Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Catastrophic ThinkingExtinction and the Value of Diversity from Darwin to the Anthropocene$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

David Sepkoski

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226348612

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226354613.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 04 July 2022

Extinction in a Victorian Key

Extinction in a Victorian Key

(p.47) 2 Extinction in a Victorian Key
Catastrophic Thinking

David Sepkoski

University of Chicago Press

This chapter investigates the cultural context for theories of extinction during the nineteenth century, focusing in particular on the way Victorian cultural and political attitudes both influenced and reflected views of natural history. In particular, it argues that scientific discussions of extinction were part of a broader political and cultural concern that touched on race and empire. By the mid nineteenth century, the dominant model of extinction was Charles Lyell's view that extinction was the inevitable result of the failure of organisms to adapt to their environments. In other words, extinction was a "fair result" of natural competition, and contributed to the overall progressive development of natural history. This interpretation was incorporated fairly directly by Charles Darwin into his evolutionary accounts in Origin of Species and Descent of Man, where extinction was seen as the inevitable corollary to natural selection. Moreover, Lyell, Darwin, and other contemporaries quite explicitly related natural extinction to the European imperial conquest of the globe, often arguing that the eradication of native flora, fauna, and peoples was the inevitable result of cultural progress.

Keywords:   Charles Darwin, imperialism, natural selection, competition

Chicago Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.