Monday, December 6, 2010
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Shrewsbury was where Darwin was born and raised. However, it was Cambridge that Darwin found his love for the natural world. He gained much knowledge about studying nature from University of Cambridge. During the years at Cambridge, Darwin attended Revd. John Stevens Henslow’s lecture, Professor of Botany, and was addicted to natural history after. At the end of his University life, Henslow invited Darwin to join aboard H.M.S. Beagle as a naturalist on its two year survey of South America, including Valparaiso, Pacific Ocean, Cocos Islands, and South Africa, which later extended into five years. During the voyage, Darwin made many discoveries from the nature world as he would gather and preserve insects, birds, plants, and many other specimens to support his findings. The Beagle voyage auxiliary Darwin’s innovation with the world. After the return of voyage, Darwin’s life settled in London where he was admitted as a Fellow of the Royal Geological Society on discovered new specimen. This is also where he publishes books, evaluates his findings, finished his autobiography, and died.
Darwin to me is still a naturalist as he is only publishing what he had found for the world. The places he had been have a lot of effect on Darwin, especially the Beagle voyage where he collected and make note of many specimens to strengthen his passion for nature. Ascertain ideas for evolution is certainly not only from Darwin but from many other theorists as well. Darwin has only made his theories in more surpass language package since he has more breakthrough knowledge from the places he went.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
"The extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist."
Also, in his letter to Asa Gray, an American Presbyterian who was cooperating with Darwin and discussing the relations between natural theology and natural selection, Darwin mentioned that he still cannot reject God as the first cause. The following is a letter Darwin sent to Asa Gray about his religious beliefs:
"With respect to the theological view of the question; this is always painful to me.— I am bewildered.– I had no intention to write atheistically. But I own that I cannot see, as plainly as others do, & as I [should] wish to do, evidence of design & beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I see no necessity in the belief that the eye was expressly designed. On the other hand I cannot anyhow be contented to view this wonderful universe & especially the nature of man, & to conclude that everything is the result of brute force. I am inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of what we may call chance. Not that this notion at all satisfies me. I feel most deeply that the whole subject is too profound for the human intellect. A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton.— Let each man hope & believe what he can." Therefore, during accumulating his thoughts during Origin of Species, Darwin was still in doubt about existence of God and his tendency to Christianity.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
We are all the product of our surroundings, and our characteristics and interests are built from those we surround ourselves with. Charles Darwin’s grandfather was perhaps one of the most influential people in his life. Being exposed to Erasmus’s literature, especially those on plant evolution must have sparked his earliest interests in biology, and his fascination on biological change. Although Charles had never met his grandfather, the lineage is clear when understanding they both shared a mutual interest in evolution. It is interesting to note that Butler’s criticism of Darwin’s work illustrates a lack of recognition on the part of his grandfather, and this blatantly seen in the literature. Erasmus had many interests and hobbies, and with many of them combined what surfaced were poems on evolution. Multiple methods of studies used by Erasmus were followed forth by Charles and the many different subjects he was clearly interested in. Erasmus was a very smart man, and as such he had come up with many inventions in his lifetime. This ambition towards making new things, and new discoveries was perhaps a genetic precursor to what was in store for the future generations of the Darwin family.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Therefore, it should be noted that Charles Darwin was not invincible to the marital strains (experienced by many in society) resulting from contrasting views on religion.
It should also be noted that this situation could represent the sacrifices that a man in the Victorian era would have been required to make in the name of science.
*All quotes from: Barlow Nora, The Autobiography of Darwin Charles, 1809-1882, WW Norton & Company, New York 1958
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
With Chesterton’s religiosity and Christian stance, one could say (and even I admittedly have to write this out to think it more clearly): there is a fine line between the madman and the devout religious man (a believer of an Abrahamic to be specific).
The lunatic’s scope of reality is small and he is at the centre of it. Everything causeless has cause and everything is full of meaning, according to Chesterton, too much meaning. The delusional madman sees himself, not as the observer but as the original cause of all the causes: the purpose of his reality (although we would say that “reality” is actually constructed delusion). Chesterton says to the madman: “if you only knew that these people cared nothing about you! How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it” (16). He shrinks the individual, makes his grandiose self less important and less worthy of the attention the madman perceives.
The devout religious man’s “people” is God. God is concerned with the small movements of the believer, like the lunatic is concerned with the spy watching his every move. A sinful thought or not washing completely in wudu (the Islamic practice of ritually washing before daily prayers, with the recommendation of washing each area three times to be sure of complete purity), everything matters and little of what we think and do is without significance, or in the worst case, consequence. In the strictest mind of the believer, salvation and punishment could not be more self-focused.
However, to be clear, the believer’s reality is not as limited as the madman. He sees greatness and purpose outside of himself and his life, although his self importance somewhat remains. He is certainly not Jesus but he is important enough that every word is heard in thought and prayer by God and the details of his life and person are in a continual process of being recorded and erased (through sin and repentance/ forgiveness).
All of this seems somewhat mad, in the context of Chesterton’s lunatic, but we must remember the believer’s perception of the individual. All individuals are distinct, in that Suzie was created especially by God to be Suzie, with all of her unique Suzie-like qualities, but the importance of the individual’s struggle is lessened without degrading the actual individual (by “struggle” I refer to the apparent madness of God as a spy and the believer at centre of it all, struggling to avoid sin under the watchful eye). While Suzie is struggling and is at the very centre of that struggle, she is not unique in her situation. All individuals, in the mind of the believer, are involved in this reality and no individual or individual’s struggle is greater than any other: faith “leave[s] you in the open, free like other men to look up as well as down” (16).
For those who remain critical of religion: do we call the devoutly faithful partially mad? For the believers: where do we find the individual, ourselves, in the scheme of prayer, judgment and salvation and how much of “I” is too much or too little? It’s a hard process to reconcile or put finely in definitive terms. Since, for Chesterton, reason is what “breed[s] insanity” (12), I pose the question to him: to what extent does religion reason before it becomes lunacy?
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Shaw affirms Lamarck's theory of evolution but neither Darwin's theory of evolution nor Bergson's philosophy of creative evolution as he says "Lamarck, whilst making many ingenious suggestions as to the reaction of external causes on life and habit, such as changes of climate, food supply, geological upheavals and so forth, really held as his fundamental proposition that living organisms changed because they wanted to. As he stated it, the great factor in Evolution is use and disuse." In my opinion, Darwin's theory of evolution is problematic for Shaw because then Shaw has to accept that nothing in life has a purpose behind it and he has to question himself that what the purpose of living this life is. Therefore, Shaw's problem with the theory of evolution and Darwin is that Darwin did not mention that there is a will and purpose in evolution process and it is all random and accident.
The pressure was on once Darwin had realized Wallace was coming to the same conclusion towards evolution. It was because of Wallace Darwin was rushed to complete the Origin of the Species. Although there were many similarities between the work of Darwin and Wallace, there are some difference in regards to environmental differences, and individual differences of the same species. Looking through the literature there were also differences in how each had come to the conclusion. Unlike Darwin, Wallace was able to explore the world at an earlier age, while Darwin had started much of his work near his home. In 1859 when Darwin received Wallace’s work on natural selection, Darwin created what was actually an abstract of the Origin of species, as he wanted credit towards what he had worked his life towards.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
On the Galapagos Islands Darwin affirmed Charles Lyell's idea of species spreading from centers of creation. In his later autobiography, Darwin wrote "Whilst on board the HMS Beagle (October 1836-January 1839) I was quite orthodox, and I remember being heartily laughed at by several of the officers (though themselves orthodox) for quoting the Bible as an unanswerable authority on some point of morality. I suppose it was the novelty of the argument that amused them. But I had gradually come, by this time, to see that the Old Testament; from its manifestly false history of the world, with the Tower of Babel, the rainbow as a sign, etc., etc., and from its attributing to God the feelings of a revengeful tyrant, was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos, or the beliefs of any barbarian."
Monday, November 1, 2010
In the Victorian era, women held barely a fraction of the respect, opportunity, and esteem that they hold today.
Women were not entitled to the same legal rights or educational opportunities that men were, and primarily expected just to take care of the households and the children.
With this in mind, Darwin was really no different than society as a whole regarding his views on women. In fact, he only briefly mentions his opinions on female status and no doubt could have taken more opportunity to express his views.
It IS true that if Darwin had interpreted his theories the same way as they are interpreted today (a prime example of Darwin vs. Darwinism), he would have realized the selective functions of woman's characteristics throughout time.
However, Darwin was a revolutionary in terms of his theories of Evolution- Not his theories of feminism, and perhaps he should be forgiven for merely being a product of his time and furthermore for not realizing the full implications of his speculations.
Friday, October 29, 2010
Our blog “The Fabulous Life of Charles Darwin” is greatly speculative, as is VH1’s television program “The Fabulous Life” where we so aptly borrowed the title. Apparently we too are “taking you deep inside the lives of the rich and famous, from their massive careers to their even more massive homes to what they do in their self-indulgent leisure time”, although (of course) on a more in-depth and academic level. Some may call this sort of endeavor a waste of time, fluff, and for entertainment value only, questioning the importance of piecing together biographical details. Isn’t it enough to know that someone is famous, to watch their movie, read their book and take it for what it’s worth?
There isn’t anything wrong with doing this but we’re choosing to take a different approach. Like Butler in a “Deadlock in Darwinism” broke apart a whole (“On the Origin of Species”) to scrutinize its pieces (the origin of the concepts therein), our blog is attempting to break open the life of Charles Darwin and examine the pieces, we think, made him a whole (including his family, the time and place in which he lived, his naturalist colleagues, the Voyage on the Beagle, etc.).
Any psychologist would agree that we, as humans, are a mixture of nature (our inherited biology or genetics) and nurture (“our environment and learning history”). It is far too rigorous to piece together genetic links (e.g. a high IQ or the disposition towards analytical reasoning for scientific inquiry) from the Darwin/ Wedgwood merge between Darwin’s father (Robert Darwin) and mother (Susannah Darwin nee Wedgwood) or even further back from his grandfather (Dr. Erasmus Darwin). While there are possible interesting avenues of genetics one could explore, including Erasmus’ grandchild from the daughter of his second wife turning out to be Francis Galton (a noted anthropologist and eugenicist), we’ll focus on the “nurture” and leave the “nature” in more capable hands, if any care to grasp.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
The first argument is Irreducible Complexity. Irreducible Complexity holds that biochemical parts in nature have complex parts that are interdependent with other parts. If you take one part, the whole system does not work. Therefore, these systems cannot be the result of evolution. Darwin claimed that if Irreducible Complexity can be proved, his natural selection theory will fail. But an argument on Irreducible Complexity is that the complex organ or part could have been contained of smaller parts. An example of that is atom. Atom is the smallest component of an element, while atom itself is made up of smaller components. Therefore, it can be concluded that Irreducible Complexity does not have enough explanation to be accepted.
The second argument for people who are in favor of intelligent design is specified complexity. This argument is made by a mathematician named William Dembski. He suggests non-random patterns of information are ubiquitous in nature and he calls it complex specified information. An example of complex specified information is DNA. DNA is made up of four chemical repeating bases arranged into complimentary pairs. The bases can be strung together to form genes. Therefore, DNA is specific and complex. Furthermore, the reason that human never gives birth to a human and not a chimpanzee shows that DNA is specific. Complex specified information is an evident of intelligent design.
Yet scientists believe that evolution theory is the only theory that explains how complexity is made from simplicity in nature. Evolution theory seems more reliable than intelligent design concept because it can be observed in living beings whereas intelligent design is not observable.
Monday, October 25, 2010
"I have been studying the traits and dispositions of the "lower animals" (so called) and contrasting them with the traits and dispositions of man. I find the result humiliating to me."
Might it be possible that the revolution following Darwin's publication influenced writers such as Twain in the Western world? Or should we be more inclined to believe that Darwin published his humbling conclusions at a time when the world was already beginning to see it for themselves?
Based on a separate quote by Twain, it seems unlikely that his opinions on humanity could be the result of direct exposure to Darwin, and more of the consequence of a greater movement throughout these cultures. Mark Twain would seemingly be quite anti-Darwinian:
(note- while this next quote has a touch of humor, the above passage should be considered with sincerity)
"An englishman is a person who does things because they have been done before. An American is a person who does things because they haven't been done before"
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Monday, October 18, 2010
The Origin of Species subtly proposed that, instead of being created by some higher power, man actually evolved from a lower species. He proposed that all living beings were involved in the same struggle for existence- the exact same struggle for reproductive success. In this sense, humans are no more successful or evolutionarily superior than slugs, and undoubtedly this perspective wouldn’t have been easily accepted by academics and religious characters of the Victorian era. These two posits jeopardized what was known as religious history and also was likely to jeopardize the respect and interest of those pious and self-righteous. The publication of The Origin of Species during the Victorian era was possibly the greatest catalyst in the Science vs. Religion debate and largely responsible for them both becoming autonomous.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Charles Darwin’s father, Robert Darwin was a physician and he had many plans for Charles and his future. He wanted him to continue his studies in medicine, but Charles was not interested and found the lectures to be boring. Robert Darwin’s attempt to continue Charles on the path seemed to have followed up with resentment in my opinion, and push Charles towards his specific interest in biological change.
The family had money and because of this, Charles was able to continue with a formal education and eventually go on journeys of biological discovery. I do believe that it was because of his father’s ambition in medicine, Charles was introduced to biology but Charles wanted to experience it in a different way. Robert Darwin’s work provided the stepping stones towards a more biological career, and may have assisted Darwin in finding his true calling. Although Robert refused Charles go on the journey to South America, he eventually agreed to it, as he was later convinced by Charles’s uncle. It is important to note that much of the work and findings explained in work, The Origin of Species, I noticed that there was a lot of influence branching from numerous people in his life. His father may have provided the education and intrigue in the biological world, but much of his research is derived from the professors and biological professionals he had met during his life time.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
As Butler, in “The Deadlock in Darwinism” never claimed to be a naturalist and argued against Darwin, not on the truth or falsity of the content of “On the Origin of Species” but on the proposal of the theory itself, I similarly make no claim to be a historian and will support Butler on his work as it is.
It was useful for me to think of “The Deadlock in Darwinism” as a sort of criminal trial, with Butler as the prosecution and Darwin, the defense. In a criminal trial, it is the prosecution’s responsibility to produce proof that a defendant should be lawfully imprisoned (i.e. habeas corpus), or in academic terms, discredited. However, once the prosecution has made their case, the responsibility shifts and the defense is expected to address the claims made by the prosecution.
Based on Butler’s overwhelming amount of relevant textual evidence as well as our class’ lack of an argument against him, it seems Butler had certainly made a strong case. However, we know that after Butler’s prosecuting case circulated, Darwin (as the defense) made no move to counter: “When essayist and novelist Samuel Butler (1835–1902) ‘accused Darwin of slighting the evolutionary speculations of Buffon, Lamarck, and his own grandfather, Erasmus’, Gould reported that Darwin reacted to these accusations with ‘silence” (Gould, S.J., Darwin vindicated! New York Review of Books 26(1):36–38, 1979, p. 36 as cited by Bergman, J., http://creation.com/images/pdfs/tj/j16_3/j16_3_58-63.pdf. While a lack of response when blindly or personally insulted would have been appropriate, in this situation, Darwin’s silence only seems to incriminate him further.
Furthermore, I think Butler’s essay is a noble academic pursuit and, more specifically, an excellent early example of our current scientific article peer-review process. While Butler wouldn’t technically be considered Darwin’s peer (as he is not a studied naturalist), his essays resemble what could be an early stage in the peer-review process, namely determining if the new ideas in a researcher’s article are the researcher’s own. [Rather than giving a full explanation of what scientific article peer-reviewing entails, I will simply refer you to a more reputable source: http://undsci.berkeley.edu/article/howscienceworks_16.] Similar to “Darwin as a defendant”, “Darwin as a scientist” would have even more responsibility to support his claims and his work as legitimately his, as his theory could be the foundation for further research.
Ultimately, if we view Butler’s essay through a modern lens, we should only find ourselves praising his effort, for the effort alone, regardless if the claim he makes is true or false.