Morning Tea with Mr. Darwin

2018 Presentations

Sponsored by the Connecticut State Natural Histroy Museum and Museum of Archaeology

Take place in the UConn Biology/Physics building, Room 130, from 10-11:15, tea and biscuits provided

March 24

Morning Tea with Mr. Darwin: Faith, Religion and Science

Religious faith was frequently on Darwin’s mind. Both he and his wife Emma were raised in free-thinking Unitarian families. Charles studied for a life as a clergyman, but his allegiance to the 39 principles of the Anglican church was never strong. He had difficulty accepting the idea of eternal punishment for sins and his developing ideas about natural selection increasingly challenged his faith. To the end of his life he was tormented by the distance between his lack of faith and Emma’s fear that they would not be reunited after death. His discoveries about evolution caused a ferment in the established church at the time, but, not long after his death, Anglicans reconciled their beliefs with his theories. This presentation will discuss Darwin’s personal struggles with religious faith and the religious context in which his work developed.

 

June 9

Morning tea with Mr. Darwin: Life and Times of Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin lived during a tumultuous time in England and the world. Born as England was still licking its wounds after losing its largest colony, he grew up as the industrial revolution was getting started. Society was breaking into new classes and new rules were governing the relationship between those classes were being forged out of social strife. England gained control of the seas and an empire was being built. The reign of Queen Vitoria saw new social mores come into play. Within all this, a new natural historian, or scientist as they were beginning to be called, was developing ideas that would be influenced by and impact many of these societal developments. Charles Darwin and his evolution theories were a product of his times. This presentation will explore Darwin’s relation to many of these topics including political movements, poor laws, religious doctrines, slavery, vivisection, and spiritualism.

 

August 11

Morning Tea with Mr. Darwin: Darwin and Women

Mr. Darwin was a man of his times. By today’s standards, his thinking and actions would not be tolerated. Even in his own day, there were some men, including his older brother Erasmus, who’s attitudes were more modern. He was quite charming around women and those close to him loved him very much. His attitudes about women’s place in society developed through a combination of his upbringing and his study of the differences between the sexes in nature. He was the first to suggest that Natural Selection sometimes manifested itself among animals in the form of what he called Sexual Selection. The female animal frequently chose the male based on his apparent suitability for siring healthy, competitive offspring. He thought that humans did the same thing as a result of their animal nature. Of course, Victorian mores came into play in his thinking as well. This presentation will explore all these features of his life as well as describe the changing roles of women in Victorian England.

 

October 20

Morning tea with Mr. Darwin: The Big Book

From the time he returned to England from the Beagle voyage until he published On the Origin of Species, Darwin gathered information, performed experiments, and took copious notes about his thoughts on evolution. He developed from a traditional belief that life reflected a Creator’s grand plan of increasing perfection to a conviction that life changed as a result of natural forces without any direction. His thoughts culminated in a work he called his “Big Book” tentatively titled “Natural Selection.” His plans were derailed when he received a manuscript from Alfred Russel Wallace that laid out his theory of natural selection that was very similar to Darwin’s. Both men were given credit for the idea, but Charles knew he had to abandon his plan for a grand treatise and instead wrote what he considered an abstract of that larger work, his famous book “On the Origin of Species.” This presentation will walk you through Darwin’s developing thoughts, his set-backs, his anxieties, and his eventual triumph. We will also consider some of the immediate responses to his “abstract.”

© Kenneth Noll 2018