4 posts tagged Darwin
In a collection of previously unpublished letters soon to be made available online, naturalist Charles Darwin reveals a highly emotional and personal side.
In letters to his closest friend, the botanist Joseph Hooker, he pours out his grief over the death of his daughter-in-law, Amy. He also speaks of his ideas on evolution for the first time - something he writes was like “confessing to a murder”.
Of the many letters that Darwin wrote and received in his life, among the most important were his correspondence with his friend of 40 years, Joseph Hooker. As well as tracking the development of Darwin’s scientific ideas, the letters give an intimate insight into a Victorian friendship.
Almost the entire collection - more than 1,400 letters - will soon be published by Cambridge University’s Darwin Correspondence Project. (via BBC News - Charles Darwin letters reveal his emotional side)
Darwin’s publication of On the Origin of Species sparked major battles. The most famous may have been between science and religion, but there were disputes within science as well. One of the most heated was whether natural selection favored cooperative or competitive behaviors, a battle that still rages today. For almost 100 years, no single person did more to promote the study of the evolution of cooperation than Peter Kropotkin. Kropotkin traveled the world talking about the evolution of cooperation, which he called “mutual aid,” in both animals and humans. Sometime the travel was voluntary, but often it wasn’t: He was jailed, banned, or expelled from many of the most respectable countries of his day. For he was not only the face of the science of cooperation, he was also the face of the anarchist movement. He came to believe that his politics and science were united by the law of mutual aid: that cooperation was the predominant evolutionary force driving all social life, from microbes to humans.
…At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Prof. Schaaffhause has remarked, will no doubt be exterminated. The break will then be rendered wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilized state, as we may hope, than the Caucasian and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as at present between the negro or Australian and the gorilla. - The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex, Volume 1 – by Charles Darwin (via Human Races May Have Biological Meaning, But Races Mean Nothing About Humanity | The Crux | Discover Magazine)
The waters of the “warm, little pond” which Charles Darwin mused all this life could have started in are further muddied by suggestions that the beginning of this long story may not even be on this planet. The controversial and much discussed theories of panspermia and exogenesis both suggest that organisms primitive enough but hardy enough to survive the effects of space could have been transported here, possibly on asteroids or meteorites, and seeded life. There are many variations on this – from the not intended to be funny (but is) 1960 “Cosmic Garbage” proposal by Austrian astronomer Thomas Gold that the source could have been organic rubbish dumped by passing extra-terrestrials, to the intended to be funny (but largely isn’t) Evolution starring David Duchovny. None though really deal with how life began, they just shift whatever happened to somewhere beyond Earth. The truth is that we really don’t know how, where or when it got going – in one location or many, here or elsewhere in the Universe, on land, on the ocean floor in hydrothermal vents, on a radioactive beach between the two…or even in Darwin’s warm pond. There have been all sorts of attempts to simulate how non-living molecules could be plausibly thrown together in a way that could lead to something which could grow and reproduce, perhaps the most famous being the Miller-Urey experiment 60 years ago which showed that sparks – simulating lightning – applied to an approximation of Earth’s early atmosphere could lead to the formation of amino acids essential for life. All interesting, but nothing remotely conclusive. (via BBC - Future - Science & Environment - Ridley Scott’s Prometheus: The origin of us)