jueves, 20 de mayo de 2010

Asa Gray. the Man

Asa Gray wrote multiple reviews and essays defending Darwin's theory of natural selection against theological attacks. This began shortly after publication of the Origin with two published pieces in 1860. The first was a review written for the American Journal for Science and Arts, and the second was an essay titled "Natural Selection not inconsistent with Natural Theology" which appeared in the Atlantic Monthly. Overall his thoughts on the subject were that evolution was a fact and that God was the force behind what Darwin called natural selection. God, he said, limited the possible variations within a species and between species. Therefore there is no incompatability between religion and Darwinism. Darwin liked Gray's writings so much that he asked him for permission to reprint his writings. Darwin then paid for pamphlets with Gray's thoughts that he would pass out to people who argued or challenged his theory based on theology.

Gray later wrote a book of essays on Darwinism titled Darwiniana that further supported natural selection. It mainly connected the theory to the field of botany and showed how evolution also applies to plants. But a large portion of the book also focused on supporting Darwinism in the context of Christianity. As time went on however, Darwin began distancing himself from Gray, especially in his book The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication. In it, darwin began to state that Gray's thoughts on evolution were not true to his theory, since God could have no driving force in evolution in the way Gray had stated and still be compatible with natural selection; God would make natural selection superfluous.

"However much we may wish it, we can hardly follow Professor Asa Gray in his belief that 'variation has been led along certain beneficial lines,' like a stream 'along definite and useful lines of irrigation.' "
- Charles Darwin, The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication

Despite the rift that later formed between the two men, Asa Gray undoubtedly played a vital role in helping Darwin's theory and On the Origin of Species become more widely accepted into the American mainstream and the scientific community.

link : http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/id.3747,y.0,no.,content.true,page.1,css.print/issue.aspx


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