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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: July 2011

19 - The politics of nature

from IV - Secularity, reform and modernity
Summary
Charles Darwin considered the transformations of nature through natural selection in his writings. This chapter situates Darwin's struggle and his concept of struggle in a wider context of nineteenth-century evolutionary thought, and explores political and religious consequences of the claim that species (human included) undergo change over time. The Victorian critics of evolutionary ideas in general and Darwinian hypotheses included deep religious and moral objections to visions of nature, and scientific arguments. Internecine controversies continued amongst the evolutionists themselves. The interpretation of scientific success and failure was unclear; speculations as far-reaching and untestable as Darwin's led into a quagmire of uncertainty. From around the mid-nineteenth century, race was indeed becoming a more significant and central concept in Western thought. On the American Civil War, T. H. Huxley declared that the abolition of slavery was right because the superior white man should show moral compassion. Innate inequality of intelligence and morals was widely treated as immutable scientific fact.
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The Cambridge History of Nineteenth-Century Political Thought
  • Online ISBN: 9780511973581
  • Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521430562
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