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The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin is universally recognised as one of the most important science books ever written. The Origin of Species is also a work of great cultural and religious significance, in that Darwin maintained that all organisms, including humans, are part of a natural process of growth from simple forms. This Companion commemorates the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Origin of Species and examines its main arguments. Drawing on the expertise of leading authorities in the field, it also provides the contexts - religious, social, political, literary, and philosophical - in which the Origin was composed. Written in a clear and friendly yet authoritative manner, this volume will be essential reading for both scholars and students More broadly, it will appeal to general readers who want to learn more about one of the most important and controversial books of modern times.
With insight and wit, Robert J. Richards focuses on the development of evolutionary theories of mind and behavior from their first distinct appearance in the eighteenth century to their controversial state today. Particularly important in the nineteenth century were Charles Darwin's ideas about instinct, reason, and morality, which Richards considers against the background of Darwin's personality, training, scientific and cultural concerns, and intellectual community. Many critics have argued that the Darwinian revolution stripped nature of moral purpose and ethically neutered the human animal. Richards contends, however, that Darwin, Herbert Spencer, and their disciples attempted to reanimate moral life, believing that the evolutionary process gave heart to unselfish, altruistic behavior. "Richards's book is now the obvious introduction to the history of ideas about mind and behavior in the nineteenth century. "--Mark Ridley, Times Literary Supplement "Not since the publication of Michael Ghiselin's The Triumph of the Darwinian Method has there been such an ambitious, challenging, and methodologically self-conscious interpretation of the rise and development and evolutionary theories and Darwin's role therein. "--John C. Greene, Science "His book . . . triumphantly achieves the goal of all great scholarship: it not only informs us, but shows us why becoming thus informed is essential to understanding our own issues and projects. "--Daniel C. Dennett, Philosophy of Science
Beginning with the lividity of Georges Cuvier at Etienne Geoffroy Saint Hillaire for daring to suggest, in 1830, the anatomical similarity between humans and animals and ending with the current efforts of creationists to discredit Darwinism with scientific-sounding jargon, this work provides an overview of the intellectual debates that have raged between supporters and detractors of Darwin, as well as within the ranks of his adherents (classicists, neo-Darwinists, sociobiologists, etc.) The author summarizes the arguments of the various factions and offers his own assessments of the relative values of the cases.
A biography of the controversial German evolutionist Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919)
In tracing the history of Darwin's accomplishment and the trajectory of evolutionary theory during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, most scholars agree that Darwin introduced blind mechanism into biology, thus banishing moral values from the understanding of nature. According to the standard interpretation, the principle of survival of the fittest has rendered human behavior, including moral behavior, ultimately selfish. Few doubt that Darwinian theory, especially as construed by the master's German disciple, Ernst Haeckel, inspired Hitler and led to Nazi atrocities. In this collection of essays, Robert J. Richards argues that this orthodox view is wrongheaded. A close historical examination reveals that Darwin, in more traditional fashion, constructed nature with a moral spine and provided it with a goal: man as a moral creature. The book takes up many other topics--including the character of Darwin's chief principles of natural selection and divergence, his dispute with Alfred Russel Wallace over man's big brain, the role of language in human development, his relationship to Herbert Spencer, how much his views had in common with Haeckel's, and the general problem of progress in evolution. Moreover, Richards takes a forceful stand on the timely issue of whether Darwin is to blame for Hitler's atrocities. Was Hitler a Darwinian? is intellectual history at its boldest.