Darwin In a nutshell (EN)

Whitfield Peter

From a new introductory series In a Nutshell with Darwin, marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of the English naturalist. Peter Whitfield explains how Darwin came to his revolutionary views following his voyage on the Beagle – and his initial reluctance to publish his findings.

Charles Darwin is one of the giants in the history of science. Along with Copernicus, Newton and Einstein, he taught us something fundamental about our world, and about the laws of nature. But Darwinism is involved particularlywith our view of ourselves, with human origins and human identity. Darwin argued that the multitude of species now present has evolved over aeons of time from common ancestors, and that mankind is no exception; mankind is simply an advanced primate. When first announced in 1859, Darwin’s ideas were hugely controversial, for they seemed to strike at the heart of religious belief. Far from being created by God in a single divine act, all life’s forms – humans, animals and plants – had evolved, he claimed, from a single primitive type of organism. Darwin portrayed nature as working in obedience to blind impersonal laws, not in obedience to the hand of God. ‘The struggle for life’ and ‘the survival of the fittest’: these were the phrases that summed up the Darwinian vision. ‘Is man an ape or angel?’ people asked after reading Darwin; the scientists ranged up on one side and the traditionalists on the other. Yet Darwinism also fed into the great 19th-century creed of progress. It seemed to suggest that mankind, having evolved from the apes, was now the summit of creation, and that it was his destiny to move forward to ever greater achievements, to intellectual mastery and social freedom. So Darwinism became one of the inspirations of positivism, humanism and socialism. It undermined one kind of faith and advanced another. It was a scientific theory which had enormous resonance outside the field of science itself. Even progressive Christians were able to accept evolution as part of a divine plan: it did not necessarily cut out God, because God could be working through evolution.

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Adresa titulu https://www.artforum.sk/katalog/78535/darwin-in-a-nutshell-en
Charles Darwin is one of the giants in the history of science. Along with Copernicus, Newton and Einstein, he taught us something fundamental about our world, and about the laws of nature. But Darwinism is involved particularlywith our view of ourselves, with human origins and human identity. Darwin argued that the multitude of species now present has evolved over aeons of time from common ancestors, and that mankind is no exception; mankind is simply an advanced primate. When first announced in 1859, Darwin’s ideas were hugely controversial, for they seemed to strike at the heart of religious belief. Far from being created by God in a single divine act, all life’s forms – humans, animals and plants – had evolved, he claimed, from a single primitive type of organism. Darwin portrayed nature as working in obedience to blind impersonal laws, not in obedience to the hand of God. ‘The struggle for life’ and ‘the survival of the fittest’: these were the phrases that summed up the Darwinian vision. ‘Is man an ape or angel?’ people asked after reading Darwin; the scientists ranged up on one side and the traditionalists on the other. Yet Darwinism also fed into the great 19th-century creed of progress. It seemed to suggest that mankind, having evolved from the apes, was now the summit of creation, and that it was his destiny to move forward to ever greater achievements, to intellectual mastery and social freedom. So Darwinism became one of the inspirations of positivism, humanism and socialism. It undermined one kind of faith and advanced another. It was a scientific theory which had enormous resonance outside the field of science itself. Even progressive Christians were able to accept evolution as part of a divine plan: it did not necessarily cut out God, because God could be working through evolution.

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