Article ID: CBB202149987

Accentuate the negative: Locating possibility in Darwin’s ‘long argument’ (2021)


Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species has an unusual format. After presenting his theory of Natural Selection in its first four chapters, there follows a series of five chapters presenting a large number of problems and objections to the theory which, he admits, appear overwhelming. Not until chapter 10 does he begin to present what he takes to be the positive evidence for his theory. In this paper I trace the evolution of this structure from its first hints in his Species Notebooks , through the 1842 Sketch and 1844 Essay to the Origin, showing that it reflects a growing awareness on Darwin’s part of what I call ’In Principle Impossible’ arguments against his theory, and of a systematic strategy for disarming them.

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Authors & Contributors
Johnson, Curtis N.
Omodeo, Pietro Daniel
Rupke, Nicolaas A.
Moreno, Juan
Weissman, Charlotte
Johnson, Dirk R.
Journal of the History of Biology
Nuncius: Annali di Storia della Scienza
Asclepio: Archivo Iberoamericano de Historia de la Medicina
Victorian Studies
Journal of Biogeography
Filosofia e História da Biologia
Cambridge University Press
Johns Hopkins University Press
University of Cambridge (United Kingdom)
Cambridge University
Natural selection
Rhetoric in scientific discourse
Scientific communities; interprofessional relations
Darwin, Charles Robert
Wallace, Alfred Russel
Lamarck, Jean Baptiste Antoine Pierre de Monet de
Weismann, August
Mayr, Ernst
Wagner, Moritz
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
Great Britain
Linnean Society of London

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