Posts Tagged ‘Charles Lyell’

Huxley, Darwin’s Advocate & Adversary

Within inner circle of advocates, Thomas Huxley was Charles Darwin’s flanking advocate for evolution, yet adversary.

Darwin began correspondence with Huxley in July 1851, eight years before the publication of The Origin of Species in 1859, who was then connected with the Westminster Review, a flagship publication for philosophical radicals known for promoting evolutionary concepts.

Huxley was one of the first to publicly come Darwin’s defense and the first to use the term “Darwinism” in a favorable review of The Origin of Species in the April 1860 issue of the Westminster Review. Together, Huxley and Darwin formed a perfect match−both Bible hating evolution advocates. Continue reading

Darwin Driven by Lost Letter

The letter from Alfred Russel Wallace in June 1858 stands as the most motivating letters Charles Darwin was ever to receive. Wallace’s letter forced Darwin to finish what was soon to be known as The Origin of Species−a work that had been over 20 years in-the-making, at the time. Darwin was shaken to the core.

In this infamous letter, apparently, Wallace had asked Darwin to review an accompanying paper on entitled “On the Tendency of Varieties to depart indefinitely from the Original Type.” Since they had been previously corresponding, Wallace thought Darwin might endorse the paper before sending to Charles Lyell. The letter has since been lost. Continue Reading

The Index Tale

The Index played an integral role in establishing the modern evolution industry following the publication of The Origin of Species in 1859. Even though Charles Darwin studied theology at Christ’s College, The Index was published by an emerging new rogue anti-Bible Unitarian movement.

During Darwin’s college years, however, Darwin was far removed from this movement. Upon entering Christ’s College at Cambridge University, in his autobiography Charles Darwin declared, “I did not then in the least doubt the strict and literal truth of every word in the Bible.” A key word in Darwin’s declaration is ‘then.”

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Principles of Geology

 

Often called the most important scientific book ever, Charles Lyell‘s Principles of Geology published in three volumes from 1830-33, shook prevailing views of how Earth had been formed.

Lyle challenged the premise that the history of the Earth has experienced supernatural and catastrophes events, including Noah’s flood as documented in Genesis. Ironically, Lyell was a graduate of Exeter College, a Catholic institution.

The frontispiece image illustrates the main point of the book: that evidence of the forces of geological change that have been shaping Earth for millennia is observable today—”the present is the key to the past”. The temple columns, with their high-water marks were the evidence Lyell used to propose that the sea levels had changed gradually several times. Continue Reading

“Mad Dream” Challenged by Pasteur

 

Charles Darwin, desperate to discover how evolution keeps going, in 1865, sent his good friend, Thomas Huxley, a thirty-page manuscript under the heading “The Hypothesis of Pangenesis.” Huxley’s response must have been discouraging, since Darwin replied, “I do not doubt your judgment is perfectly just and I will persuade myself not to publish. The whole affair is much too speculative.”

Pangenesis extended Aristotle’s concept of “spontaneous generation,” later popularized by French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. Still anxious, two years late in 1867 Darwin sent a letter to American scientist, Asa Gray at Harvard University –

The chapter on what I call Pangenesis will be called a mad dream, and I shall be pretty well satisfied if you think it a dream worth publishing; but at the bottom of my own mind I think it contains a great truth.

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Battle of the Architects

 

The essence of Charles Darwin’s theory, natural selection, is reflected in the title of his book—The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. Natural selection, Darwin argued, is the architect of evolution, “As square stone, or bricks, or timber, are the indispensable materials for a building, and influence its character, so is variability not only indispensible but influential. Yet in the same manner as the architect is all important person in a building, so is [natural] selection with organic bodies.”

Charles Lyell and Asa Gray, Darwin’s closest confidants, solidly disagreed. Lyell argued that natural selection can only preserve or eliminate; natural selection cannot create: “The destroy[ing] force is selection, the sustaining [force] preserves things … but in order that life shd. Exist where there was none before… this is not [natural] selection, but creation.”

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Westminster Review

Charles Darwin’s notoriety long preceded the publication of The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in November 1859. The Darwin family legacy has been likened to the Kennedy legacy in the twentieth century.

The Darwin legacy sold the book. No publicity was needed. All 1,250 printed copies were sold on the first day. The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection was an immediate success, the Harry Potter of the nineteenth century, and sequel to the widely popular Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation.

In the afternoons, Prince Albert was known for reading Vestiges aloud to Queen Victoria. The English writer of Vestiges, Robert Chambers (1802–1871) goal was to inspire popular interest in evolution—a Discovery Channel forerunner.

Darwin, however, received wide spread of publicity, with the Westminster Review leading the publicity campaign. In 1851, Chambers aligned with the widely popular Westminster Review journal that had been established in 1823 by British philosopher and economist Jeremy Bentham and James Mill as the official arm of the Philosophical Radicals. The Westminster Review was a the New Yorker prototype. Continue reading more

Offer of a Lifetime

 

After a flurry of studying, in January of 1831, at the age of twenty-one, Charles Darwin passed his examination for the Bachelor of Arts in theology, Euclid, and the classics from the University of Cambridge—finishing tenth out of a field of 178.

Remaining at Cambridge for two more terms after passing the final examination, Darwin became obsessed with the desire to travel. As a stroke of fate, after returning from a geological surveying tour in Wales was a letter from Professor John Henslow, with the offer of a lifetime. Darwin wrote,

“On returning home from my short geological tour in N. Wales, I found a letter from Henslow, informing me that Captain Fitz-Roy was looking for any young man who would volunteer to go with him without pay as naturalist to the voyage of the Beagle.”

The voyage was a planned two-year expedition to chart the coastline of South America in December. When Darwin shared the letter, his father said, “If you can find any man of common sense who advises you to go I will give my consent.” Not knowing who to ask, on August 31, 1831, Darwin wrote a letter to Henslow reluctantly turning down the offer.

By pure coincidence on the next day, Josiah Wedgwood II, Darwin’s uncle, arrived to visit Darwin’s father. Since Josiah was considered “one of the most sensible men in the world” by his father, Darwin discussed the situation with Josiah, who immediately made the case for the expedition.

Sealing the deal, Josiah offered to pay Darwin’s cost for the planned two-year expedition—an expedition that would eventually stretch to nearly five years. The next day Darwin quickly left for Cambridge to meet with Henslow to intercept the letter he had just sent.

On September 5, 1831, Henslow introduced Darwin to FitzRoy in London. FitzRoy was a wealthy nobleman, a descendant of the Duke of Grafton, and the Marquis of Londonderry. He was widely admired for his tight reign on his men, but as Darwin was soon to discover, his commanding was accompanied by a fiery temper.

At the age of twenty-six, FitzRoy, not much older than Darwin was at first, FitzRoy was not impressed with Darwin. FitzRoy thought the shape of Darwin’s nose was too weak to take a lengthy sea voyage. Eventually, Captain FitzRoy was persuaded—Henslow’s recommendation was accepted.

Darwin was appointed to be a “gentleman’s naturalist” and assist the “official” naturalist, surgeon Robert McKormick. As a paying passenger, Darwin was granted full use all the onboard facilities to perform research as a naturalist. Darwin was set to begin his life-long dream—exploring the tropics.

FitzRoy outlined the details of the voyage, including the impending sail date, October 10. Not wasting any time, Darwin took up residence at 17 Spring Gardens in London and began shopping and discussing the details of the voyage with FitzRoy; a dynamic relationship had just been launched.

Convinced “that he would find scientific proof that Genesis was literally true,” FitzRoy wanted a like-minded naturalist on board the Beagle to find the evidence. Darwin’s interest in William Paley’s perspective on nature made Darwin the perfect applicant. Paley’s book, Evidences of Christianity, espoused a divine design in nature.

Ironically, prior to leaving England, FitzRoy gave Darwin a copy of the just-released first volume of Charles Lyell’s new theory in the book entitled Principles of Geology, which argues in favor of only slight, successive changes in the earth. Lyell championed geological uniformitarianism. The tenet of uniformitarianism is that all the events over the history of the Earth are the same as today—catastrophic events on Earth, like The Flood and plate tetonics never happened.

Little did FitzRoy know that Principles of Geology would influence the impressions of Darwin to challenge rather than support the Genesis account. Although Darwin struggled to understand how the massive land movements along western coast of South America aligned with uniformitarianism, Darwin never abandoned Lyell’s theory.

The offer of a lifetime lead to the development of a lifetime pattern for Darwin—theory development contradicted by the evidence. Or as Charles Darwin’s brother, Erasmus, put it in a letter to Charles on November 23,1859, one day before the publication of The Origin of Species – “if the facts won’t fit, why so much the worse for the facts, in my feeling.”

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Darwin, Then and Now is a journey through the most amazing story in the history of science - the history of evolution. The book encapsulates who Darwin was, what he said, and what scientists have discovered since the publication of The Origin of Species in 1859.

With over 1,000 references, Darwin Then and Now is a historical chronicle of the rise and fall of the once popular theory of biological evolution.

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