“A coup in counterfactual history. Only Peter J. Bowler, with his unique command of intellectual history, would dare to propose this book’s radical heresy.”
James Moore, coauthor of Darwin’s Sacred Cause
Imagining a World without Darwin
Peter J. Bowler
|Publication date: April 15, 2013 ||978-0-226-06867-1 |
|International publication date: April 22, 2013 ||$30.00/£19.50 |
Imagine a world without Charles Darwin. Is it possible? Tens of thousands of books have been written on Darwin; could anything more be said? But here Peter J. Bowler manages the remarkable feat of saying something new about Darwin by removing him completely from the conversation. What if Charles Darwin had not returned from the voyage of the Beagle and thus did not write On the Origin of Species? Would the absence of Darwin’s book have led to a different sequence of events, in which biology developed along a track that did not precipitate a great debate about the impact of evolutionism? Would there have been anything equivalent to social Darwinism, and if so would the alternatives have been less pernicious and misappropriated?
Yes, says Bowler. In Darwin’s absence, evolutionary biology would almost certainly have emerged, but through alternative theories, which were frequently promoted by scientists, religious thinkers, and moralists who feared the implications of natural selection. Bowler examines the non-Darwinian elements of evolutionism that flourished for a time, and he imagines how they might have developed if the theory of natural selection had not emerged until decades after the acceptance of the basic idea of evolution. Bowler’s unique approach enables him to clearly explain the non-Darwinian tradition—and in doing so, he reveals how the reception of Darwinism was historically contingent. By taking Darwin out of the equation, Bowler is able to fully elucidate the ideas of other scientists, such as Richard Owen and Thomas Huxley, whose work has often been misunderstood because of their distinctive responses to Darwin.
Peter J. Bowler
is professor emeritus of the history of science at Queen’s University, Belfast. He is available for interviews. Please contact Carrie Olivia Adams at (773) 702-4216 or email@example.com