The following blog posts chronicle a unique, interdisciplinary course Charlotte Pence taught with Dr. Gary Fritz in the fall of 2014. In the late 19th century, Charles Darwin proposed a theory of biological evolution that offered a new paradigm regarding the history of life on earth and, therefore, our place in it. How did this … More Information on Posts Below
As I mentioned on Thursday, Dr. Erasmus Darwin’s poetry suggested that life originated in the sea. In fact, Erasmus had a thing for fossils and sea shells as he sensed that the earth’s history could better be understood by studying these objects. And as chance would have it, the Darwin family crest actually featured three … More HOW ONE IS FLAMED IN THE 1800s
We are now moving into the evidence for evolution. This can be an emotional time for some. As I sat in my desk, taking notes with the students, watching slide after slide of evidence go by, I sensed how overwhelming lectures might feel. Sometimes, it can be an hour and fifteen minute parade of what-I-don’t-know. … More THE EVIDENCE FOR EVOLUTION
For Thursday’s class, I asked everyone to read chapter three of Origins. Now, this is a book that is not a cuddle-in-bed page turner. It’s thorough. It’s slow. It’s super-specific, but all for good reason. Darwin knew he had a tough rhetorical challenge and establishes himself as a man whose ideas are created from the … More THE MYTH OF THE CRAZED SCIENTIST
For today’s class, we looked at the conclusion, or what really feels like the firework finale, of On the Origin of Species. Whereas the previous 480 pages are carefully, exhaustively, even at times hesitantly proposing natural selection and descent with modification, the conclusion changes in tone. Confident and assertive, the Darwin in the last chapter … More DARWIN: EQUAL PARTS PREACHER, PROPHET, AND PROFESSOR
We have now finished the class’s first segment that looked at what Darwin proposed in On the Origin of Species. For the next few weeks, we are discussing the historical context and public reception of those ideas. Our class on Thursday discussed poems responding to Darwin’s theories in some way. The poems included: “Mutability” and … More MOVING INTO CONTEXT AND RECEPTION
For Tuesday’s class, Dr. Richard England, Dean of the Honors College, guest lectured about the religious reaction to Darwin’s work in the years following Origin’s 1859 publication. His point was not what you’d expect. Contrary to the current pugilistic tenor that one must swiftly choose between God or Darwin, the late 19th century offered a … More ONLY TWO OPTIONS?
WHAT’S THE CONNECTION BETWEEN ALICE AND DARWIN? When I handed out today’s reading, which was selections from Alice in Wonderland, I asked the class to do two things: read it–and come up with an hypothesis as to why we were reading it. Published just six years after Origins, it’s hard to imagine that the kerfuffle … More WHAT’S THE CONNECTION BETWEEN ALICE AND DARWIN?
Mrs. Darwin 7 April 1852. Went to the Zoo. I said to him— Something about that Chimpanzee over there reminds me of you. By Carol Ann Duffy from her Selected Poems. (It’s midterms. We could all use a little levity.)
Today, Dr. Fritz began talking about a dark side effect of Origins—and that is the idea of social Darwinism. Coined in the late 19th century, this term describes the idea that humans compete to survive, similar to plants and animals. Misunderstanding Darwin’s idea of “survival of the fittest,” social Darwinists rationalize racism, imperialism, and the … More THE UGLY SIDE: SOCIAL DARWINISTS