On the evolution of Darwin

From The Guardian:

Charles-Darwin-by-John-Co-001 It sounds glib to say that every age moulds Charles Darwin to its own preoccupations, but the temptation is hard to resist. To the Victorians, he was an atheistic agitator undermining humankind's privileged moral status. In the early 20th century, he became a prophet of social engineering and the free market. With sociobiology in the 1970s, Darwinism became a behavioural theory, while neo-Darwinist genetics prompted a bleak view of humanity as gene machines driven by the selfish imperatives of our DNA.

Now, 200 years after Darwin's birth and 150 years after the publication of On the Origin of Species, Adrian Desmond and James Moore, whose doorstop 1991 biography seemed to leave nothing more to be said, offer a new vision of the architect of evolution by natural selection. In Darwin's Sacred Cause (Allen Lane £25), they say that Darwin's work on the common ancestry of all living things was motivated not by abstract curiosity, but by a determination to show that African slaves have the same roots as their white masters. They claim that the foundational text of modern biology was spurred by Darwin's repugnance of the slave trade.

In this view, Darwin's championing of the “brotherhood” of all men might even be considered one of the enabling factors in the election of a black man as US president. There will no doubt be sneers at this “politically correct” Darwin, but it is hard to dispute Desmond and Moore's contention that Darwin aimed to overturn the notion, conveniently adopted by slavers, that blacks and Europeans (and other races) were separate species.

More here.

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