Darwin's Sacred Cause: How a Hatred of Slavery Shaped Darwin's Views on Human Evolution

Adrian Desmond, Author, James Moore, Author . Houghton Mifflin Harcourt $30 (485p) ISBN 978-0-547-05526-8

Who better than Desmond and Moore, Darwin's acclaimed biographers, to bring a fresh perspective to Darwin's central beliefs? “No one,” they say, “has appreciated the source of that moral fire that fuelled his strange, out-of-character obsession with human origins.” This masterful book produces a perspective on Darwin as not only scientist but moralist. Darwin's deep abolitionist roots, say the authors, led him to ask the questions he did. Homing in on Darwin's moral and intellectual formation, and drawing on notebook jottings and marginalia, Desmond and Moore argue persuasively that the centerpiece of Darwin's work was demonstrating the “common descent” of all human races, using science rather than activism to subvert the multiple origins view promoted by slavery's advocates. His humanitarian approach to science, the authors say, makes him more of a moral agent than his critics would concede, while the moral drive behind his science goes against today's ideal of disinterested scientific objectivity. Desmond and Moore build a new context in which to view Darwin that is utterly convincing and certain to influence scholars for generations to come. In time for Darwin's bicentennial, this is the rare book that mines old ground and finds new treasure. (Jan. 28)

Reviewed on: 12/01/2008
Release date: 01/01/2009
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 485 pages - 978-0-226-14451-1
Open Ebook - 448 pages - 978-0-547-52775-8
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