Rackham Amphitheater, 4th Floor
32ND Distinguised Senior Faculty Lecture - “AFTER THE FALL: DARWIN AND MILTON ON DESCENT” by GILLIAN FEELEY-HARNIK, Kathleen Gough Collegiate Professor of Anthropology. Lecture and reception open to the public.
Lecture Abstract Provided by Prof. Feeley-Harnik:
The purpose of this talk is to analyze inseparably religious-scientific issues in the early work of Charles Darwin through an anthropological and historical study of how he came to formulate descent as the "hidden bond of connexion" in what he called the "Natural System." Darwin had abandoned biblical literalism long before his five years of research as a naturalist on the HMS Beagle in 1831-36. So how did he envision creation? And how might an analysis of his early views contribute to our understanding of the explicitly non-creationist theories of generation and descent that he outlined in Origin of Species (1859)? I argue that the powerful earthy-watery language of creation in Genesis, and in even more elemental retellings of the Bible like John Milton's Paradise Lost (1667), widely read in nineteenth-century Great Britain, contributed to the interest of Darwin and his contemporaries in "connexions" that were geographical and geological before they were genealogical, first about the "face of the deep" (Genesis 1.1) and then about the "Tree of Life" (Genesis 2.9) eventually understood more in terms of blood than soil.
College of Literature, Science, and the Arts