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FW: Book Review - Darwinism comes to America

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  • Popplestone, Ann
    Ann Popplestone CCC TLC 216-987-3584 ... From: Danny Yee [SMTP:danny@ANATOMY.USYD.EDU.AU] Sent: Saturday, January
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 22, 2000
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      Ann Popplestone
      CCC TLC

      -----Original Message-----
      From: Danny Yee [SMTP:danny@...]
      Sent: Saturday, January 22, 2000 1:00 AM
      To: ANTHRO-L@...
      Subject: Book Review - Darwinism comes to America

      An HTML version of this book review can be found at

      along with five hundred other reviews
      title: Darwinism Comes to America
      by: Ronald L. Numbers
      publisher: Harvard University Press 1998
      other: 216 pages, references, index
      The introduction to _Darwinism Comes to America_ summarises the history of
      creationism and describes the main players in the modern debate:
      naturalistic evolutionists (with varying degrees of hostility to religion),
      theistic evolutionists, intelligent-design theorists, old-Earth
      creationists, and the "scientific" creationists who have co-opted the
      general term "creationist". But though readable by itself, _Darwinism Comes
      to America_ is not so much an integrated book as a collection of studies, a
      kind of supplement to Numbers' earlier work _The Creationists_. The focus
      is on common misconceptions about the history of religion and science in the
      United States.
      The first chapter looks at the eighty naturalists who joined the National
      Academy of Sciences between 1863 and 1900. Numbers finds no sudden
      revolution resulting from the publication of _The Origin of Species_: while
      most shifted to evolution, few were committed to natural selection as the
      dominant mechanism and they held a wide range of views, with no simple split
      between Lamarckians and Darwinians. Nor was there any religious crisis:
      there is not one clear case of a naturalist changing or losing faith as a
      result of evolution. Numbers offers some statistical analysis (looking at
      factors such as birth-order, age, and social class) and provides in an
      appendix brief biographies of all the naturalists.
      If "Darwinism" meant different things to different people, so did
      "creationism" and "creationist", as chapter two describes. Originally used
      quite broadly, they have become specific to followers of flood geology and
      proponents of a young earth: "once marginal views, inspired by the visions
      of an obscure Adventist prophetess, now defined the very essence of
      creationism." Despite a few prominent cases such as the Woodrow affair,
      where a leading Southern Presbyterian scientist-cleric was sacked (and
      charged with heresy) after arguing that evolution was "probably true",
      Numbers in chapter three argues against the common belief that "antipathy to
      evolution has been characteristic of the American South". And a chapter on
      the Scopes trial tries to correct some of the legends and myths that
      surround it, most notably the depiction of the trial as a "moral victory"
      for Darrow and evolution and the idea that Bryan betrayed creationism (the
      day-age theory he espoused was, far from being a concession, in fact
      Fundamentalist orthodoxy at the time).
      The last two chapters cover the responses to evolutionary science in two
      religious traditions. The Adventists, following prophetess Ellen G. White,
      always paid greater attention to geology than evolutionary biology; George
      McCready Price was the leading advocate of flood geology when it was very
      much on the fringes. Adventists now exhibit a broad range of beliefs, from
      the conservatives of the Geoscience Research Institute to more liberal
      Adventist scientists. Most in the Pentecostal and Wesleyan-Holiness
      traditions, at least among the elite, have stuck to day-age or
      ruin-and-restoration interpretations of Genesis; flood geology was never as
      popular as among Fundamentalists. But in a tradition that stresses action
      and behaviour over doctrine and belief, attacking evolution has never been a
      primary concern.


      %T Darwinism Comes to America
      %A Ronald L. Numbers
      %I Harvard University Press
      %C Cambridge
      %D 1998
      %O paperback, references, index
      %G ISBN 0-674-19312-1
      %P 216pp
      %K evolution, history of science

      22 January 2000

      Copyright � 2000 Danny Yee (danny@...
      <mailto:danny@...> )

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