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Encyclopedia > The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex

The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex by British naturalist Charles Darwin was first published in 1871. It was Darwin's second large book on evolutionary theory, following his 1859 work, The Origin of Species, and is concerned with outlining explicitly the application of Darwin's theory to human evolution, and outlining in detail the theory of sexual selection. Natural history is an umbrella term for what are now usually viewed as a number of distinct scientific disciplines. ... Charles Darwin, about the same time as the publication of The Origin of Species. ... 1871 was a common year starting on Sunday (see link for calendar). ... 1859 is a common year starting on Saturday. ... The 1859 edition of On the Origin of Species First published in 1859, The Origin of Species (full title On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life) by British naturalist Charles Darwin is one of the pivotal... Human evolution is a multidisciplinary scientific inquiry which seeks to understand and describe the origin and development of humanity. ... Illustration from The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex by Charles Darwin showing the tufted coquette Lophornis ornatus, female on left, ornamented male on right. ...

Contents


Darwin's background issues and concerns

Charles Darwin's second book of theory involved many questions of Darwin's time.
Charles Darwin's second book of theory involved many questions of Darwin's time.

Charles Darwin's Origin of Species had been met with a firestorm of controversy in reaction to Darwin's theory, largely because it was clear that it implied that human beings were evolved from animals, contradicting the story of Genesis and implying an animal nature. Darwin had not made the link explicit in Origin, though; a single line hinted at such a conclusion: "light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history". But the conclusion was fairly obvious to his contemporaries, and became the subtext if not the center of many debates over his theory (such as those between T.H. Huxley and Richard Owen over the brains of apes). When writing The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication in 1866, Darwin intended to include a chapter including man in his theory, but the book became too big and he decided to write a separate "short essay" on ape ancestry, sexual selection and human expression which became the The Descent of Man. This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons, a repository of free content hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation. ... The reaction to Darwins theory came quickly after the publication of Darwins theory which had followed twenty years of development of Darwins theory of evolution. ... Genesis (Greek: Γένεσις, having the meanings of birth, creation, cause, beginning, source and origin) is the first book of the Torah (five books of Moses) and hence the first book of the Tanakh, part of the Hebrew Bible; it is also the first book of the Christian Old Testament. ... Thomas Huxley Thomas Henry Huxley F.R.S. (May 4, 1825 - June 29, 1895) was a British biologist, known as Darwins Bulldog for his defence of Charles Darwins theory of evolution. ... Sir Richard Owen and Dinornis bird skeleton Sir Richard Owen (July 20, 1804 - December 18, 1892) was an English biologist, comparative anatomist and palaeontologist. ... 1866 is a common year starting on Monday. ... Illustration from The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex by Charles Darwin showing the tufted coquette Lophornis ornatus, female on left, ornamented male on right. ...


Darwin's writing on the subject in The Descent of Man came twelve years after his work on Origin, and was by no means the first work on human evolution. As such, the book is a response to various debates of Darwin's time far more wide-ranging than the questions he raised in Origin. It is often erroneously assumed that the book was controversial because it was the first to outline the idea of human evolution and common descent. Coming out so late into that particular debate, while it was clearly Darwin's intent to weigh in on this question, his goal was to approach it through a specific theoretical lens (sexual selection) which had previously been undiscussed by the other commentators at the period, as well as considering evolution of morality and religion. The theory of sexual selection was also needed to counter the argument that beauty with no obvious utility such as exotic birds' plumage proved divine design, which had been put strongly by the Duke of Argyll in his book The Reign of Law. A group of organisms is said to have common descent if they have a common ancestor. ... Life George John Douglas Campbell, 8th Duke of Argyll (30 April 1823 - 24 April 1900) was a prominent Liberal politician and man of letters of the 19th century. ...


See Darwin from Descent of Man to Emotions for the context and Darwin's sources when writing this book. The life and work of Darwin from Descent of Man to Emotions was the next stage after the work of Darwin from Orchids to Variation. ...


Human faculties

The major sticking point for many in the question of human evolution was whether or not human mental faculties could have possibly been evolved. The gap between humans and even the smartest ape seemed too large even for those who were sympathetic to Darwin's larger theory. Alfred Russel Wallace, the "co-discoverer" of evolution by natural selection, believed that the human mind was too complex to have evolved gradually, and began over time to subscribe to a theory of evolution which took more from spiritualism than it did the natural world. Darwin was deeply distressed by Wallace's change of heart and much of the Descent of Man is in response to opinions put forth by Wallace. Darwin focuses less on the question of whether humans evolved as it does on displaying that each of the human faculties considered to be so far beyond those of animals—such as moral reasoning, sympathy for others, beauty, and music—can be seen in kind (if not degree) in other animal species (usually apes and dogs). Alfred Russel Wallace Alfred Russel Wallace (January 8, 1823 — November 7, 1913) was a British naturalist, geographer, anthropologist and biologist. ... Natural selection is a process by which biological populations are altered over time, as a result of the propagation of heritable traits that affect the capacity of individual organisms to survive and reproduce. ... Spiritualism is a religion in which contact with the spirits of the dead through a medium is central. ...


Human races

His encounters with the natives of the Tierra del Fuego on his Beagle voyage made Darwin believe that civilization had evolved over time from a more primitive state.
His encounters with the natives of the Tierra del Fuego on his Beagle voyage made Darwin believe that civilization had evolved over time from a more primitive state.

The questions of what "race" was, how many human races there were, and whether they could be "mixed", were key debates in the nascent field of anthropology in Darwin's time. After the American Civil War (1861-1865), the question of race and slavery were brought to the forefront in anthropology in the United States and Europe. Many scientists from the Southern U.S. were publishing long monographs on why the "Negro" was inferior and would soon be driven to extinction by newfound freedom, with an implication that slavery had been not only "beneficial" but "natural". Darwin was a long-time abolitionist who had been horrified by slavery when he first came into contact with it in Brazil while touring the world on the Beagle voyage many years before, and considered the "race question" one of the most important of his day. Darwin took a radical view for his time—that all human beings were of the same species, and that races, if they were useful markers at all, were simple "sub-species" or "variants." This view (known as "monogenism") was in stark contrast with the majority view in anthropology at the time, that the different human races were distinct species or sub-species ("polygenism"). Polygeny was supported by thinkers of many backgrounds, such as the Creationist Louis Agassiz, and by later thinkers who would interpret Darwin's theory to imply that races had been evolved at different times or stages. Darwin's own views of this were that the differences between human races were superficial (he discusses them only in terms of skin color and hair style), and much of Descent is devoted to the question of the human races. Aside from the aforementioned encounter with slavery on the Beagle, Darwin also was perplexed by the "savage races" he saw in South America at Tierra del Fuego, which he saw as evidence of a man's more primitive state of civilization. During his years in London, his private notebooks were riddled with speculations and thoughts on the nature of the human races, many decades before he would publish Origin. Download high resolution version (400x601, 235 KB) Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... Download high resolution version (400x601, 235 KB) Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... Tierra del Fuego (Spanish: land of the Fire) is an archipelago at the southernmost tip of South America. ... HMS Beagle, from an 1841 watercolour by Owen Stanley The Voyage of the Beagle refers to the survey expedition of the ship HMS Beagle under captain Robert FitzRoy which set out on 27 December 1831. ... A civilization or civilisation has a variety of meanings related to human society. ... A race is a distinct population of humans distinguished in some way from other humans. ... Anthropology (from the Greek word άνθρωπος = human) consists of the study of humankind (see genus Homo). ... The American Civil War was fought in the United States from 1861 until 1865 between the United States – forces coming mostly from the 23 northern states of the Union – and the newly-formed Confederate States of America, which consisted of 11 southern states that had declared their secession. ... 1861 is a common year starting on Tuesday. ... 1865 is a common year starting on Sunday. ... Negro means the color black in both Spanish and Portuguese languages, being derived from the Latin word niger of the same meaning. ... A monument celebrating the emancipation of slaves in the British Empire in 1834, erected in Victoria Tower Gardens, Millbank, Westminster, London Look up Slavery in Wiktionary, the free dictionary Slavery is a condition of control over a person against their will, enforced by violence or other forms of coercion. ... HMS Beagle, from an 1841 watercolour by Owen Stanley The Voyage of the Beagle refers to the survey expedition of the ship HMS Beagle under captain Robert FitzRoy which set out on 27 December 1831. ... In biology, a species is a kind of organism. ... Polygenism is a biblical theory of human origins positing that the human races are of different lineages. ... Creationism is generally the belief that the universe was created by a deity, or alternatively by one or more powerful and intelligent beings. ... Louis Agassiz Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz (May 28, 1807-December 14, 1873) was a Swiss-American zoologist and geologist, the husband of educator Elizabeth Cabot Cary Agassiz, and one of the first world-class American scientists. ... Tierra del Fuego (Spanish: land of the Fire) is an archipelago at the southernmost tip of South America. ...


Social implications of Darwinism

Darwin's cousin, Francis Galton, proposed that an interpretation of Darwin's theory was the need for eugenics to save society from "inferior" minds.
Darwin's cousin, Francis Galton, proposed that an interpretation of Darwin's theory was the need for eugenics to save society from "inferior" minds.

Since the publication of Origin, a wide variety of opinions had been put forward on whether or not the theory had implications towards human society. One of these was what would later be known as Social Darwinism, usually ascribed to the ideas of Herbert Spencer, which argued that society would naturally separate itself along lines of the "more fit" and "less fit". Another of these interpretations, later known as eugenics, was put forth by Darwin's cousin, Francis Galton, in 1865 and 1869. Galton argued that just as physical traits were clearly inherited among generations of people, so could be said for mental qualities (genius and talent). If this were true, Galton argued, then humans should arrange society in ways which would encourage the smartest members of society to reproduce more and discourage the "less fit" members of society not to reproduce. In Galton's view, social institutions such as welfare and insane asylums were allowing "inferior" humans to survive and reproduce at levels faster than the more "superior" humans in respectable society, and if corrections were not soon taken, society would be awash with "inferiors." Darwin read his cousin's work with interest, and devoted sections of Descent of Man to discussion of Galton's theories. Neither Galton nor Darwin, though, advocated any eugenic policies such as those which would be undertaken in the early 20th century, as government coercion of any form was very much against their political opinions. Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... Francis Galton Sir Francis Galton (February 16, 1822 – January 17, 1911), inventor, explorer, statistician, anthropologist, a pioneer in eugenics, investigator of the human mind, and the founder of the science of measuring mental faculties: psychometrics. ... Eugenics is the self-direction of human evolution: Logo from the Second International Congress of Eugenics, 1921, depicting it as a tree which unites a variety of different fields. ... Social Darwinism is a social theory which holds that Darwins theory of evolution by natural selection affects not only the distribution of biological traits in a population, but that it affects human social institutions as well. ... Herbert Spencer. ... Eugenics is the self-direction of human evolution: Logo from the Second International Congress of Eugenics, 1921, depicting it as a tree which unites a variety of different fields. ... Francis Galton Sir Francis Galton (February 16, 1822 – January 17, 1911), inventor, explorer, statistician, anthropologist, a pioneer in eugenics, investigator of the human mind, and the founder of the science of measuring mental faculties: psychometrics. ... 1865 is a common year starting on Sunday. ... 1869 is a common year starting on Friday (link will take you to calendar). ... Welfare has four main meanings. ... A psychiatric hospital (also called a mental hospital or asylum) is a hospital specializing in the treatment of persons with mental illness. ...


Apparently non-adaptive features

In Darwin's view, anything that could be expected to have some adaptive feature could be explained easily with his theory of natural selection. In Origin, Darwin had admitted that to use natural selection to explain something as complicated as a human eye, "with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration" might at first appear "absurd in the highest possible degree," but nevertheless, if "numerous gradations from a perfect and complex eye to one very imperfect and simple, each grade being useful to its possessor, can be shown to exist", then it seemed quite possible to account for within his theory.

"The sight of a feather in a peacock's tail, whenever I gaze at it, makes me sick!"
"The sight of a feather in a peacock's tail, whenever I gaze at it, makes me sick!"

More difficult for Darwin were highly evolved and complicated features which conveyed apparently no adaptive advantage to the organism in question. He once wrote to a colleague that "The sight of a feather in a peacock's tail, whenever I gaze at it, makes me sick!" Why should a bird like the peacock develop such an elaborate tail, which seemed to at best be a hinderance in its "struggle for existence"? To answer the question, Darwin developed the theory of sexual selection, which outlined how different characters could be selected for if they conveyed a reproductive advantage to the individual. In Darwin's version of the theory, male animals in particular received the benefits of sexual selection, either by acquiring "weapons" with which to fight over females with other males, or by acquiring beautiful plumage with which to woo the female animals. Much of Descent is devoted to providing evidence for sexual selection in nature, which he also ties in to the development of aesthetic instincts in human beings, as well as the differences in coloration between the human races. Peacock detail at Paignton Zoo, Devon, England. ... Peacock detail at Paignton Zoo, Devon, England. ... Peacock re-directs here; for alternate uses see Peacock (disambiguation). ... Peacock re-directs here; for alternate uses see Peacock (disambiguation). ... Illustration from The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex by Charles Darwin showing the tufted coquette Lophornis ornatus, female on left, ornamented male on right. ...


Darwin had developed his ideas about sexual selection for this reason since at least the 1850s, and had originally intended to include a long section on the theory in his large, unpublished book on species. When it came to writing Origin, though (his "abstract" of the larger book), he did not feel he had sufficient space to engage in sexual selection to any strong degree, and included only three paragraphs devoted to the subject. Darwin considered sexual selection to be as much of a theoretical contribution of his as was his natural selection, and the vast majority of Descent is devoted exclusively to this topic.


Part I: The evolution of man

Evolution of physical traits

Embryology (here comparing a human and dog) provided one mode of attack.
Enlarge
Embryology (here comparing a human and dog) provided one mode of attack.

In the introduction to Descent, Darwin lays out the purpose of his text: Woodcut depicting the similar appearance of a human embryo (top) and a dog embryo (bottom), from Charles Darwins Descent of Man (1871). ... Woodcut depicting the similar appearance of a human embryo (top) and a dog embryo (bottom), from Charles Darwins Descent of Man (1871). ... Embryology is the subdivision of developmental biology that studies embryos and their development. ... Trinomial name Canis lupus familiaris The Dog is a canine carnivorous mammal that has been domesticated for at least 14,000 years and perhaps for as long as 150,000 years based on recent evidence. ...

The sole object of this work is to consider, firstly, whether man, like every other species, is descended from some pre-existing form; secondly, the manner of his development; and thirdly, the value of the differences between the so-called races of man.

Darwin's approach to arguing for the evolution of human beings is to outline how similar human beings are to other animals. He begins by using anatomical similarities, focusing on body structure, embryology, and "rudimentary organs" which are presumably useful in one of man's "pre-existing" forms. He then moves on to arguing for the similarity of mental characteristics. Anatomical drawing of the human muscles from the Encyclopédie. ... Embryology is the subdivision of developmental biology that studies embryos and their development. ...


Evolution of mental traits

Darwin's primary rhetorical strategy was to argue by analogy. Baboons, dogs, and "savages" provided his chief evidence for human evolution.
Darwin's primary rhetorical strategy was to argue by analogy. Baboons, dogs, and "savages" provided his chief evidence for human evolution.

Based on the work of his cousin Galton, Darwin is able to assert that human character traits and mental characteristics are inherited the same as physical characteristics, and argues against the mind/body distinction for the purposes of evolutionary theory. From this Darwin then provides evidence for similar mental powers and characteristics in certain animals, focusing especially on apes, monkeys, and dogs for his analogies for love, cleverness, religion, kindness, and altruism. He concludes on this point that "Nevertheless the difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind." He additionally turns to the behavior of "savages" to show how many aspects of Victorian England's society can be seen in more primitive forms. Download high resolution version (1700x1336, 1116 KB) File links The following pages link to this file: Primate Baboon The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex Olive Baboon User:Bwmodular/Sandbox Categories: Primate images ... Download high resolution version (1700x1336, 1116 KB) File links The following pages link to this file: Primate Baboon The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex Olive Baboon User:Bwmodular/Sandbox Categories: Primate images ... An analogy is a comparison between two different things, in order to highlight some form of similarity. ... Species Papio hamadryas Papio papio Papio anubis Papio cynocephalus Papio ursinus The Baboon is the largest non-hominid member of the primate order. ... Trinomial name Canis lupus familiaris The Dog is a canine carnivorous mammal that has been domesticated for at least 14,000 years and perhaps for as long as 150,000 years based on recent evidence. ... Savage has various meanings. ...


In particular, Darwin argues that even moral and social instincts are evolved, comparing religion in man to fetishism in "savages" and his dog's inability to tell whether a wind-blown parasol was alive or not. Darwin also argues that all civilizations had risen out of barbarism, and that he did not think that barbarism is not a "fall from grace" as many commentators of his time had asserted.


Natural selection and civilized society

In this section of the book, Darwin also turns to the questions of what would after his death be known as social Darwinism and eugenics. Darwin notes that, as had been discussed by Alfred Russel Wallace and Galton, natural selection seemed to no longer act upon civilized communities in the way it did upon other animals: Social Darwinism is a social theory which holds that Darwins theory of evolution by natural selection affects not only the distribution of biological traits in a population, but that it affects human social institutions as well. ... Eugenics is the self-direction of human evolution: Logo from the Second International Congress of Eugenics, 1921, depicting it as a tree which unites a variety of different fields. ... Alfred Russel Wallace Alfred Russel Wallace (January 8, 1823 — November 7, 1913) was a British naturalist, geographer, anthropologist and biologist. ...

"We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man itself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed."

But Darwin felt that these urges towards helping the "weak members" was part of our evolved instinct of sympathy, and concluded that "nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature." As such, '"we must therefore bear the undoubtedly bad effects of the weak surviving and propagating their kind." Darwin was sympathetic to the views of the Social Darwinists and the eugenicists, but he did not believe that action should be taken. He did feel, though, that the "savage races" of man would be subverted by the "civilised races" at some point in the near future: "At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world." Darwin is not advocating genocide, but clinically predicting, by analogy to the ways in which "more fit" varieties within a species would displace other varieties, the likelihood that indigenous peoples will eventually die out from their contact with "civilization", or become absorbed into it completely. Look up Genocide in Wiktionary, the free dictionary Genocide has been defined as the deliberate killing of people based on their ethnicity, nationality, race, religion, or (sometimes) politics, as well as other deliberate action(s)leading to the physical elimination of any of the above categories. ...


His political opinions (and Galton's as well) were strongly inclined against the coercive, authoritarian forms of eugenics which later became so prominent in the twentieth century. It is worth noting that even Galton's ideas about eugenics were not the compulsory sterilization or genocidal programs of Nazi Germany, but he instead hoped that by encouraging more thought in hereditary reproduction, human mores could change in a way which would compel people to choose better mates. Compulsory sterilization programs sprouted up in many countries at the beginning of the 20th century, usually as part of a program of negative eugenics -- to prevent undesirable members of the population reproducing. ... Nazi Germany, or the Third Reich, commonly refers to Germany in the years 1933–1945, when it was under the firm control of the totalitarian and fascist ideology of the Nazi Party, with the Führer Adolf Hitler as dictator. ...


The race debate

Darwin lastly applied his theory to one of the more controversial scientific questions of his day: whether the different races of human beings were of the same species or not:

The question whether mankind consists of one or several species has of late years been much discussed by anthropologists, who are divided into the two schools of monogenists and polygenists. Those who do not admit the principle of evolution, must look at species as separate creations, or as in some manner as distinct entities; and they must decide what forms of man they will consider as species by the analogy of the method commonly pursued in ranking other organic beings as species.

Darwin reasoned that most of the visual differences between human races were superficial—issues of skin color and hair type—and that most of the mental differences were merely cases of "civilization" or a lack of it. It was important to Darwin to argue that all races were of the same species—he had spent much of the preceding book tracing humans back to the paleolithic age, and now he had to bring them back to the present time again. If the "savages" like those he met while on his Beagle voyage were not of the same species as civilized Englishmen, he would not be able to draw the complete continuum he felt necessary. Darwin concluded that the visual differences between races were not adaptive to any significant degree, and were more likely simply caused by sexual selection—different standards of beauty and mating amongst different people—and that all of humankind was one single species.


He concludes that "when the principle of evolution is generally accepted, as it surely will be before long, the dispute between the monogenists and the polygenists will die a silent and unobserved death." In one sense he was correct: few people, outside of the anthropologists of the American South, would maintain that different races were actually distinct species of animals for very much longer—the mounting evidence of their ability to interbreed and have fertile young was becoming unignorable, among other things. However, many found it easy to take a similar view to the old polygenism: that the races were indeed one species, but had diverged so long ago that significant differences between the races still existed. The evolutionary point fell out of debate, but the social point has continued (both inside and outside scientific circles) to the present day.


Part II and III: Sexual selection

Darwin argued that the female peahen chose to mate with the male peacock who had the most beautiful plumage in her mind.
Darwin argued that the female peahen chose to mate with the male peacock who had the most beautiful plumage in her mind.

(Darwin's argument for sexual selection, and evidence) Download high resolution version (800x733, 148 KB)Fred the Peacock tries to woo an unsuspecting Peahen. ... Download high resolution version (800x733, 148 KB)Fred the Peacock tries to woo an unsuspecting Peahen. ... Peacock re-directs here; for alternate uses see Peacock (disambiguation). ... Peacock re-directs here; for alternate uses see Peacock (disambiguation). ...

Conclusion

(Darwin's conclusion.)

Later debates

While debates on the subject continues, in January 1871 Darwin started on another book, using left over material on emotional expressions, which became The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. 1871 was a common year starting on Sunday (see link for calendar). ... The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals is a book by the British naturalist Charles Darwin published in 1872, on how animals and humans express and signal to others their emotions. ...


Sexual selection

Wallace argued that the "drab" peahen's coloration was as much evolved as the flamboyant peacock's.
Wallace argued that the "drab" peahen's coloration was as much evolved as the flamboyant peacock's.

Darwin's views on sexual selection were opposed strongly by his "co-discoverer" of natural selection, Alfred Russel Wallace, though much of his "debate" with Darwin took place after Darwin's death. Wallace argued against sexual selection, saying that the aspects of it which were male-against-male fighting were simply forms of natural selection, and that the notion of "female choice" was attributing discerning standards of beauty to animals far too cognitively undeveloped to be feasible (such as beetles). It should perhaps be noted that Wallace had previously had his own problem with "female choice": he had been left at the alter by a woman of a higher social class. Moved from overwritten, undernamed Wallace. ... Moved from overwritten, undernamed Wallace. ... Peacock re-directs here; for alternate uses see Peacock (disambiguation). ... Alfred Russel Wallace Alfred Russel Wallace (January 8, 1823 — November 7, 1913) was a British naturalist, geographer, anthropologist and biologist. ... Suborders Adephaga Archostemata Myxophaga Polyphaga many subgroups: see Subgroups of the order Coleoptera Beetles (order Coleoptera) are one of the main groups of insects. ...


Wallace also argued that Darwin too much favored the bright colors of the male peacock as adaptive without realizing that the "drab" peahen's coloration is itself adaptive, as camoflage. Wallace more speculatively argued that the bright colors and long tails of the peacock were not adaptive in any way, and that bright coloration could result from non-adaptive physiological development (for example, the internal organs of animals, not being subject to a visual form of natural selection, come in a wide variety of bright colors). This has been questioned by later scholars as quite a stretch for Wallace, who in this particular instance abandoned his normally strict "adaptationist" agenda in asserting that the highly intricate and developed forms such as a peacock's tail resulted by sheer "physiological processes" that were somehow not at all subjected to adaptation. Peacock re-directs here; for alternate uses see Peacock (disambiguation). ... Anolis caroliensis showing blending camouflage and counter-shading. ...


Effect on society

The book was printed just as an insurrection led by socialists and republicans took over Paris and set up the Paris Commune, which was then besieged by French troops. The Times condemned the Communards, and accused Darwin of undermining authority and principles of morality, opening the way to "the most murderous revolutions". A "man incurs a grave responsibility when, with the authority of a well-earned reputation, he advances at such a time the disintegrating speculations of this book." Darwin was able to shrug this off as from a "windbag full of metaphysics and classics". The term Paris Commune originally referred to the government of Paris during the French Revolution. ... The masthead of The Times The Times is a national newspaper published daily in the United Kingdom. ...


In January 1871 Huxley's former disciple the anatomist Mivart had published On the Genesis of Species as a devastating critique of natural selection. In an anonymous Quarterly Review article he claimed that the Descent of Man would unsettle "our half educated classes" and talked of people doing as they pleased, breaking laws and customs. An infuriated Darwin guessed that Mivart was the author and, thinking "I shall soon be viewed as the most despicable of men", looked for an ally. In September Huxley wrote a cutting review of Mivart's book and article and a relieved Darwin told him "How you do smash Mivart's theology... He may write his worst & he will never mortify me again". As 1872 began, Mivart politely inflamed the argument again, writing "wishing you very sincerely a happy new year" while wanting a disclaimer of the "fundamental intellectual errors" in the Descent of Man. This time Darwin ended the correspondence. 1871 was a common year starting on Sunday (see link for calendar). ... St George Jackson Mivart (November 30, 1827 - April 1, 1900) was an English biologist. ... 1872 was a leap year starting on Monday (see link for calendar). ...

Publication

As Darwin wrote, he posted chapters to his daughter Henrietta for editing to ensure that damaging inferences could not be drawn, and also took advice from his wife Emma. The corrected proofs were sent off on 15 January 1871 to the publisher John Murray. The book was initially published in two separate volumes, though Darwin himself insisted that it was indeed one complete and coherent work. The two 450-page volumes of The Descent of Man went on sale at twenty-four shillings. Darwins family tree The Darwin -- Wedgwood family was a prominent English family, descended from Erasmus Darwin and Josiah Wedgwood, the most notable member of which was Charles Darwin. ... Emma Darwin Emma Darwin (née Wedgwood, 2 May 1808–7 October 1896) was the wife of the English naturalist Charles Darwin. ... January 15 is the 15th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar. ... 1871 was a common year starting on Sunday (see link for calendar). ... John Murray is a British publishing house, renowned for the roster of authors it has published in its history, including Jane Austen, Lord Byron and Charles Darwin. ...


Within three weeks of publication a reprint had been ordered, and 4,500 copies were in print by the end of March 1871, netting Darwin almost £1,500. Darwin's name created demand for the book, but the ideas were old news. "Everybody is talking about it without being shocked" which he found "proof of the increasing liberality of England". 1871 was a common year starting on Sunday (see link for calendar). ...


Editions and reprints

Descent went through a large number of revised editions, many of which were edited by Darwin himself (and some were edited by his children). Some edits were minor, though some were extensive.


In late 1873 Darwin tackled a new edition of the Descent of Man. Initially he offered the self-employed Wallace the work of assisting him for which Wallace quoted a rate of seven shillings an hour, but when Emma found out she had the task given to their son George, so Darwin had to write apologetically to Wallace. Huxley assisted with an update on ape-brain inheritance, which Huxley thought "pounds the enemy into a jelly... though none but anatomists" would know it. The manuscript was completed in April 1874, and Murray planned a 12 shilling half-price edition to replicate the success of the cheap revision of the Origin. The 2nd. edition was published on 13 November 1874 with the price cut to the bone at 9 shillings. 1873 was a common year starting on Wednesday (see link for calendar). ... George Howard Darwin Sir George Howard Darwin, F.R.S. (July 9, 1845 – December 7, 1912) was a British astronomer and mathematician, the second son and fifth child of Charles and Emma Darwin. ... 1874 was a common year starting on Thursday (see link for calendar). ... November 13 is the 317th day of the year (318th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar, with 48 days remaining. ... 1874 was a common year starting on Thursday (see link for calendar). ...

See also

The life and work of Darwin from Orchids to Variation followed the reaction to Darwins theory which ensued after the publication of Darwins theory following twenty years of development of Darwins theory of evolution. ... The life and work of Darwin from Descent of Man to Emotions was the next stage after the work of Darwin from Orchids to Variation. ... The life and work of Darwin from Insectiverous plants to Worms was the next stage after the work of Darwin from Descent of Man to Emotions. ...

References

  • Helena Cronin, The ant and the peacock: altruism and sexual selection from Darwin to today (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991). (A somewhat ahistorical treatment of the Darwin-Wallace debate on sexual selection)
  • James Moore and Adrian Desmond, "Introduction", in The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, 2nd edn. (London: Penguin Classics, 2004). (Detailed history of Darwin's views on race, sex, and class)
  • Diane B. Paul, "Darwin, social Darwinism and eugenics," in Jonathan Hodge and Gregory Radick, eds., The Cambridge Companion to Darwin (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 214-239.

External links

  • Descent of Man (from the British Library)
  • Free eBook of The Descent of Man at Project Gutenberg

  Results from FactBites:
 
NationMaster - Encyclopedia: The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (524 words)
Sexual selection depends on the success of certain individuals over others of the same sex, in relation to the propagation of the species; while natural selection depends on the success of both sexes, at all ages, in relation to the general conditions of life.
Darwin, The descent of man and selection in relation to sex.
Man is liable to numerous, slight, and diversified variations, which are induced by the same general causes, are governed and transmitted in accordance with the same general laws, as in the lower animals.
The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (3502 words)
The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex is a book on evolutionary theory by British naturalist Charles Darwin, first published in 1871.
Wallace argued against sexual selection, saying that the aspects of it which were male-against-male fighting were simply forms of natural selection, and that the notion of "female choice" was attributing the ability to judge standards of beauty to animals far too cognitively undeveloped to be capable of aesthetic feeling (such as beetles).
A "man incurs a grave responsibility when, with the authority of a well-earned reputation, he advances at such a time the disintegrating speculations of this book." Darwin was able to shrug this off as from a "windbag full of metaphysics and classics".
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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