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Darwin's Evolving IdentityAdventure, Ambition, and the Sin of Speculation$
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Alistair Sponsel

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226523118

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226523255.001.0001

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Atoning for the Sin of Speculation

Atoning for the Sin of Speculation

(p.215) 11 Atoning for the Sin of Speculation
Darwin's Evolving Identity

Alistair Sponsel

University of Chicago Press

Darwin’s well-known authorial decisions before publishing Origin were attempts to correct mistakes in his earlier efforts to author theories. He persisted in feeling he had erred by revealing his geological speculations (coral reef theory included) in short papers rather than books, avoiding this strategy for his species theory while periodically advising speculative younger naturalists likewise in confessional tones. The chapter analyzes three instances when Darwin made his publishing plans explicit: in 1844 when he instructed how not to publish his species theory posthumously; in 1856 when Lyell learned of the species theory and urged him to publish a brief version; and when A.R. Wallace mailed him a similar theory in 1858. Lyell and Darwin began planning to coordinate their public statements on the species theory as early as 1856, echoing Lyell’s earlier stage-management of Darwin’s reef theory. Sponsel points out Darwin’s methods for trying to convince readers of Origin that he had not been “hasty.” The chapter concludes with a novel interpretation of Darwin’s autobiographical recollections, arguing that Darwin described his (by then widely accepted) reef theory as merely “deductive” in order to contrast his youthful speculation with the mature inductive method that ostensibly produced his (still controversial) species theory.

Keywords:   Darwin's delay, Emma Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace, The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species, natural selection, publishing strategy, inductive method, Baconian science, Copley medal, book reviews

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