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July 8, 2006

The Origin of the Species

In 1859 in England, Charles Bradlaugh was on the stump, attacking religion before huge working-class crowds; John Stuart Mill published On Liberty ("If all mankind minus one were of one opinion and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind") and Charles Darwin published his book. Not a bad year.

Here are some historians (none of whom I've heard of) on the importance of The Origin of the Species, which some still insist can sit comfortably next to Christianity:

The Origin of the Species came into the theological world like a plough into an ant-hill -- Leo J. Henkin
I myself have little doubt that in England it was geology and the theory of evolution that changed us from a Christian to a pagan nation -- F. Sherwood Taylor
No rapproachement was possible between Darwinism as such and protestantism as such. The conceptions of Man were too divergent -- John Dillenberger
If we may estimate the importance of an idea by the change of thought which it effects, this idea of natural selection is unquestionably the most important that has ever been conceived by the mind of man -- George J. Romanes

(From The Victorian Crisis of Faith)

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at July 8, 2006 8:23 PM


Can we please stop calling Darwin's treatise The Origin of the Species? Because it wasn't called that. It wasn't about the origin of any one species, singular, but rather about how species, plural, arise in general. And so Darwin called it The Origin of Species. Only one "the". Thank you for your attention.

Posted by: ACW at July 14, 2006 3:16 PM

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