Evolution and the Victorians: Science, Culture and Politics by Jonathan Conlin

By Jonathan Conlin

Charles Darwin's discovery of evolution via average choice was once the best medical discovery of all time. The book of his 1859 e-book, at the beginning of Species, is generally taken because the element at which evolution erupted as an concept, appreciably changing how the Victorians observed themselves and others. This booklet tells a really diverse tale. Darwin's discovery used to be a part of an extended means of negotiation among mind's eye, religion and data which begun lengthy ahead of 1859 and which keeps to at the present time.

Evolution and the Victorians presents historians with a survey of the thinkers and debates implicated during this procedure, from the past due 18th century to the 1st international struggle. It units the heritage of technology in its social and cultural context. Incorporating text-boxes, illustrations and a thesaurus of professional phrases, it offers scholars with the history narrative and center techniques essential to have interaction with professional historians corresponding to Adrian Desmond, Bernard Lightman and James Secord. Conlin skilfully synthesises fabric from a number of resources to teach the ways that the invention of evolution was once a collaborative firm pursued in all components of Victorian society, together with many who don't at the start seem "scientific".

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Extra info for Evolution and the Victorians: Science, Culture and Politics in Darwin's Britain

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Yet Huxley went on to explain that he did not see science as based on ‘hard’ concepts, that he saw no benefit or interest in going back to a priori concepts (concepts based on theoretical deduction, rather than empirical observation), in the attempt to explore what lay behind those concepts. As a practice, he explained, science required the scientist to accept certain concepts unquestioningly, without troubling himself. Those concepts might seem fantastic or unbelievable when inspected closely.

Many argued that natural selection should not replace earlier systems unless and until it was proved with ultimate certainty. Yet Darwin noted that mutability could not be proved.  Hutton precisely because Hutton was ‘one of the very few who see that 18 Evolution and The Victorians the change of species cannot be directly proved, & that the doctrine must sink or swim according as it groups & explains phenomena’. ’10 When Wallace read The Origin he wrote to his brother-in-law Thomas Sims that It is the vast chaos of facts, which are explicable and fall into beautiful order on the one theory, which are inexplicable and remain a chaos on the other, which I think must ultimately force Darwin’s views on any and every reflecting mind.

Both Wallace and Darwin were particularly aware that having a hypothesis did not just give them something to do with the observations they made, it actually encouraged them to make more observations than they would otherwise have done. This approach, of formulating a hypothesis, then seeking corroborating facts, went against the method advanced by Francis Bacon in his famous Novum Organum (1620), the inductive method most Victorians saw as the ‘scientific method’. This method presumed a mind clear of any preconceptions whatsoever; a mind which made observations, classified them, and then drew ‘inductive generalisations’ (general laws or principles) from the patterns identified in the data.

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