- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (September 10, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 022638442X
- ISBN-13: 978-0226384429
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.7 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,244,319 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Debating Darwin Hardcover – September 10, 2016
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For Ruse, the key to understanding Darwin is that he was a typical 19th century Victorian. Anglican in religion (more so when he published the Origin in 1859), conversant with the Scottish Enlightenment, and a Whig liberal tied to industry and free trade. Ruse sketches briefly the ideological context in which Darwin lived and developed, including the use of fossil fuels, growing population, the natural theology of William Paley, the belief in progress, and the role of Deism. He shows how Darwin was influenced by the famous Lunar Society, his grandfather Erasmus Darwin, an early supported of evolution, the "Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation" (1844), and the rich heritage of speculation in Britain of this time. He then does a concise, but pretty complete, discussion of Darwin's Beagle voyage and his intellectual and scientific background, including Lyell, Hutton, Malthus, Adam Smith and Cuvier. He then discusses how Darwin's evolutionary theory developed, including his reluctance to apply it to humans. For Ruse, Darwin was a "hometown boy" shaped by his intellectual environment, and that is the key to understanding him and his theory.
By contrast, Richards argues in his essay that Darwin was really a cosmopolitan thinker, particularly influenced by the Romantics, especially the Germans tied to von Humboldt and Goethe. For Richards, Darwin was constantly modifying and augmenting his Origin theory. He incorporated ideas from studying embryology and Owen's theory of homology into his theory over time. He was anything but limited to Victorian Britain as stimulants to his own ideas. Of great interest, Richards is much more concerned with Darwin's view of God, natural laws, and what "intelligent mind" or "first cause" had shaped nature and the world. Richards refers to this as "Darwin's scientific theology." Also of interest is Richards' discussion of how Darwin developed moral ideas through his theory, as well as intellectual evolution.
In their final exchanges on each other's essays, they join on a variety of issues. There is more on the issue of "final cause," the evolution of morality, is selection and individual or group phenomenon?, the role of embryology the Romantics, and British theology. I found that it was not necessary to understand every detail of their respective theories; the process of back and forth educated me (to varying extents) in a wide variety of issues of which I had not been aware. Some very concentrated material requiring close attention. A very stimulating discussion and one I think essential for anyone seriously interested in Darwin and his theories.