Sunday, January 31, 2010

Charles Darwin

When I was in school I certainly heard a bit about Charles Darwin and The Origin of the Species. I never actually read the Origin of the Species, did you? Most of the references I learned were about the adaptation of birds on the Galapagos Islands to different ecological niches. I know he also did some studies of marine invertebrates and worms. Mostly he was an observer who made speculative observations. His education was mostly in Anglican theology and geology and his work was done under the auspices of a geographical society. He was not a biologist by training, as far as I know.

I never heard that he theorized that humans descended from apes. I never heard that he was an atheist or ever uttered any sentiments against the existence of a creationist God. I never heard that he theorized about or advocated for any type of eugenics or birth control. Malthusianism was very popular during his lifetime among those of his social class. He was not one of them. The concept of Social Darwinism wasn't developed during his lifetime. I never heard that he engaged in activism or even radical thought of any type.

Charles Darwin was from a rich family against whom he never rebelled or was estranged from. He was very well behaved during his student days, received high marks and was popular with professors, students and the Anglican clergy that administered his college. I don't think he ever made any money from his research or publications, which never sold more than a few thousand copies although he got pretty famous in academic circles. He was ill for much of his life and became reclusive. He married his cousin and with her raised several sickly children. By all accounts they loved each other and the sickly children deeply. I don't think he ever was interested in influencing public opinion about politics, philosophy or religion at all.

Where do the fucking wingnuts get all this shit about Darwin? Do they just make it up?

UPDATE: I just want to clarify. I'm not saying that I don't believe that man didn't evolve from common ancestors with other primates. Go back far enough and we have common ancestors with sea slugs. I'm just saying that Charles Darwin never said so.


W.C. Varones said...

Did he not theorize that humans descended from apes? I had the impression that he had, though I suppose that could have been later scientists' derivative work.

reddog said...

My understanding is that he theorized that natural selection would apply to the human species. I never read anywhere that he theorized where the human race had come from, nor did he ever advocate eugenics as a way to manipulate its future.

Cut and shoot said...

"I see no good reasons why the views given in this volume should shock the religious sensibilities of anyone."
-- Charles Darwin, in the foreword to his book, The Origin of Species, 1869

"To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree."

-- Charles Darwin, Origin of Species
"As my conclusions have lately been much misrepresented, and it has been stated that I attribute the modification of species exclusively to natural selection, I may be permitted to remark that in the first edition of this work, and subsequently, I placed in a most conspicuous position—namely at the close of the Introduction—the following words: "I am convinced that natural selection has been the main but not the exclusive means of modification." This has been of no avail. Great is the power of steady misrepresentation."

-- Charles Darwin, 1872 edition of The Origin of Species