Darwinism

Darwinism - HWC205: Western Civilization II Week 11,...

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HWC205: Western Civilization II Week 11, Lecture 1: Darwin and Social Darwinism 1 Prelude to the Darwinian Revolution Charles Darwin (1809-1882) was not the only one to begin searching for the origin of species, nor was he the first to propose a theory of evolution over time --certain Greeks had entertained the notion years before (Anaximander and Empedocles) --Europeans had come to accept the notion of a "Great Chain of Being" extending from God down to the lowest organisms --many are familiar with the Biblical “creationist” story from Genesis --God created the world in seven days; animals before humans; man before woman --by adding the various years mentioned in the Bible Christians concluded that the earth was roughly 6000 years old --this account held sway for centuries, and even after the Scientific Revolution scientists sought to reconcile the bible story with recently discovered fossils --yet others found too much evidence that contradicted these claims --the Comte de Buffon (1707-88) calculated that the earth was about 80,000 years old --the fossil record showed that new forms of life had appeared since creation while others had disappeared --George Cuvier (1769-1832) explained this by reference to a series of catastrophes (the latest being the biblical flood) that had destroyed some species --these extinct species were replaced by species from unflooded areas --known as the theory of catastrophism, this idea has come back into vogue in recent years (meteors are now considered a plausible explanation for the disappearance of dinosaurs Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829) challenged this theory --claimed in 1808 that certain species knowingly developed characteristics favorable to survival, which were then passed down to their offspring --no succession of catastrophes, but the inheritance of acquired favorable characteristics --stress on the environment (milieu) on the formation of species, rather than a struggle among organisms --catastrophism and Lamarckianism clashed in the 1830s --the notion of an evolution over time was much easier to accept considering the ideas of progress posited by enlightenment thinkers --philosophers of history like August Comte and G.W.F. Hegel also predicted progress over time, as did social theorists like Marx and Chernyshevsky --the boldest and most comprehensive statement of the evolutionary doctrine since Lamarck was published anonymously for forty years --Robert Chambers, Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (1844) --this immensely popular book went through four editions in its first seven months, and ten editions in seven years --drawing on geology, anatomy, zoology, paleontology, and embryology, Chambers asserted that nature operated according to an implicit law of development --this process worked according to the will of God The Origin of Species (1859) Charles Darwin was not the originator of the idea of evolution
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--the Great Chain of Being posited a static hierarchy where each had its place from which one could not deviate
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This note was uploaded on 04/27/2010 for the course HWC 205 taught by Professor Cotten-sprecklemeyer during the Spring '08 term at Kansas.

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Darwinism - HWC205: Western Civilization II Week 11,...

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