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Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution Paperback – February 1, 1996

4.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Absorbing, well written, and splendidly organized. (I. Bernard Cohen)

An illuminating contribution...a dramatic story. (Yale Review)

A thorough and masterly book punctuated with a delicate sense of humor. (Times Literary Supplement)

The book will place in clearer perspective the role of Darwin in nineteenth-century thought. (Loren Eiseley The New York Times)

From the Back Cover

In her enduring study of the impact of Darwinism on the intellectual climate of the nineteenth century, Gertrude Himmelfarb brings massive documentation to bear in challenging the conventional view of Darwin's greatness. Touching on biography, history, and philosophy, she traces the origins and development of Darwin's views against the opinions of his time; assesses the influences on him; and shows what he intended his theory to mean, what his readers took it to mean, and what it has in fact meant. By such a route Ms. Himmelfarb recaptures "a sense of how a scientist, with the most innocent of intentions and the best of faith, can give birth to a theory that has an ancestry and a posterity of which he may be ignorant and a life of its own over which he has no control".
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 523 pages
  • Publisher: Ivan R. Dee; Reprint edition (February 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566631068
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566631068
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.4 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,481,287 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on December 24, 1999
Format: Paperback
All of the books I have ever read about Darwin either extoll him a a perfect, God-like creature, or vilify him as a demon. This book provides a comprehensive view of Darwin as he was, that is, as he saw himself and as others saw him. I was surprised to read that Darwin had many predecessors in the development of his theory, and that the flaws of the theory (which are significant) were generally recognized long before the challenges of modern science pointed them out. If you want your fancies about Darwin tickled, read others. If you want the facts, read Himmelfarb. I strongly recommend this book.
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Format: Paperback
Like all books by Himmelfarb, this one is erudite, well written, informative, insightful and sure to upset the politically correct which for me makes it five stars.

In first presenting the historical information about Darwin and his theory and then analyzing their historical and cultural effects, the author does a comprehensive job in presenting a balanced picture. However it is just this evenhandedness which will incite those secularists who hold Darwin up as the destroyer of God and the founder of the Scientific view of creation for Himmelfarb shows that Darwin himself never made these kind of claims, and that indeed the theory is just that- almost a pure thought hypothesis that has NEVER been experimentally verified, for in all the millions of fossils discovered to date there has never been an example of one species "evolving" into another, the cornerstone of what Darwin was trying to explain. While excuses abound for why this is so, nonetheless it is a fact which glaringly highlights that, while Darwin postulated A scenario for evolution, it may not be THE scenario.

Another interesting fact the author reveals is that many of the original defenders of the theory did so less from being convinced of its truth than for the "freedom" it offered from religious constraints on scientific inquiry, again highlighting the fact that it was more a philosophical revolution and less a scientific one that Darwin initiated.

As for the popular Liberal claim that God was no longer necessary because of natural selection, well, anytime science attempts to deal with metaphysical questions of "why" as opposed to how, it runs into problems which it cannot, almost by definition, answer. Specifically in this case, the claim that mutations are random is impossible to verify scientifically.
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This is a fascinating book about Charles Darwin, his family and friends, the development of his belief system, and its reception and acceptance by his professional peers and by the common man. The author has deeply researched the writings of the man, of those who were influences on him, and of those whose opinions carried weight in the scientific community, and she has given an excellent synthesis of the state of professional and popular scientific belief during the middle third of the 19th century. She devotes some time (about as much as you'd expect) to a critique of the theory of evolution by natural selection, but she does not accept or reject the theory, leaving that to her readers (some of her issues with the Darwinian theory have since been dealt with by the so-called neo-Darwinists, as the science of molecular biology has grown substantially in the last several decades; however, hers is an analysis of Darwin and his times, so the present state of science is not really pertinent to the book).
By and large this is a superb introduction to Charles Darwin, his theory, and his times, and is, above all, a good read.
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Format: Paperback
I've ordered this book to replace a copy that was recently lost. This is a fascinating study of Darwin's intellectual environment.
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