JF Ptak Science Books Post 1225
"But with regard to the material world, we can at least go so far as this—we can perceive that events are brought about not by insulated interpositions of Divine power, exerted in each particular case, but by the establishment of general laws." W. WHEWELL: Bridgewater Treatise.
"To conclude, therefore, let no man out of a weak conceit of sobriety, or an ill-applied moderation, think or maintain, that a man can search too far or be too well studied in the book of God's word, or in the book of God's works; divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavour an endless progress or proficience in both.." BACON: Advancement of Learning.
The quotes above stand alone, the first things that the readers see, sitting on the half-title page of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species (first published in 1859 in an almost-immediately sold out run of 1250 copies) an extraordinary, epochal book that was a lightning rod for reception both good and bad, heaven and hell, the Boschian hells of which were clearly not deserved, then or now. (It is easier to understand a poorly-reviewd Origin in 1859 or through the 1860's or even through the rest of the 19th century or even somehow through the early twentieth, but not afterwards.)
Twelve years after the first edition of the Origin (and two years after the appearance of the Origin in its fifth edition) came his elegant and formibible The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex
The Times of London gave such an awful review of the book that a review of this review was published in the April edition of Nature [(Darwin), Charles. REVIEW of Review: The Descent of Man. London: Nature, 1871, volume 3, 20 April 1871]. It was Thomas Stebbing who wrote the response to The Times' incitful, hateful attack upon the Descent of Man. The Times saw Darwin's work as an attack upon society, accusing him of undermining authority and principles of morality, opening the way to "the most murderous revolutions". A "man incurs a grave responsibility when, with the authority of a well-earned reputation, he advances at such a time the disintegrating speculations of this book." Stebbing's review of the review is drippingly sarcastic, pointing out obvious errors in specific and the tone of the article in general in the defense of the book. Darwin's "facile method of observing superficial resemblances" (says The Times) incites Stebbing to issue the following: "they may fancy that truth is worth discovering , even when it seems to involve some contradictions to our pride and some loss of comfort to our finer feelings..." (What a great line!) The article runs about 1000 words, and is a two-column, 1-page bit. [This issue of Nature may be purchased from our blog bookstore, here.]
"No one ought to feel surprise at much remaining as yet unexplained in regard to the origin of species and varieties, if he makes due allowance for our profound ignorance in regard to the mutual relations of all the beings which live around us." Darwin, leading the last paragraphs of the end of the introduction to the Origin, page 7.