role of Malthusian thought in the evolutionary theory of liberal radicalism, Hale has provided scholars with a sort of sequel to Adrian Desmondandrsquo;s Politics of Evolution. Hale shows that the debate over the validity of Malthus split liberal radicals into opposing camps.andnbsp;This is a novel approach to the relationship of evolution and political thought in the Victorian and Edwardian periods. It makes sense of what previously has been a confusing mass of debates involving important political thinkers and scientists who at first glance appeared to be allies. Impressive in its scope, Political Descent is a bold and exciting book.andrdquo;
andldquo;Haleandrsquo;s survey reveals the full complexity of the political views that were derived from Darwinandrsquo;s theory, with significant implications for how we view that theory today. He also demonstrates the roles played by non-Darwinian evolutionary theories, which influenced both the supporters and opponents of andlsquo;social Darwinism.andrsquo;andrdquo;
andldquo;Political Descent by Hale is a provocative and fresh rereading of the Victorian debates after Darwin about cooperation and altruism among humans. I never realized that I could learn so much new or that so often I would be forced to go back and reevaluate long-held beliefs. This is scholarship at its best and even better is a really good read. Highly recommended.andrdquo;
andldquo;Darwin Deleted is an important contribution to the history of science and is essential reading for students and scholars interested in the biological sciences and evolutionary thought. More importantly, however, it is an accessible book that will engage general readers and should be read by anyone who wants an informed view on the relationship between evolution and religion.andrdquo;
andquot;[A] wide-ranging historical narrative. . . . Ambitious.andquot;
andquot;Haleandrsquo;s welcome study tracks freshly for us the wide array of social and political ends and ideals to which knowledge of natural history could be put. It is an important contribution.andquot;
andquot;A revelatory group portrait of socialist-Darwinian London of the 1880s and 90s.andquot;
andquot;Meticulously researched and compellingly argued. . . . Ideas can, and do, take on lives of their own and impact in ways beyond the conception of their originators. One could safely argue that Malthus, a priest schooled in the Church of Englandandrsquo;s 39 articles of religion at the University of Cambridge, would at the very least have been troubled by Darwinandrsquo;s work, just as Darwin disagreed with those who sought to subvert his theory to suit their own views of how the world should look.andquot;
andquot;Makes significant contributions to a wide range of interconnected historiographies and will become a standard work on the intersection of biology and politics. . . . The book will also come to be considered also as a significant contribution to an emerging new historiography on Malthus: the figure who seldom appears in person in Political Descent but haunts its discussions throughout.andquot;
"Desmond and Moore have, with great thoroughness, displayed the variety of ideological and scientific positions on slavery during the first half of the 19th century." Robert J. Richards, American Scientist
(read the entire American Scientist review
Mining untapped sources, the authors of an acclaimed biography of Darwin offer an astonishing new portrait of the scientific icon. In Darwin's Sacred Cause
, Adrian Desmond and James Moore restore the missing moral core of Darwin's evolutionary universe, providing a completely new account of how he came to his shattering theories about human origins.
Desmond and Moore's biography of Darwin was described by Stephen Jay Gould as unquestionably the finest...ever written about him. In their new book, timed to coincide with the worldwide Darwin bicentenary celebrations, Desmond and Moore provide a major reexamination of Darwin's life and work.Drawing on a wealth of fresh manuscripts, unpublished letters, notebooks, diaries, and ships' logs, they argue that the driving force behind Darwin's theory of evolution was not simply his love of truth or personal ambition it was his fierce hatred of slavery. Darwin's abolitionism had deep roots in his mother's family, and it was reinforced by his voyage on the Beagle as well as by events in America from the Civil War to the arrival of scientific racism at Harvard. Compulsively readable and utterly persuasive, Darwin's Sacred Cause will revolutionize our view of the great scientist.
An astonishing new portrait of a scientific icon
In this remarkable book, Adrian Desmond and James Moore restore the missing moral core of Darwins evolutionary universe, providing a completely new account of how he came to his shattering theories about human origins.
There has always been a mystery surrounding Darwin: How did this quiet, respectable gentleman, a pillar of his parish, come to embrace one of the most radical ideas in the history of human thought? Its difficult to overstate just what Darwin was risking in publishing his theory of evolution. So it must have been something very powerfula moral fire, as Desmond and Moore put itthat propelled him. And that moral fire, they argue, was a passionate hatred of slavery.
To make their case, they draw on a wealth of fresh manuscripts, unpublished family correspondence, notebooks, diaries, and even ships logs. They show how Darwins abolitionism had deep roots in his mothers family and was reinforced by his voyage on the Beagle as well as by events in Americafrom the rise of scientific racism at Harvard through the dark days of the Civil War.
Leading apologists for slavery in Darwins time argued that blacks and whites had originated as separate species, with whites created superior. Darwin abhorred such "arrogance." He believed that, far from being separate species, the races belonged to the same human family. Slavery was therefore a "sin," and abolishing it became Darwins "sacred cause." His theory of evolution gave all the racesblacks and whites, animals and plantsan ancient common ancestor and freed them from creationist shackles. Evolution meant emancipation.
In this rich and illuminating work, Desmond and Moore recover Darwins lost humanitarianism. They argue that only by acknowledging Darwins Christian abolitionist heritage can we fully understand the development of his groundbreaking ideas. Compulsively readable and utterly persuasive, Darwins Sacred Cause will revolutionize our view of the great naturalist.
Reading the sixth edition of Thomas Robert Malthusand#8217;s Essay on the Principle of Population
famously led Charles Darwin to arrive at his theory of natural selection, for many have studied what Darwin took from Malthus and the influence of political economy on the theory of natural selection. In a bold move, Piers J. Hale contends that this focus on Malthus and his effect on Darwinand#8217;s evolutionary thought has neglected a strong anti-Malthusian tradition in English intellectual life, one that not only predated the 1859 publication of the Origin of Species
but which persisted throughout the Victorian period at least until the First World War. Political Descent
reveals that there were two evolutionary and political traditions that developed in tandem in England: the one Malthusian, the other decidedly anti-Malthusian and owing much to the transmutationist ideas of the French naturalist Jean Baptiste Lamarck. The split mirrored the rift in English radicalism that followed in the wake of the 1832 Reform Act. These two traditions developed in a context of mutual hostility, debate, and refutation.and#160;
Historians of science have long noted the influence of the nineteenth-century political economist Thomas Robert Malthus on Charles Darwin. In a bold move, Piers J. Hale contends that this focus on Malthus and his effect on Darwinand#8217;s evolutionary thought neglects a strong anti-Malthusian tradition in English intellectual life, one that not only predated the 1859 publication of the Origin of Species
but also persisted throughout the Victorian period until World War I. Political Descent
reveals that two evolutionary and political traditions developed in England in the wake of the 1832 Reform Act: one Malthusian, the other decidedly anti-Malthusian and owing much to the ideas of the French naturalist Jean Baptiste Lamarck. and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;
These two traditions, Hale shows, developed in a context of mutual hostility, debate, and refutation. Participants disagreed not only about evolutionary processes but also on broader questions regarding the kind of creature our evolution had made us and in what kind of society we ought therefore to live. Significantly, and in spite of Darwinand#8217;s acknowledgement that natural selection was and#147;the doctrine of Malthus, applied to the whole animal and vegetable kingdoms,and#8221; both sides of the debate claimed to be the more correctly and#147;Darwinian.and#8221; By exploring the full spectrum of scientific and political issues at stake, Political Descent offers a novel approach to the relationship between evolution and political thought in the Victorian and Edwardian eras.
About the Author
Adrian Desmond has written seven other books on evolution and Victorian science, including an acclaimed biography, Huxley. An Honorary Research Fellow in the biology department at University College London, he is editing (with Angela Darwin) The T. H. Huxley Family Correspondence.James Moores books include The Post-Darwinian Controversies and The Darwin Legend. He has taught at Harvard, Notre Dame, and McMaster University, and is professor of the History of Science at the Open University. He is currently researching the life of Alfred Russel Wallace.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Politics of Evolution
1 Every Cheating Tradesman: The Political Economy of Natural Selection
2 A Very Social Darwinist: Herbert Spencerand#8217;s Lamarckian Radicalism
3 A Liberal Descent: Charles Darwin and the Evolution of Ethics
4 Liberals and Socialists: The Politics of Evolution in Victorian England
5 Malthus or Mutualism?: Huxley, Kropotkin, and the Moral Meaning of Darwinism
6 Of Mice and Men: Malthus, Weismann, and the Future of Socialism
7 Fear of Falling: Evolutionary Degeneration and the Politics of Panmixia
Conclusion: Political Descent: Anticipations of the Twentieth Century and Beyond
Afterword: Engaging the Present