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Desmond/Moore on Darwin and slavery

January 29th, 2009 · 1 Comment

This is the Darwin bicentennial year, and, despite my respect for Desmond and Moore’s earlier book on Darwin, I find myself suspicious of their new effort.

What drove Charles Darwin to his extraordinary ideas on evolution and human origins? Adrian Desmond, with co-author James Moore, argue in a new book that the great scientist had a “sacred cause”: the abolition of slavery.

Since final judgment will have to wait on reading the book, I can only refer to a suspicion.
The effect of Darwin’s theory was to open the royal road to reductionist scientism, and the resulting elimination of ethical issues from evolutionary theory. So this effort to assure us Darwin’s abolitionist views were a influence on his work on evolution is both trivial and generally unconvincing.
Being an abolitionist, for this old whig, wasn’t much of an achievement, if this is an effort to blindside us to the real Darwin. It was in any case a family viewpoint. The source of Social Darwinism is solidly a function of this theory of natural selection, with, to be sure, the constant implied application of this to social realities, a la Spencer. Darwin produced the confusion, all the while remaining tight-lipped, when he adopted the term ‘survival of the fittest’.
Is this a desperation tactic to whitewash Darwin.
I would recommend Desmond/Moore’s earlier book on Darwin, which ‘told it like it was’, the whiggish Darwin, and the conservative ‘classical liberalism’ of his class.
As noted, it is necessary to read their book, despite these suspicions of subtle propaganda at work.

We should note, by the way (!!!), that the study of the eonic effect throws an especial light on this question of freedom emergence in world history:
Check out the material on the ‘discrete freedom sequence’, considering that the emergence of abolitionism is itself an aspect of the ‘eonic evolution of civilization’.
Freedom Evolves: The Discrete Freedom Sequence:
http://history-and-evolution.com/whee/chap3_6_1.htm
Desmond/Moore have stumbled on the basic flaw in Darwinism (and scientism in general): the inability to explain the ‘evolution of freedom’, in its several meanings.
The eonic effect shows the direct significance of this empirically in the context of the emergence/evolution of civilization.

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sciftp
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/science/nature/7856157.stm
Published: 2009/01/29 09:42:28 GMT

Darwin’s twin track: ‘Evolution and emancipation’
What drove Charles Darwin to his extraordinary ideas on evolution and human origins? Adrian Desmond, with co-author James Moore, argue in a new book that the great scientist had a “sacred cause”: the abolition of slavery.
“It makes one’s blood boil,” said Charles Darwin.
Not much outraged the gentle recluse, but the horrors of slavery could cost him a night’s sleep.

Tags: Evolution · The Eonic Effect · you've got mail

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Allen Esterson // Mar 24, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    nemo: You write:
    >I would recommend Desmond/Moore’s earlier book on Darwin, which ‘told it like it was’, the whiggish Darwin, and the conservative ‘classical liberalism’ of his class.<

    As someone who has taken the trouble to cross-check many of Desmond and Moore’s assertions against the citations that purportedly support them in their *Darwin* (1991), I take issue with your saying that the authors “told it like it was”. Rather, my conclusions are in accord with those of George Levine, who notes that the authors’ “interpretations are embedded in the representation [of the facts]”, that the book “skews the evidence in many instances to support its implicit arguments”, that they make “cynical interpretations of the most innocent facts” and that their “devious” narrative “presents as fact what is speculation, or, more precisely, by avoiding calling it a fact but making it *feel* like a fact.” Again, Marjorie Grene writes that Desmond and Moore “try hard to bring Darwin and politics together, but it is here that their method seems to me sometimes just a bit fraudulent”. She proceeds to give “only a few examples of two particularly striking techniques”. One is that they provide nonannotated paragraphs purporting to represent Darwin’s position, and by so doing “are inventing a politicized Darwin, and cleverly they do it”. Another is to provide “carefully annotated political descriptions juxtaposed with accounts of Darwin’s anxieties, the sources for which, when inspected, have nothing to do with politics”.

    In *Darwin’s Sacred Cause* the authors use much the same persuasive devices in purporting to demonstrate their new thesis.

    References: See J. Carroll, *Evolution and Literary Theory*, p. 299, n. 9.

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