Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The last two days

Yesterday we discussed Darwin's theory, trying not to include any modifications introduced because of new information. If only he and Mendel had been able to communicate! But never mind. We also talked about Darwin's hesitation in publishing and his friendship with Hooker. Emma brought in wonderful quotes from Darwin's papers, like this one from one of his notebooks.
It is absurd to talk of one animal being higher than another. We consider those, where the cerebral structure/intellectual faculties most developed, as highest. A bee doubtless would when the instincts were.

In Darwin's shorthand, a defense of relativism. As Emma noted, he might not have said what he believed (religiously), but he could say what he doubted.

Darwin is a very appealing character. Here he is complaining about his eight-year study of barnacles (cirripedes): "I an becoming rapidly a Cirripede in my mind."

Today each of us presented a chapter of The Origin to the group, with mixed but mostly good results. Ken, who has grumbled darkly that Darwin is a gradualist when really it's all about catastrophes, gave an even-handed presentation of "On the Imperfection of the Geological Record." Darling Kumi ended her chapter presentation with an unexpected and spirited defense of her Christian beliefs. Several of us commented on Darwin's sometimes lyrical language as he persuades the reader of the truth of his theory. Altogether a satisfying, if unexciting, class.

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