Darwin in the 19th Century:  A War with Many Fronts


From Romanticism to Materialism

Subplot:  The Triumph of History





Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802)


§  The Loves of Plants (later editions- The Botanic Garden) - 1889 (epic poem; erotic sub-text)  


§  The Temple of Nature – 1803 (posthumous epic poem )




Charles Darwin (12 Feb. 1809-1882)


v On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. (1st. ed. 1859)


v The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871)



Darwinian Evolution

1.     Random Variation

2.     Natural Selection*

3.     [Species Divergence, aka adaptive radiation]


* Not Survival of the Fittest, but Adaptation to Current Conditions


Subtlety of the Model:

Gould’s Spandrels and Adaptational Neutrality

Adaptational Negative: Human infancy

Refuge and Prospect : The Golf Gene



Darwin vs. the Vitalists

Vs. Lamarckian Evolution

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829)

1.     Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics

2.     Vitalistic Striving


Idealists vs. Materialists


Essences vs. the Periodic Chart (Mendeleev – 1869)



Darwin and the Professionalization of Science

Vs. Fixity and Design

Ø  Newton

Ø  Bishop Ussher – 23 October 4004 BC

Ø  Linnaeus (1707-1778)

Ø  Natural Theology – Vicar Naturalists

Ø  Vs. Bishop Samuel Wilberforce



Doubting Darwin

The Sixth Edition (1872) - Darwin’s Doubts

Ø  Fleeming Jenkin and The Problem of Swamping

Ø  Lord Kelvin’s Calculations and the Problem of Time

Ø  Darwin’s Waffle

Ø  Mainstream Christianity’s Reception



Not until the 20th Century

Ø  Modern Genetics

Ø  Understanding of Nuclear Energy

Ø  Modern Fundamentalism







Quick Bibliography


Romantic Science –


Stephen Johnson, The Invention of Air: A Story Of Science, Faith, Revolution, And The Birth Of America (2009)

Richard Holmes, The Age of Wonder: The Romantic Generation and the Discovery of the Beauty and Terror of Science (2010)



Darwin Biography –

Adrian Desmond and James Moore Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist (1994)

Darwins’s Impact –

Ronald L. Numbers, Darwinism Comes to America (1998)

Robert Wright, The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology (1995)

Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined  (Oct., 2011)

Howard French, "E.O. Wilson's Theory of Everything." The Atlantic (November 2011)