The Evolutionists: American Thinkers Confront Charles Darwin, 1860–1920

by J David Hoeveler.

How Darwinian thinking influenced other disciplines in the USA.

The Evolutionists

I have to admit, I'm pretty sceptical (bordering on cynical) about Darwinian theory being appropriated by other disciplines (scientific or otherwise). This book, however, does not condone such dodgy practices; it merely describes them.

Hoeveler shows how practitioners of various disciplines adopted/adapted or rejected Darwinian theory in the USA in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. i found the chapter on Louis Agassiz (anti) and Asa Gray (pro) particularly interesting, but these men were working very much in Darwin's own area. Later chapters cover how Darwin affected such diverse topics as religion, sociology, the law, feminism and philosophy. It's not Hoeveler's fault, but this really wasn't my cup of tea. Perhaps American readers might find it more interesting—or god-botherers, sociologists, lawyers, feminists or philosophers.

One minor quibble: the book could really have done with a better proof-reader. There were various grammatical errors (caused, I believe, when sentences were amended during redrafts) and several typos, including sited for cited and Lyle instead of Lyell.

Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *