Guide The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin - Volume II

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  2. The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (Volume II)
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  5. Charles Darwin - The Truth? - and Mr Lyell

To have put forward his ideas on evolution, we are told, could have destroyed him socially, and might even have engendered an action for blasphemy against him.

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But what justification is there for this claim? In the first place Darwin lived in seclusion for most of the time after he moved to Down House. As we have already seen, he travelled little, except for 'health cures', and most of his social contacts were conducted at his home. Secondly, many of Darwin's friends and acquaintances in the scientific world were themselves anti-religious, or at least anti-clerical. In what way, then, would he have rendered himself a social outcast?

Thirdly, and probably most tellingly, if a clergyman of the established church could openly write of the mutability of species in , why did Darwin need to wait for a further three years before writing a book that did little except cross a few "t's" and dot a few "i's"? On the strength of the evidence, those biographers who suggest that Darwin actually hoped that The Origin would not be published in his own lifetime seem to have a good point.

Yet he did not, in fact, wait that long.

The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (Volume II)

After several false starts he finally wrote and published his ideas, an event which, as we shall now see, was most probably due to the efforts and, in the end, the trickery of the one person who had been a major influence in Darwin's life from the time of the voyage of the Beagle - the geologist, Charles Lyell. Eiseley himself undoubtedly recognised the degree of influence that Lyell exerted over Darwin. Why else would he start the chapter on Lyell with the telling quotation:.

To be fair, Darwin was actually referring to his geological work in this comment, and it is quite certain that Darwin was, as a geologist, never more than a rank amateur when compared with Lyell. But we need not merely depend on Darwin's assessment of the situation.

Life and Letters of Charles Darwin — Volume 2

When Lyell's work on geology was first published it was in the teeth of the prevailing ideas on the Earth's history and development. In the 's it was still entirely respectable, if not actually obligatory, for scientists to regard their work as simply an investigation into the details of how God created the world and its contents, as described in the first book of The Bible - Genesis.

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From a geological perspective this meant studying how the physical form of the world had been arrived at by way of a series of cataclysmic upheavals such as The Flood. This view of geology we now know as catastrophism.

By way of total contrast, Lyell proposed that such upheavals, if they had happened at all, were far less significant in the shaping of the planet's surface than had been suggested. In his gradualist , or uniformitarian , view, the processes we see at work today, erosion by wind, rain, rivers, etc. Like many 'scientists' of the day, Charles Lyell - later Sir Charles Lyell - was actually a wealthy amateur; a lawyer by training and, briefly, by profession; but a geologist by inclination.

The first part of his great work, the three-volume Principles of Geology of which much of the second and third volumes are actually concerned with matters biological was published in It was, in truth, an attack on the doctrine of catastrophism and all that that implied about the historical validity of the account of The Flood and other biblical events.

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It was also, in many respects, poor science. According to Ospovat, for example:.

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It might be objected, of course, that Lyell was conspicuous amongst Darwin's acquaintences by his apparently steadfast refusal to accept the contents of Darwin's evolutionary hypothesis. Certainly he put on a very good act in this regard, but act is was.

On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection by Charles Darwin (Audiobook)

Eiseley quotes one of Darwin;'s contemporaries thus:. Perhaps a second quote, from Sir Charles himself, will throw a little light on his motivation. This passage comes from a letter written to a fellow geologist and personal friend , Poulette Scrope, as he prepared a review of the newly published first volume of The Principles of Geology for the Quarterly Review :. It was, of course, just a month or two short of the thirty years when John Murray, at Lyell's instigation, published the first edition of On the Origin of Species! His uniformitarian hypothesis and it's lack of a solid evidential basis reflected his eagerness to overthrow the concept of catastrophism and it's inherent support for a creationist view of history.

The three volumes of the Principles of Geology are, in reality, prototypical evolutionary texts. In almost the same sequence, Lyell took up the problems of the Origin For wasn't it Darwin himself who would write, nearly 30 years later:. It's as though Lyell described the problems, Blyth solved them, Darwin wrote it all up, and Wallace copied Darwin. No problem there as far as the Lyell-Darwin link is concerned. After devoting some time to geology, specially to coral reefs, and exhausting the subject of barnacles, he took up the development of his favourite question, the transformation of species.

In these earlier years of residence at Down he published The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs [], and two works on the geology of volcanic islands, and of South America.

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After he had given much time and profound thought to the question of evolution by natural selection, and had written out his notes on the subject, he received in from Alfred Russel Wallace a manuscript showing that he also had reached independently a theory of the origin of species similar to his own. This circumstance created a situation of considerable delicacy and difficulty, which was ultimately got over by the two discoverers presenting a joint paper, On the Tendency of Species to form Varieties , and On the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection.

Charles Darwin - The Truth? - and Mr Lyell

The publication in of The Origin of Species gave Darwin an acknowledged place among the greatest men of science, and the controversies which, along with other of his works, it raised, helped to carry his name all over the civilised world. Cousin, ]. Biographical note Naturalist, son of a physician, and grandson of Dr. Works Journal of Researches into the Natural History and Geology of the countries visited during the voyage round the world of H.