Hola!  Among other topics, I am very interested in the history of how an idea forms and develops, and the theory of evolution is no different.  There is a good book called "Darwin's Armada" by Iain McCalman and in it he discusses the voyages to the Southern Seas of Darwin, Huxkley, Wallace, and Hooker, and how these impacted Darwin and evolution (I am only about halfway through with the book but it is the history itself I am interested in discussing).

What I often wonder as the debates over YEC, OEC, and evolution rage on (like the up and coming Ham vs Nye), is what do most people know of the history of the development of evolution?  What do they know of Darwin's influences as he stepped aboard the Beagle as the Captain's companion?  Do they realize how he rejected the ID argument of the day?  Do they realize that 2 separate sceintists developed the hypothesis of natural selection simultaneoulsy?  Do people realize that had Wallace not sent an early copy of his work to Darwin, that we would likely attribute his name to it instead?  Do people understand that the reason why Darwin had delayed publication was because he knew the church would come after he and his family politically and socially (which was a big deal since his wife was very devout and he did not want her to go through that)?  

I am sure I am preaching to the choir (or cheering the pep squad if you prefer a secular version) in regards to evolution over the other 2 ideas, but I still wonder how much of this the gen pop of people who understand evolution know about?

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I have posted reviews of some key books in the history of evolutionary theory here: http://www.takeondarwin.com/index.php/forum/15-book-reviews: Erasmus Darwin's Zoonomia, Robert Chambers' Vestigies of the Natural History of Creation, Samuel Butler's Life and Habit.

Auguste Comte, the creator of Positivism, published the third volume in his series, on chemistry and biology, in 1837, and Darwin read a review of it just as he was looking for a guiding principle for his theory of evolution. I read he was so overwhelmed by Comte's book that he had to leave the library, with a severe headache, and return next day to read it again. He seems to have become a very early apostle of Positivism. Positivism banishes from science any consideration of volition, natural or supernatural, including of course human consciousness and free will. I see in this the origin of the physicalist tradition in evolutionary theory, and why creationism keeps its appeal. Most people want from evolution an account of consciousness and free will, and since tradition from Darwin up to the modern synthesis has explicitly excluded these from consideration, there is only creationism to turn to. A new leaf would be turned if we could work from consciousness and our sense of free will back to the fact of evolution, to come up with a more satisfying mechanism.

That evolution involves only purely physical processes is not a deduction from observations, it is an application of physicalist doctrine. This is a very important issue in the history of thinking on evolutionary theory. Butler in Life and Habit explores an alternative way of thinking.

I read Jenny Uglow's The Lunar Men (2002), about Erasmus Darwin and his friends, who did whatever they could to give a boost to science. In his book you can see how many people wondered about evolution and tried to develop theories decades before Charles Darwin worked out his theory.




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