Friday, July 27, 2018

JUST THE FACTS- July 26, 2018

It stopped raining long enough yesterday for people to stop loading their arks and attend the book discussion group.  Fourteen people ceased gathering pairs of animals to attend.  Their presence, as always, was much appreciated.

Our book last night was The Book that Changed America:  how Darwin’s Theory of Evolution Ignited a Nation by Randall Fuller.  Charles Darwin’s seminal work, On the Origin of Species, was published just before the beginning of the American Civil War and did nothing to unite an already deeply divided people.  When the book reached America, some scientists were deeply impressed while others thought it was nonsense.  The issue of where God fit into all of this was extremely volatile.  One group deeply affected by Darwin’s theories were the New England professors at Harvard and other colleges and the Transcendentalists, a group of philosophers, including Henry David Thoreau, who sought to favor enlightenment over materialism.  Thoreau, especially, was deeply impressed by the work and incorporated Darwin’s theory into his roamings through the woods and cataloging of plants and animals.  Asa Gray, a very religious botanist at Harvard, at first embraced the book, but later had his doubts because he could not find the hand of God in Darwin’s work.  Louis Agassiz, another scientist at Harvard, rejected the book for the same reason.  We spoke about several topics, mostly about the theory, but also about genetics, the effect of outer space radiation on mutations, nurture versus nature and the sacrifice of Alfred Russel Wallace, who had arrived at the same conclusions as Darwin independently, but withdrew his publication in deference to the older man who had been working on his theory for thirty years.

Our next meeting will be on August 23, 2018.  The book to be discussed, The Radium Girls: the dark story of America’s shining women by Kate Moore, is available at the Circulation Desk.  All are welcome.

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