Darwin sought to not only produce a new scientific truth, but also to put an end to polygenism, the current scientific discourse on human origins that gave tacit and at times explicit support for slavery: ‘... when the principle of evolution is generally accepted, as it surely will be before long, the dispute between the monogenists and polygenists will die a silent and unobserved death.’ (Charles Darwin, Descent of Man, p. 235)

Monday, June 30, 2014

Louis Agassiz and the Bridgewater Treatises


  Louis Agassiz's note on the importance of the Bridgewater Treatises, taken from his Essay on Classification, 1962[1857].

“The argument for the existence of an intelligent Creator is generally drawn from the adaptation of means to ends, upon which the Bridgewater treatises, for example, have been based.  But this does not appear to me to cover the whole ground; for we can conceive that the natural action of objects upon each other should result in a final fitness of the universe, and thus produce an harmonious whole"*


*[Essay Editor’s note: Named for Francis Henry Egerton, 8th Earl of Bridgewater, who left 8,000 pounds for the writing of treatises on the ‘Power, Wisdom and Goodness of God, as Manifested in the Creation.’ They included the first eight titles in Agassiz's note and the Fragment by Babbage.]

[Agassiz's note:]

Thomas Chambers, The Adaptation of External Nature to the Moral and Intellectual Constitution of Man (2 vols., Glasgow, 1989);

John Kidd, The Adaption of External Nature to the Physical Condition of Man (London, 1833);

William Whewell, Astronomy and General Physics Considered with Reference to Natural Theology; (London, 1839);

Charles Bell, The Hand, its Mechanism and Vital Endowments, as Evincing Design (London, 1833);

Peter M. Roget, Animal and Vegetable Physiology Considered with Reference to Natural Theology (2 vols., London, 1834);

William Buckand, Geology and Mineralogy considered with Reference to Natural Theology (2 vols., London, 1836, 2d ed., 1837);

William Kirby, The History, Habits, and Instincts of Animals... [On the power, wisdom and goodness of God, as manifested in the creation of animals, and in their history, habits and instincts] (2 vols., London, 1835);

William Prout, Chemistry, Meteorology, and the Function of Digestion Considered with Reference to Natural Theology (London, 1834).

Compare also,
Hercule Strauss-Durkheim, Theologie de la Nature (3 vols., Paris 1852);

Hugh Miller, Footprints of the Creator (Edinburgh 1849; 3d ed. with a Memoir of the Author by Louis Agassiz, Boston 1853);

Charles Babbage, The Ninth Bridgewater Treatise, a Fragment (2d ed., London, 1838).
Essay on Classification, 1962[1857]:11.

 From Nott and Gliddon, Types of Mankind (1852).