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Week Eight: Darwin and the Evolution of Body and Mind

As we will see in the remaining weeks of this course, Charles Darwin's theory of evolution was to profoundly to influence European thinking about body, brain and mind.

This week we will consider Darwin's key arguments and ideas about the evolution of the human brain and consciousness, and what implications he and several of his most active supporters saw human evolutionary history having for scientifically understanding human thought and action.

Among the questions we will discuss this are:

  • What implications did Darwin and his supporters see the course of human evolutionary history having for the study of human psychology?
  • By what means did Darwin formulate his ideas about human psychology?
  • What particular contributions did Francis Galton make to the study of human psychology?

Preparatory readings for this week's tutorial are those primary and secondary works listed for last week's lecture.

You are not expected to read all of the primary sources listed for this week. However, you try to read to read at least one or two chapters in each of the works listed here

Darwin, Charles. The complete work of Charles Darwin online [electronic resource] Cambridge : University of Cambridge, at http://darwin-online.org.uk/

Galton, Francis, Essays in Eugenics. New York : Garland, 1985 [Originally published 1909]. Available in print from UQ Library.

Huxley, Thomas Henry. 1968 Man's place in nature : and other anthropological essays. New York : Greenwood Press. Available in print from UQ Library. Limited portions of this work available via Google Books

Pearson, Karl. 1914, 1924, 1930 The Life, Letters and Labours of Francis Galton. Cambridge University Press: London. Facsimile by http://galton.org at http://galton.org/pearson/index.html

Darwin

Articles

Alter, Stephen G. 2007. Race, language, and mental evolution in Darwin's descent of man. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 43, (3) (Summer 2007): 239-55.

Bajema, Carl J. 1988. Charles Darwin on man in the first edition of the 'Origin of Species.'. Journal of the History of Biology 21, (3) (Fall1988): 403-10.

Claeys, Gregory. 2000. The `Survival of the fittest' and the origins of social Darwinism. Journal of the History of Ideas 61, (2) (04): 223.

Crook, Paul. 1999. Historical monkey business: The myth of a Darwinized British imperial discourse. History 84, (276) (10): 633.

---. 1996. Social Darwinism: The concept. History of European Ideas 22, (4) (07): 261 [Note available in print only].

---. 1993 Social Darwinism: some historiographical reflections, Australian Journal of History and Politics, 39 (1): 88-94.

Day, Matthew. 2008. Godless savages and superstitious dogs: Charles Darwin, imperial ethnography, and the problem of human uniqueness. Journal of the History of Ideas 69, (1) (01): 49-70.

Dyhouse, Carol. 1976. Social Darwinistic ideas and the development of women's education in England, 1880-1920. History of Education 5, (1) (01): 41-58.

Francis, Mark. 1994. Anthropology and social Darwinism in the British empire: 1870-1900. Australian Journal of Politics & History 40, (12/02): 203-15.

Greene, John C. 1977. Darwin as a social evolutionist. Journal of the History of Biology 10, (1) (Spring1977): 1-27.

Rogers, James Allen. 1972. Darwinism and social Darwinism. Journal of the History of Ideas 33, (2) (04): 265-80 [Note available in print only].

Ruse, Michael. 1980. Social Darwinism: Two sources. Albion 12, (1) (01): 23-36.

Books

The following works available in the UQ Library will prove helpful in extending your knowledge of Darwin's life and his ideas about the development of life on Earth:

Aydon, Cyril. 2002. Charles Darwin :The naturalist who started a scientific revolution. 1 Carroll & Graf ed. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers.

Browne, E. J. 1996. Charles Darwin. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Darwin, Charles, and Frederick Burkhardt. 2008. Origins :Selected letters of Charles Darwin 1822-1859. Anniversary ed. Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Desmond, Adrian J., and James R. Moore. 1991. Darwin. London: Michael Joseph.

Mayr, Ernst. 1991. One long argument :Charles Darwin and the genesis of modern evolutionary thought. Questions of science. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Ruse, Michael. 2008. Charles Darwin. Blackwell great minds. Vol. 5. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub.

Vorzimmer, Peter J. 1970. Charles Darwin :The years of controversy : The origin of species and its critics, 1859-1882. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Huxley

Books

Desmond, Adrian J. 1997; 1994. Huxley :Evolution's high priest. London: Michael Joseph.

Irvine, William. 1959. Apes, angels, and the victorians :Darwin, huxley, and evolution. Meridian books. Vol. M78. Cleveland: World Publishing Co.

White, Paul. 2003. Thomas huxley :Making the "man of science". Cambridge science biographies. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Galton

Articles

Bulmer, Michael. 1999. The development of Francis Galton's ideas on the mechanism of heredity. Journal of the History of Biology 32, (2) (Summer1999): 263-92.

Burbridge, David. 2001. Francis Galton on twins, heredity and social class. British Journal for the History of Science 34, (122) (09): 323.

Corning, Constance H. 1973. Francis Galton and eugenics. History Today 23, (10) (10): 724-32[Note available in print only from UQ Library].

Cowan, Ruth Schwartz. 1972. Francis Galton's contribution to genetics. Journal of the History of Biology 5, (2) (Summer1972): 389-412.

Fancher, Raymond E. 1983. Francis Galton's African ethnography and its role in the development of his psychology. British Journal for the History of Science 16, (1) (03): 67-79.

Froggatt, P., and N. C. Nevin. 1971. Galton's "law of ancestral heredity": Its influence on the early development of human genetics. History of Science 10, (01): 1-27.

Gillham,Nicholas, W. 2001. Francis Galton and the Birth of Eugenics. Annual Review of Genetics. 35: 83-101.

Gökyigit, Emel Aileen. 1994. The reception of Francis Galton's 'hereditary genius' in the victorian periodical press. Journal of the History of Biology 27, (2) (Summer 1994): 215-40.

MacKenzie, Donald. 1976. Eugenics in Britain. Social Studies of Science (Sage) 6, (3) (09): 499-532.

Mazumdar, Pauline M. H. 2004. The way of Galton in the world. Annals of Science 61, (4) (10): 489-93.

Waller, John C. 2004. Becoming a Darwinian: The micro-politics of Sir Francis Galton's scientific career 1859-65. Annals of Science 61, (2) (04): 141-63.

---. 2002. Putting method first: Re-appraising the extreme determinism and hard hereditarianism of Sir Francis Galton. History of Science 40, (1) (03): 35.

Books

Brookes, Martin. 2004. Extreme measures :The dark visions and bright ideas of Francis Galton. 1 US ed. London: Bloomsbury.

Cowan, Ruth Schwartz. 1985. Sir Francis Galton and the study of heredity in the nineteenth century. History of hereditarian thought. New York ; London: Garland.

Forrest, Derek William. 1974. Francis Galton :The life and work of a victorian genius. London: Elek.

Kevles, Daniel J. Francis Galton, founder of the faith.

Lecture notes

One of the most famous events in the history of British science took place in 1860 at the newly completed Oxford university museum. This was the celebrated debate that took between Samuel Wilberforce and Thomas Henry Huxley. Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford and mathematician, sought to make the 1860 meeting of the British Association of Science at Oxford the platform on which he would "smash" the theory of evolution published late the previous year by Charles Darwin in his book, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.

In the weeks leading up to the meeting of the Association Huxley had been the target of pointed sarcasm by Wilberforce because of his ardent and effective championship of Darwin's theory of natural selection. Ready "to go to the stake" for the scientific truths unveiled by Darwin, Huxley was reluctant to stay in Oxford to engage Wilberforce, rightly assuming that the Bishop and his supporters would do their best to ensure that the case for evolution would be put before an overwhelmingly hostile audience.

According to Huxley, it was only after another of Darwin's supporters, met with by chance, had pleaded that he "not to desert them" that Huxley agreed to what seemed to be a confrontation from which he and evolution would almost certainly emerge the losers.

The famous debate actually took place in the context of the discussion time for a paper critical of Darwin given in the biology section of the British Association by an American named Draper. Long before Dr. Draper rose to speak over seven hundred people had crammed into the museum's west room. In the centre sat the clerical party, with a smaller group of pro-Darwin undergraduates and scientific figures seated behind them.

By the time Draper had finished, several of the Godly were ready to take the floor to refute Darwin. But each quickly fell to condemning evolution on theological grounds, prompting shouts from the Darwin lobby, heated replies and Henslow, in the chair as President of the section, finally demanding that argument strictly address the scientific validity or otherwise of Darwin.

Order was restored by the physiologist Lionel Beale rising to confess ignorance on the subject and that the interests of both religion and science would be served by Darwin's "new theory should [meeting] with fair discussion".

Wilberforce then rose to speak. For half an hour or so he lightly summarised received theological and scientific objections to the idea of speciation, much as he had recently outlined the case against evolution in the pages of the conservative periodical, the Quarterly Review. This review was interspersed with thinly disguised ridicule of Darwin and Huxley. So much so that many in the audience grew concerned that the bishop seemed oblivious of the need to discuss matters bearing directly on religious truth with the necessary politeness and gravity.

The embarrassment some devout listeners felt at Wilberforce's flippancy gave way to horror, as with an air of mock politeness, he turned to Huxley and rhetorically inquired whether "If any one were willing to trace his descent through an ape as his grandfather, would he be willing to trace his descent similarly on the side of his grandmother?

The witticism backfired terribly. An elated Huxley slapped his knee and uttered to Sir Benjamin Brodie seated next to him the words of Samuel: "The Lord hath delivered him into mine hand". When it came his turn to speak, Huxley explained in calm and measured tones how Darwin's theory gave a new sense of coherence to a range of known scientific facts. He then gravely replied to Wilberforce with words to the effect that "...he was not ashamed to have a monkey for his ancestor; but he would be ashamed to be connected with a man who had used great gifts to obscure the truth." The effect was devastating, especially as the force of Huxley's reply was to accentuate not merely Wilberforce's flippancy but his vulgarity in associating woman with the traditionally libidinous ape. In the words of the prophet Samuel, Wilberforce was truly "shut in, by entering into a town that hath gates and bars."

Popular accounts of the debate between Huxley and Wilberforce generally tended to follow those penned by nineteenth and early twentieth-century champions of Darwin. We find the debate today often portrayed as a critical step in the progressive emancipation of human reason within western European societies since the late seventeenth-century. All that orthodox Christianity could oppose to the scientific truth of the theory of evolution were vain appeals to fast dissipating superstitions.

I would suggest, however, that Christian responses to Darwin's theory during the second half of the nineteenth century were more complex, and in important respects more intellectually compelling than we now generally assume. Even so, the impact of Darwin's theory was that medical and social problems came to be construed as most effectively understood and remedied by taking account of humanity's inheritances in terms of body and mind.

However, it seems best to focus much of this lecture on Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. Doing so will render more intelligible just what the attraction of Darwin's ideas about humanity's evolutionary inheritances from the early 1860s were.

Darwin's Argument

From his early youth, Darwin was fascinated by the natural world and was able to devote much of his life to becoming one of its most careful and insightful observers. When he died in 1882, he was widely regarded as one of the Europe's greatest naturalists and originator of the theory of origin of species by means of natural selection.

Darwin was a careful thinker. His desire to be understood precisely is reflected in the title he gave the work in which he published his theory of evolution by natural selection in 1859. Today we generally refer to that book as the Origins of Species. However, it is worth recalling that Darwin's choice of title was The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.

Looking at the title page of early editions of the Origins further serves to remind us that, as Darwin himself stressed, he wrote the book as "one long argument." Darwin's hope was that this one long argument - condensing more hurriedly than he wished many years of research and reflection - would convince his readers that the evolution of earth's myriad life-forms had occurred through a process that he termed "natural selection" that enabled the preservation of favored races in a struggle for life.

There were two main ideas in Darwin's long argument. The first was that species were neither fixed in form nor number. Darwin believed that some species had suffered extinction, while others had continued essentially unchanged, or at some stage in the earth's history had been ancestral forms from which one or more new species had emerged.

Darwin thus saw life on earth as a dynamic continuum that could plausibly be likened to a tree. Species could be imagined as branches growing in profusion out of older branches, which in turn had grown out of major limbs that early in the life of the tree had sprung from its trunk. Darwin was not entirely happy with this arboreal analogy. He remained agnostic on the question of whether all species derived from a common ancestral organism; but he did believe it highly probable that all animals were descended from no more than four or five ancestral forms, and that plant-life descended from one of four common ancestors.

Darwin's evolutionary tree of life was controversially at odds with received explanations of the diversity of form amongst plant and animal species. For Darwin proposed that the cumulative complexity of animal and plant life came about through organized matter's self-regulated adaption to external material forces. This self-adaption, moreover, he saw as non-purposeful in any conventional teleological sense. It operated simply to strengthen the odds that individuals within a species better fitted to their environment would survive to reproduce.

Darwin's Scientific Critics

So envisaging the natural history of plants, animals, including humanity, was not wholly incompatible with Christian traditions of belief. Unitarians, for example, could see providence at work in the motion of matter. Indeed, there are grounds to think that at the time of the Origin's publication, Darwin believed what he was arguing was compatible with the idea that organic diversity had resulted from divinely designed laws. However, especially within the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and also leading scientific communities of the time, such as the Royal Society and the Royal College of Surgeons, Anglican faith and philosophical idealism were deeply ingrained in the minds of these institutions most influential practitioners of science. They could only see Darwin's accounting for the diversity of earth's myriad life forms as confused and disturbingly materialist.

Regardless of whether Darwin still believed in God when the Origins was published, or just wanted to avoid being tarred with the brush of materialism, most critics rejected his argument on one of two grounds. The first camp, which included senior Anglican clerics and prominent figures in established scientific circles, dismissed the concept of evolution by speciation outright. It was not that they believed species had remained unchanged since the time of their appearance upon earth. Rather, they held that species had remained unchanged in their essential form since what they more or less implicitly assumed was their creation by divine fiat.

On this point these critics owed much to Georges Cuvier (1769-1832), the great French comparative anatomist. Cuvier's scientific achievements were many, but among his greatest contributions to nineteenth-century biology was his breaking with earlier naturalists to re-conceptualize the animal kingdom as divided into four "branches", each conforming to a divinely conceived distinctive plan of organization. Cuvier held that within each plan the nervous system was the fundamental element, responsible for determining the structural arrangements and functionality of all other major bodily systems. He further believed that within each plan, the form and functional interrelationships of these fundamental systems were eternally fixed; though it seemed to Cuvier reflective of divine intent that variation could occur in those parts of an animal contributing to or aiding their bodily processes or activities in minor ways, thereby perfecting its ability to live and reproduce within its environmental surrounds.

Cuvier was uncertain how variation occurred. He accepted the reasoning of earlier naturalists, notably Buffon, the great Enlightenment naturalist, that it was caused by environmental forces, but in an attenuated form, believing it likely that variations became shared characteristics through being favored in sexual reproduction, as was clearly the case with the creation of distinctive breeds of domesticated animals. However, Cuvier did not rule out external factors such as climate and diet continuing to play a role in variation, being unable to discern through physiological investigation any mechanism by which variations of form were inherited and successively reproduced.

Whatever the true cause of variations, Cuvier was firmly of the view that they were trivial and often impermanent changes to only the superficial characters of an organism. He was convinced by his research on fossils and thinking about geological change that where a species, or a specific population within it, encountered environmental forces powerful enough to produce inherent functional change in the essential organs of its nervous, digestive or reproductive systems, this would so destabilize the harmonic functioning of its bodily economy as to cause its extinction.

Evolution before Darwin

It is also important to note that while Cuvier's explanation of organic variation enjoyed widespread assent within scientific circles, there were scientists who from the late eighteenth-century challenged the idea that species were immutable. The most influential figure in this respect was the French zoologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829) who at the turn of the nineteenth-century had argued that organisms were capable of open-ended change by passing on inherited modifications to their offspring that improved their chances of survival and reproduction in specific environments. Lamarck's evolutionary theorizing gained few adherents during his life-time, but was greatly to influence the thinking of a younger generation of scientists, notably Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (1805-1861), the Parisian comparative anatomist who proposed that organisms possessed an innate potential that over time caused them to experience a trajectory of transmutation into increasingly sophisticated forms.

Even so, both Lamarck and Geoffroy's evolutionary schema differed fundamentally from what Darwin proposed in his long argument, not least in conceptualizing species as having evolved from different ancestral forms along separate lines of evolutionary development. Indeed, Darwin was particularly disturbed by the implications of these schemas for how differences between the peoples of the earth were construed. For by the late 1830s ideas and arguments derived from Geoffroy and his circle were being used to justify the continuance of African-American slavery on the grounds that Africans did not have a common ancestry with Europeans, but were a separately originating and biologically inferior species.

Lamarck and Geoffroy's evolutionary ideas were contemptuously dismissed by leading figures within established British and European scientific circles, not least because many champions of these ideas openly contented that only radical social and political reform would enable man to achieve his full evolutionary potential (another argument that greatly disturbed Darwin). But the science of Lamarck and Geoffroy was also dismissed as deeply flawed. Opponents were quick to point out that evolutionists were at a loss to answer the question put to them by Cuvier: if the essential form of a species had the capability to become perfectly suited to its environment, what would be gained by its developing into one or more new species beyond a greater risk of extinction?

The Concept of Natural Selection

This was also a question that Darwin wrestled with, and sought to answer in his long argument by proposing that new species arose through a process of natural selection. The idea of natural selection came to Darwin, as he was to recall in his autobiography, on reading the dismal account of human nature and prognosis that humanity would never achieve 'any very great future improvement of society' put forward in the last years of the eighteenth century by the pioneer political economist, Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834).

In his first and most famous book, An Essay on the Principal of Population (1798), Malthus had argued that there was a natural tendency for populations to increase in what he termed a "geometric ratio." Left unchecked, this geometric ratio would result in population doubling in size within twenty-five years. However, as Malthus cautioned, food supplies could increase only in an "arithmetic ratio" - that is, by gradual increments. Hence the history of humanity was essential the story of populations being kept in balance with available food through what Malthus termed 'positive' and 'preventative' checks. Positive checks were those that increased the rate of death, such as war, famine and disease. Preventative checks were those that reduced the birth rate, such as contraception and delaying marriage.

Malthus's vision of human history and its lessons for the future of a society like Britain, in which commerce and urbanization had stimulated a hitherto unimaginable increase in population, proved especially attractive to politicians, churchmen and intellectuals wanting progress to be managed so as to preserve key elements of the institutional framework of Church and state inherited from the long eighteenth-century. As the poet Robert Southey put it more succinctly and not unjustly, Malthus's Essay, became a " ...political bible of the rich, the selfish, and the sensual." For Malthus argued that those who agitated for radical social and political reform defied God by going against his will as expressed in nature. Famine and disease were natural mechanisms providentially designed to focus humanity on pursuing serious and holy lives, in which the effects of these calamities could be mitigated by sexual abstinence, delayed marriage and other ' preventative' forms of moral restraint.

Darwin was to recall in his autobiography that in October 1838, some fifteen months after he had begun thinking systematically about how species became peculiarly suited to their environment, he happened to read Malthus's Essay on...Population - "for amusement."

Darwin was no reactionary; but he was a gentleman with a private income courtesy of birth into an extended family of commercial entrepreneurs, pioneer industrialists and agrarian capitalists. He was greatly troubled by political radicalism, and like his older relatives supported parliamentary reform only so far it strengthened the pursuit of free trade and allowed markets to operate as self-regulating arenas of competition.

In his autobiography, Darwin was to recall that by late 1838 many years spent observing the lives of plants and animals had left him "well prepared to appreciate" that every species of organism struggled to exist as a result of more of their kind being produced than could ever survive to reproduce successfully. What Malthus crystallized for Darwin was that this struggle for resources enabling survival and reproduction in human populations was true of every species of animal and plant.

Moreover, Darwin was to extend Malthus's logic to a radical conclusion that the political economist and his many admirers would have decried. Whereas Malthus held that famine and poverty were natural phenomena, purposely designed by God to underscore to humanity his command they practice moral restraint in accordance with the teachings of scripture, Darwin saw nature as a self-regulating arena of competition, in which individuals within a species with variations that favored their survival and reproduction were in effect "selected" by prevailing environmental conditions to do so. Individuals within a species of carnivore, for example, might be born with slightly longer or stronger legs that made them able to catch prey more easily. By the same token, individuals within species they preyed on might exhibit variations making it easily for them to escape being eaten. In either case, individuals exhibiting favorable variations would be more likely to reproduce offspring inheriting them, with the result that over successive generations the variation would become typical of the species, or in some populations of the species result in its typical form developing so as to warrant its classification as a new species. "Here, then", Darwin was to recall, "I had at last got a theory by which to work."

However, it was a theory that still required careful elaboration. By the time he came to write the Origins, Darwin believed that the case for the existence and operation of natural selection was best put by showing natural selection was comparable in key respects to the means by which animal breeders and agriculturalists cultivated favored variations to create distinctive races with desirable qualities within domesticated species.

This recourse to analogical reasoning was nothing new. Darwin was well acquainted with how it had been employed by naturalists and comparative anatomists since the mid-eighteenth-century who had sought to understand how variations in wild animals and plants first arose and then became hereditary, and why the same parents in the course of their lives could produce both offspring with variant features and others that did not. He was also aware that this recourse to analogical reasoning had been necessitated by the absence of physiological knowledge allowing the formulation of any robust hypothesis as to what processes or laws might govern the appearance and inheritance of variation. Indeed, it remained an absence that he was very much aware of. Still, richly drawing parallels between the workings of natural and artificial selection had its advantage in that it drew on the work of earlier investigators of variation, who had won widespread assent for the idea that variation amongst wild animals and plants was most likely a process akin to variation in domesticated animals, wherein human intervention had caused the "...formation of new varieties, by breeding from individuals in whom...desirable properties exist in the greatest degree." It also allowed Darwin to draw upon a wealth of medico-scientific reportage since the late eighteenth-century describing how - much like unusual domestic breeds of dogs and sheep - strange variations existed in populations of wild animals that could only have become defining characteristics through a combination of geographical isolation and inter-familial breeding.

However, the problem was that the parallels drawn by earlier naturalists between artificial and naturally induced variation were intended to demonstrate that a remarkable spectrum of variation could occur in plants, animals and also men, but that variation occurred within species. Hence Darwin was obliged to push so as to strain the analogy between natural and artificial selection by arguing that natural selection dwarfed the best selective efforts of man. As he was to declare in one of the more memorable passages of the Origins:

How fleeting are the wishes and efforts of man! how short his time! and consequently how poor will his products be, compared with those accumulated by nature during whole geological periods. Can we wonder, then, that nature's productions should be far "truer" in character than man's productions; that they should be infinitely better adapted to the most complex conditions of life, and should plainly bear the stamp of far higher workmanship?

Darwin's accentuation of the power of natural selection in its self-regulating operation was the ground on which he encountered his second group of critics. Among these critics there were those who could cautiously accept that new species exhibiting more complex forms might have been successively produced by speciation, but if this were so, it was not through natural selection. They held that natural selection was unable to produce the necessary pool of individuals exhibiting favorable variants to produce new species. On empirical, logical and also mathematical grounds there had to be some creative, purposeful and divinely originating force at work regulating the course of evolution. Even amongst Darwin's strongest supporters there were those who conceded that he was only partly right about natural selection. It had to be a "force quite subordinate to that variety-making or creative power to which all the wonders of the organic world must be referred." Moreover, it did not help Darwin that effectively countering these arguments required a satisfactory theory of the inheritance of variation that he did not possess.

Huxley and Humanity's Evolution Inheritance

Thomas Henry Huxley was one of Darwin's most ardent and influential champions in the two decades after the publication of the Origin of Species in 1859. He was also one of the first British intellectuals to apply the theory of natural selection to humanity, so as to explain the course of human evolution.

By the early 1860s, a small number of fossilised human remains were known in European scientific circles, the most famous and controversial being the Neanderthal skull, found in 1856 in a cave in the side of the river Dussel, a tributary of the Rhine.

Huxley examined and compared measurements of fossilised skulls with those of modern men and women acquired from various parts of the world. As early as February 1862, he gave a highly influential "Lecture on the Fossil Remains of Man" at London's Royal Institution.

In that lecture Huxley compared and contrasted what at that time were thought to be the two skulls oldest known human skulls: one of the type then known as Engis crania and a skull found in caves at Neanderthal. Further, Huxley drew attention to what he saw as marked similarities in the Engis and Neanderthal crania and that of an Indigenous Australian. "The differences", he found "...inconsiderable...". Moreover, he want on to argue that the life-ways and culture of these ancient European skulls must have "clearly resembled, in several respects, those of the Australian savage tribes."

What we see in Huxley's lecture is how Darwinian thinking conceptualized the history of humanity as one in which certain populations evolved more sophisticated mental powers over time, while others remained in environmental circumstances that limited their capacity to do so.

And as we will see in coming weeks of this course, it was not long before European scientists, intellectuals and politicians were nervously construing a wide spectrum of social problems they saw around them as caused by environmental conditions increasing the frequency of individuals with mental qualities and attributes threatening the health and stability of society.

Francis Galton and Eugenics

It was actually a cousin of Charles Darwin, the polymath Francis Galton (1822-1911), who was among the earliest students of the sociological implications of Darwinian theory.

From the early 1870s, Francis Galton became widely known, and much admired, for his championing of eugenics, the science of increasing human happiness through the improvement of inherited characteristics. Indeed, it was Galton who devised the name 'eugenics' to describe the scientific study of ways of effecting social progress through intervening to select human hereditary characteristics.

Galton study of inherited characteristics in plants, animals and humans led him to conclude that, in relatively stable environmental conditions over successive generations, bodily intellectual and emotional attributes in human populations would revert towards an average for the population as a whole. Hence Galton reasoned that it should be possible to develop means of increasing the frequency of desirable characteristics in populations by artificially selecting desirable, over undesirable, traits.

Galton thus argued that Britain and other European nations' would do well

...to check the birthrate of the Unfit, instead of allowing them to come into being, though doomed in large numbers to perish prematurely.

Equally, Galton argued that there should be incentives for

....the improvement of the race by furthering the productivity of the Fit by early marriages and healthful rearing of their children.

Even so, Galton, like Darwin, was politically of the view that the power of the state and its agencies should be limited as far as possible to ensuring the protection and enjoyment of private property and the liberty of the individual. In his autobiography, Memories of My Life (1908), Galton was to stress that eugenics should be less the basis of policies than the basis of education ensuring its principles became in time "one of the dominant motives in a civilized nation, much as if they were one of its religious tenets."

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