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History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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The age of revolt against scientism

July 13th, 2009 · No Comments

The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science
By RICHARD HOLMES
Reviewed by Dava Sobel

A different take on the Romantic Generation, especially its interest in science, is to be welcomed, but one is left to wonder if the real significance of Romanticism isn’t being given a revisionist disguise.
The source moments in Rousseau, and Kant, in many ways provide the real keys.
And we cannot forget the challenge to scientism that emerges from the Kantian revolution in philosophy.
Our current generation is probably too brain-dead, and its scientists too sophmoric (witness the puerility of the New Atheists) to appreciate the Romantic era.

I’ll admit I was stunned to learn that the chemist Sir Humphry Davy was so well acquainted with the poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth — and furthermore to find them all collegially botanizing, geologizing, analyzing, and versifying through that yeasty interdisciplinary era that Richard Holmes calls the “Age of Wonder.” It was a time defined by two great voyages: James Cook’s passage to Tahiti aboard the Endeavour to observe the 1769 transit of Venus, and the surveying mission of the Beagle, which set out in 1831, carrying the young Charles Darwin to the Galapagos islands. Within those Romantic six decades, the universe opened wider as William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus and the first balloonists realized the dreams of Icarus.

Tags: History · Kant · Science

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