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Creatures of Cain$
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Erika Lorraine Milam

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780691181882

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691181882.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM PRINCETON SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.princeton.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Princeton University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in PRSO for personal use.date: 25 May 2022

Humanity in Hindsight

Humanity in Hindsight

(p.27) 1 Humanity in Hindsight
Creatures of Cain

Erika Lorraine Milam

Princeton University Press

This chapter considers the retrospective literature on Charles Darwin's work. These views on Darwin's intellectual development and legacy, such as that posited by Loren Eiseley, began the way many classes on the history of modern biology still begin: by emphasizing early-modern scientific empiricism and the desire of Enlightenment natural historians to catalog and classify all living species according to a great scale of nature. Against this background, Eiseley posited, evolutionary thinking—the idea that species have not been static in time, but some have gone extinct and others slowly evolved into new forms—emerged in France, rising from the secularized ashes of the revolutionary republic. Eiseley made clear that Darwin's legacy therefore rested on his innovative mechanism explaining the transformation of species. Like Eiseley, the retrospective essays and books published in the years after pointed to Darwin's theory of natural selection as his “most important generalization.”

Keywords:   Charles Darwin, Loren Eiseley, intellectual development, scientific empiricism, Enlightenment, natural historians, evolutionary thinking, natural selection

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