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Dealing with Darwin

Place, Politics, and Rhetoric in Religious Engagements with Evolution

David N. Livingstone

Publication Year: 2014

Using place, politics, and rhetoric as analytical tools, historical geographer David N. Livingstone investigates how religious communities sharing a Scots Presbyterian heritage engaged with Darwin and Darwinism at the turn of the twentieth century. His findings, presented as the prestigious Gifford Lectures, transform our understandings of the relationship between science and religion. The particulars of place—whether in Edinburgh, Belfast, Toronto, Columbia, or Princeton—shaped the response to Darwin’s theories. Were they tolerated, repudiated, or welcomed? Livingstone shows how Darwin was read in different ways, with meaning distilled from his texts depending on readers' own histories—their literary genealogies and cultural preoccupations. That the theory of evolution fared differently in different places, Livingstone writes, is "exactly what Darwin might have predicted. As the theory diffused, it diverged." Dealing with Darwin shows the profound extent to which theological debates about evolution were rooted in such matters as anxieties over control of education, the politics of race relations, the nature of local scientific traditions, and challenges to traditional cultural identity. In some settings, conciliation with the new theory, even endorsement, was possible—demonstrating that attending to the specific nature of individual communities subverts an inclination to assume a single relationship between science and religion in general, evolution and Christianity in particular. Livingstone concludes with contemporary examples to remind us that what scientists can say and what others can hear in different venues differs today just as much as they did then.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Series: Medicine, Science, and Religion in Historical Context


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

This book has been more than a dozen years in the making. In a conversation one afternoon in March 1999 in Berkeley, California, my good friend Ron Numbers talked me into writing two books. One was on the history of the idea of humans before Adam. It eventually saw the light of day in 2008 under the title...

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1. Dealing with Darwin: Locating Encounters with Evolution

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pp. 1-26

Thoughts travel. But as they journey around the world they do not move effortlessly from place to place, from site to site, from setting to setting. In different venues they mean, and are made to mean, different things. This is because the circulation of ideas is not simply about transference...

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2. Edinburgh, Evolution, and Cannibalistic Nostalgia

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pp. 27-57

Robert Rainy (1826 –1906) was the undisputed leader of the Free Church of Scotland and, for more than a quarter of a century, widely acknowledged as its elder statesman. In 1874 he was appointed principal of New College in Edinburgh—the Divinity Hall of the Free Church—where he had already...

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3. Belfast, the Parliament of Science, and the Winter of Discontent

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pp. 58-88

Josias Leslie Porter was deeply troubled. As he surveyed the intellectual landscape of his day, he could only discern “melancholy proofs that science and philosophy” were no longer “safe guides in the education of a people.” What disturbed him most was the widely circulated “dogma that life is evolved...

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4. Toronto, Knox, and Bacon’s Bequest

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pp. 89-116

On Monday, 9 June 1884, the pages of the Toronto World were host to a spat between a certain Dr. Wild and an anonymous correspondent writing under the signature “Evolutionist.” Dr. Joseph Wild, a theological controversialist and, since 1880, firebrand minister of the Bond Street Congregational...

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5. Columbia, Woodrow, and the Legacy of the Lost Cause

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pp. 117-156

Woodrow Wilson’s uncle, James Woodrow (1827–1907), was a staunch Presbyterian, a firm believer in the “divine inspiration of every word” in the Bible, and a self-proclaimed advocate of its “absolute inerrancy.”1 Ironically, it was also his fate to find himself immortalized...

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6. Princeton, Darwinism, and the Shorthorn Cattle

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pp. 157-196

For a month or two in 1873, just before he entered Princeton Theological Seminary in September to train for the ministry, Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (1851–1921) acted as livestock editor for the Farmer’s Home Journal of Lexington, Kentucky.1 In many ways, Warfield, who would later assume...

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7. Darwinian Engagements: Place, Politics, Rhetoric

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pp. 197-208

Charles Darwin had an acute sense of place. Reflecting on what she calls the “special resonance between the man and his domestic setting,” Janet Browne insists that without it “Darwin could hardly have hoped to bring his work on natural selection and the origin of species to completion...


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pp. 209-254


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pp. 255-265

E-ISBN-13: 9781421413273
E-ISBN-10: 1421413272
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421413266
Print-ISBN-10: 1421413264

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Medicine, Science, and Religion in Historical Context
Series Editor Byline: Ronald L. Numbers, Consulting Editor See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 876298456
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Dealing with Darwin

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Subject Headings

  • Evolution -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
  • Darwin, Charles, 1809-1882.
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