Botany Charles Darwin | Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution by natural selection

Botany Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin, biologist, botanist and racist

Exactly thirteen decades ago, in Down House Cottage, Kent, a coughing Charles Darwin bravely told his wife and children, “I am not the least afraid to die.”

For an educated man, one had an embarrassingly narrow view of the world.

Later that day, the world said goodbye to its most important biologist. The world’s thinkers are still surfing the ripples in his wake.

Not least, Professor Richard Dawkins. Like his hero, Dawkins is disproportionately influential because he enjoys speaking about things well outside his discipline.

As the big name at the Global Atheist Convention 2012, he barely said a word about biology. He mostly wanted to talk about atheism and how we should think.

On Q and A he wanted us to know there are some questions that are wrong to ask. At one point his words had a sting:

“Why?” is a silly question. You can ask, “What are the factors that led to something coming into existence?” That’s a sensible question. But “What is the purpose universe?” is a silly question. It has no meaning.

Much more corrosive, are his thoughts about the fundamental value of being human. InRiver Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life he offers a way to make sense of a tragic bus accident that had killed some school kids:

“In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt… there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”

It’s just valid worldview, you say. And you may be right. But let’s not pretend that these doctrines won’t affect anybody. The law of unintended consequences shows they will.

The shining example is Charles Darwin himself with the impact his thought had on indigenous people.

Darwin had plenty of interaction with all kinds of ethnic groups on his five-year voyage on HMS Beagle. Fitting in with his emerging theory of natural selection, he was inclined to give each one a ranking as to how evolved they were.

On meeting the inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego, off Chile, he gave a devastating judgment. He demeaned the Fuegians with:

“Viewing such men, one can hardly make oneself believe that they are fellow-creatures…”

Not even human? That thought would have deadly implications for the Fuegians.

A few years later, HMS Beagle went to the Bay of Islands. Here he met one James Busby, the official “British Resident to New Zealand” along with many Maoris native to the area. Busby had been working with 34 Northern Maori chiefs, and some capable missionaries, to draw up the Declaration of Independence and Congress, later made law by the House of Commons.

It saw indigenous people as being equally human, as it accepted that:

“All sovereign power and authority in the land… reside entirely and exclusively in the hereditary chiefs and heads of tribes in their collective capacity”.

While this strong statement upset people back in the Colonial Office, the thinking behind their declaration wasn’t controversial at the time. Many educated people accepted what the Bible taught, that “of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth.”

Darwin wasn’t interested in that. And he wasn’t impressed with the Maori. His diaries explained they were one rung beneath the savage Polynesians.




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How Darwin’s Photos of Human Emotions

by NewMsLoree

Changed Visual Culture
In 1872, some thirteen years after The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin published The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, one of the first scientific texts to use photographic illustrations. Though the work itself was hardly groundbreaking — it was based on the research of French neurologist Guillaume-Benjamin Duchenne, who ten years prior used electrodes to explore the human face as a map of inner states and published Mécanisme de la Physionomie Humaine (The Mechanisms of Human Physiognomy) — Darwin’s book is regarded not only as his main contribution to psychology, but also as a pivotal turning point in the history of book illustration, right up there with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

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