Thursday, August 5, 2010

Blog Tour Guest Post by Y.S. Lee

Today I'm lucky enough to host author Y.S. Lee as part of the Traveling to Teens tour!

Hello, and thanks for tuning in to the Body at the Tower blog tour. Today’s mini-theme is reluctant revolutionaries and today’s Notorious Victorian is Charles Darwin. I’ll start by saying that I know where I stand on the subject of evolution, but am not interested in persuading or converting others to my view. That’s not the point of this essay. Instead, I want to talk about how people sometimes find themselves triggering huge cultural flashpoints without really wanting to do so. Such is the case with Charles Darwin – naturalist, geologist, and one of the most simultaneously admired and hated Victorians.

Darwin was a painstaking character – an important trait in a scientist, and particularly a geologist – and slow to draw conclusions. He seems to have been of a nervous temperament, too: all his life, he was prone to heart palpitations, headaches and stomach ailments when he worked too hard. His research towards a theory of common origin took nearly thirty years. When Darwin finally published On the Origin of Species in 1859, it was because he was pushed: the previous year, a rising young scientist named Alfred Russel Wallace sent him a paper that outlined a theory of natural selection remarkably like Darwin’s own. A couple of weeks later, both Darwin’s and Wallace’s papers were jointly presented to the Linnean Society. It’s interesting to realize that there was very little response to these papers – no instantaneous outcry, no immediate earthquake.

It was only a year later, on the full publication of Darwin’s expanded book, that the uproar began. Although interested in the intellectual response, Darwin was too ill to comment himself. He did not participate in the famous Oxford evolution debate of 1860 and remained distant (in public, at least) from all discussion of his incendiary theory.

Darwin’s research changed much more than scientific dialogue. It shook Victorian beliefs to the ground, forcing people to question everything: faith, reason, humanity, and the meaning of existence. The generations following Darwin found themselves stripped of certainty, of confidence in old beliefs.

What Darwin “wanted” or “intended” to achieve is totally irrelevant. We do know that he had a difficult – even tortured – relationship to the theory he proposed, and its impact on religious belief. He was a Christian. The fact that he published Origin reveals him as a reluctant sort of revolutionary.

You can find Y.S Lee on her website here, and on twitter

You can check out my review of her newest book, The Body at the Tower (The Agency #2) here

Don't forget to follow the tour and visit Ari at Reading in Color tomorrow!


Emma said...

Great guest post! Darwin is fascinating.

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