By Bill Price
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Extra info for Charles Darwin: Origins and Arguments (Pocket Essential series)
I grieve to have shocked a man I sincerely honour. But I do not think you would wish anyone to conceal the results at which he has arrived after he has worked according to the best ability which may be in him. Needless to say, not all of the debate was conducted with such a regard for politeness. One of the more vociferous of Darwin’s critics was Richard Owen, the superintendent of the natural history collections of the British Museum, who would later be instrumental in founding the Natural History Museum in London.
Of course, having set out his argument in the introduction, it would not be • 31 • C H A R L E S DA RW I N : O R I G I N S A N D A R G U M E N T S unreasonable to wonder what Darwin’s next 500 pages were about. What he does is carefully to assemble the argument in favour of natural selection, backing it up with numerous examples, and then critically examine it, explaining the problems and anticipating any criticism before it has arisen. This may appear to be a strange place to begin a book on the natural world, but Darwin had a particular purpose in mind.
At the end of the letter Sedgwick told Darwin that, despite their ‘disagreement in some points of the deepest moral interest’, he remained Darwin’s ‘true-hearted old friend’. Darwin replied a few days later in the same spirit, maintaining his views but, at the same time, showing an unwillingness to fall out with an old friend: You could not possibly have paid me a more honourable compliment than in expressing freely your strong disapprobation of my book – I fully expected it. I can only say that I have worked like a slave on the subject for above 20 years • 41 • C H A R L E S DA RW I N : O R I G I N S A N D A R G U M E N T S and am not concious that bad motives have influenced the conclusions at which I have arrived.
Charles Darwin: Origins and Arguments (Pocket Essential series) by Bill Price