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Dealing with Darwin

Place, Politics, and Rhetoric in Religious Engagements with Evolution

David N. Livingstone

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How was Darwin’s work discussed and debated among the same religious denomination in different locations?

Using place, politics, and rhetoric as analytical tools, historical geographer David N. Livingstone investigates how religious communities sharing a Scots Presbyterian heritage engaged with Darwin and Darwinism at the turn of the twentieth century. His findings, presented as the prestigious Gifford Lectures, transform our understandings of the relationship between science and religion.

The particulars of place—whether in Edinburgh, Belfast, Toronto, Princeton, or Columbia, South Carolina…

How was Darwin’s work discussed and debated among the same religious denomination in different locations?

Using place, politics, and rhetoric as analytical tools, historical geographer David N. Livingstone investigates how religious communities sharing a Scots Presbyterian heritage engaged with Darwin and Darwinism at the turn of the twentieth century. His findings, presented as the prestigious Gifford Lectures, transform our understandings of the relationship between science and religion.

The particulars of place—whether in Edinburgh, Belfast, Toronto, Princeton, or Columbia, South Carolina—shaped the response to Darwin’s theories. Were they tolerated, repudiated, or welcomed? Livingstone shows how Darwin was read in different ways, with meaning distilled from Darwin's texts depending on readers' own histories—their literary genealogies and cultural preoccupations. That the theory of evolution fared differently in different places, Livingstone writes, is "exactly what Darwin might have predicted. As the theory diffused, it diverged."

Dealing with Darwin shows the profound extent to which theological debates about evolution were rooted in such matters as anxieties over control of education, the politics of race relations, the nature of local scientific traditions, and challenges to traditional cultural identity. In some settings, conciliation with the new theory, even endorsement, was possible—demonstrating that attending to the specific nature of individual communities subverts an inclination to assume a single relationship between science and religion in general, evolution and Christianity in particular.

Livingstone concludes with contemporary examples to remind us that what scientists can say and what others can hear in different venues differ today just as much as they did in the past.

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Dealing with Darwin

David N. Livingstone

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Reviews

Reviews

How was Darwin's On the Origin of Species received by his contemporary scholars, particularly by theologians and religious authors? That is the subject of the thoroughly researched and elegantly written book by David N. Livingstone.

Dealing with Darwin is a compelling account of how science is made in a process of transit. A theory such as Darwinian evolution is, after all, not a sealed package that is either accepted or rejected by its various audiences. Rather, as Livingstone's book vividly demonstrates, different versions of Darwin were appropriated, reconstituted and constructed to suit various local needs and theological or scientific contingencies.

An informing and suggestive examination of the Darwinian episode.

Dealing with Darwin has been many years in the making, but well worth waiting for. It is a delight to read, both from a literary and intellectual standpoint.

In this illuminating book, our intrepid tour guide crafts a vivid portrait of the geographical, cultural, political, and racial dynamics that have shaped and often continue to characterize debates over Darwin. Dealing with Darwin is a welcome addition to Livingstone’s growing library of compelling works on religion and science, pathbreaking research that upends the way many think about the historical interplay between Darwinism and religious belief.

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Table of Contents

Preface
1. Dealing with Darwin: Locating Encounters with Evolution
2. Edinburgh, Evolution, and Cannibalistic Nostalgia
3. Belfast, the Parliament of Science, and the Winter of Discontent
4. Toronto, Knox

Preface
1. Dealing with Darwin: Locating Encounters with Evolution
2. Edinburgh, Evolution, and Cannibalistic Nostalgia
3. Belfast, the Parliament of Science, and the Winter of Discontent
4. Toronto, Knox, and Bacon's Bequest
5. Columbia, Woodrow, and the Legacy of the Lost Cause
6. Princeton, Darwinism, and the Shorthorn Cattle
7. Darwinian Engagements: Place, Politics, Rhetoric
Notes
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

David N. Livingstone

David N. Livingstone is a professor of geography and intellectual history at Queen’s University, Belfast. He is author of Adam's Ancestors: Race, Religion, and the Politics of Human Origins, also published by Johns Hopkins.
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