Monday, February 19, 2018

Book Review: An Interview with Charles Darwin (2015) by Peter J. Bowler

An Interview with Charles Darwin (2015) by Peter J. Bowler

The author asked a theoretical question: “What if you could sit down with one of the greatest scientific minds of all time – Charles Darwin?” This fictionalized interview, based on Darwin’s own writings and historical facts gives readers like me (with little knowledge but interested to know) a glimpse of how Darwin would have answered the questions people have for him today. From this book, I learned Darwin’s views on education, science, religion and more.

Charles Darwin is one of the most controversial scientists of all time,” introduce the author. “He proposed an interlocking set of new approaches to the study of how the world we live in has come to assume its present form.” Darwin’s 1859 book, On the Origin of Species, persuaded (most) scientists that they had to take seriously the claim that “all living things have evolved by natural causes from previously existing types.” And he argued that: “there is no preconceived direction of development built into the history of life, and to drive home the point he proposed the mechanism of natural selection, in which populations change according to trial and error… Life is a never-ending process of struggle in which only those best fitted to the local conditions survived and breed.”

Many people found the above suggestions (and some other of Darwinian theories) hard to accept during his time and many still reject them today. The theory conflicts with the Book of Genesis story of creation and the idea that God or Creator created all things perfect at first. If humans are just animals albeit highly intelligent and highly social ones, the critics say, “there seems to be no room here for the immortal soul or transcendent moral values.” And to add more pain to the religious on his time, Darwin suggests that “there is no purpose in the universe.” Darwin makes these conclusions – and came out with the theory of evolution – during his exploratory trip on the HMS Beagle ship around the world: “It was in the Galapagos Islands that Darwin saw the clearest example of this process.”

[Let’s end with the topic of his faith]. Darwin loss his Christian faith first because of so many ‘evidences’ of evolution he found during his time of studies and explorations. And there are few other reasons. “There were [also] personal tragedies that made it difficult for me to carry on believing in a caring God. My favourite daughter, Annie, died horribly at the age of ten… How could a caring God design a world in which the innocent suffers and are snuffed out in that way?” Another reason was that he couldn’t imagine that his late atheist (maybe agnostic) dead brother and father “were damned as far as the most committed Christians are concerned because they don’t accept that Jesus Christ is the saviour.” He continues: “Just because they thought for themselves and decided that the evidence didn’t support the Christian view of God, they are dammed… I can’t believe in a God who requires such a rigid belief in the significance of a single historical event.”

Enough with his believes in God (or the absent of it), this book is interesting, easy-to-understand, and filled with pictures and graphics to help readers to understand more of Darwin’s dangerous ideas. You’ll know important events – not much but sufficient - that causes Darwin to be known as he is today. “If we were visited by superior creatures from another star system… what would they make of the legacy of Darwin as opposed to, say, Marx or Einstein?” Richard Dawkins asks theoretical questions in his foreword of this book, “Would our guests revere another Darwin as one of their greatest thinkers of all time?” With a last sip from my Starbuck coffee, I end this review.


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