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Darwin's Sacred Cause: How a Hatred of Slavery Shaped Darwin's Views on Human Evolution
Darwin's Sacred Cause: How a Hatred of Slavery Shaped Darwin's Views on Human Evolution
by Adrian Desmond
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $21.24
73 used & new from $0.01

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Valuable Glimpse into Darwin's Mind, March 15, 2009
A very worthwhile read in my opinion. The amount of material the authors have included make some of the chapters exceptionally slow and plodding, especially the early ones, but once that groundwork is accomplished, the later chapters soar. Valid criticisms have been posted of the wordiness involved, but I doubt anyone else could have done it better than these proven masters of Darwiniana, and the payoff is well worth the effort. Imagine a new Darwin book where we don't have to slog through another rendition of the death of daughter Annie, or of Spa regimens, etc, but instead are introduced so fully into the milieu of a world where slavery is the gut-wrenching topic of the day and science is the field upon which opponents fight to either justify or abolish that practice. This is the world view the authors have recreated in this book. They very effectively show how fundamentally that world view effected Darwin, and why so much of what he was grudgingly forced into producing was directly related to contradicting the arguments of his pro-slavery scientific opponents. Who knew that over such a topic he became quite angry at not just Wallace, but Lyell and Hooker and his own son William Erasmus, or that even he and Asa Gray almost had a falling out over Civil War strategy? Or that Harriet Martineau, who always previously came across as just some ugly, cigar smoking socialist who hung out with brother Erasmus, was such a valid anti-slavery champion who's ideas, promulgated through the Darwin ladies, had to have spurred on Charles in his pursuits? I certainly did not, so as a Darwin freak I thank the authors for revealing that piece of the pie.

Not an easy read by any means, nor for the first timer looking for an introductory book on Darwin. I give it a 4 rating, not because I think the authors could have done much better, but simply because I would not like potential readers to believe that this difficult read flows anywhere near as easily as the authors previous wonderful Darwin biography.


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