Darwin and Butler: Two Versions of Evolution

Darwin and Butler: Two Versions of Evolution

Darwin and Butler: Two Versions of Evolution

Darwin and Butler: Two Versions of Evolution

Excerpt

When the Hibbert Trustees did me the great honour of inviting me to give these lectures, I had already been asked to arrange my thoughts, for another occasion, on 'Darwin's Place in the History of Thought'. Casting about for a suitable theme for the Hibbert Lectures, and bearing in mind that 1959 marked the Centenary of the Origin of Species, I came to the conclusion that 'Darwinism' would be an appropriate topic. I ought perhaps to have reflected that if the Centenary suggested Darwin to me, so it would also to scores of other people, most of them far better qualified than I. So many articles have been written, and lectures delivered, on this subject during the past twelve months, that I am afraid my remarks may now seem like pancakes warmed up for Ash Wednesday. However, I propose to treat Darwinism not merely as a chapter in the history of biological science but as an influence powerfully affecting the thoughts and feelings of the last century, and indirectly of our own time. And I propose to widen the survey still further, by discussing another nineteenth-century figure linked with Darwin in the relation of antipathy, Samuel Butler. These lectures may appear to be yet another, and the most flagrant, instance of my inveterate propensity to raid other people's preserves. I am sorry if this is so, and I can only offer a few lame excuses: one, that for thirty years I have been living in the shadowy border-country between literature and the 'history of ideas', and am too old now to shift . . .

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