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Some Myths about Charles Darwin and George Perkins Marsh by Robin Attfield

Friday, 15 November 2019
12:00-13:00

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There are many myths about Charles Darwin (1809-1882) and his American contemporary George Perkins Marsh (1801-1882). From the text of Professor Attfield’s prospective book on the history of environmental thought, he has selected passages on some of the more interesting of them. 

Some think that Darwin had very little to contribute (in works like The Origin of Species, 1859) to the (later) science of ecology (but wrongly). Many think that religious believers in UK were in general opposed to Darwinism in the late nineteenth-century: another myth. Most people think that Marsh, despite writing Man and Nature (1864), must have been unimportant and uninfluential (yet another), while some think he upheld anthropocentrism (another). 

Finally Professor Attfield relates Marsh’s friendly critique of Darwinism: ‘yes’ about nature, but ‘no’ about culture (and about earthworms). Here Marsh’s view deserves a better hearing than it usually receives. About earthworms, Darwin eventually came round (but never acknowledged Marsh).