Tyndall on Darwin

I had a chance to look at Thomas Glick’s new book, What about Darwin?: All Species of Opinion from Scientists, Sages, Friends, and Enemies Who Met, Read, and Discussed the Naturalist Who Changed the World, at a Barnes & Noble in Seattle a little over a week ago.

Seattle Barnes & Noble - Thomas Glick's "What about Darwin?"

There is one entry for John Tyndall:

Seattle Barnes & Noble - Tyndall on Darwin

Here’s the text, which comes from Tyndall’s famous Belfast Address:

Mr. Darwin shirks no difficulty; and, saturated as the subject was with his own thought, he must have known better than his critics the weakness as well as the strength of his theory. This of course would be of little avail [43/44] were his object a temporary dialectic victory instead of the establishment of a truth which he means to be everlasting. But he takes no pains to disguise the weakness he has discerned; nay, he takes every pains to bring it into the strongest light. His vast resources enable him to cope with objections started by himself and others, so as to leave the final impression upon the reader’s mind that, if they be not completely answered, they certainly are not fatal. Their negative force being thus destroyed, you are free to be influenced by the vast positive mass of evidence he is able to bring before you. This largeness of knowledge and readiness of resource render Mr. Darwin the most terrible of antagonists. Accomplished naturalists have levelled heavy and sustained criticisms against him—not always with the view of fairly weighing his theory, but with the express intention of exposing its weak points only. This does not irritate him. He treats every objection with a soberness and thoroughness which even Bishop Butler might be proud to imitate, surrounding each fact with its appropriate detail, placing it in its proper relations, and usually giving it a significance which, as long as it was kept isolated, failed to appear. This is done without a trace of ill-temper. He moves over the subject with the passionless strength of a glacier; and the grinding of the rocks is not always without a counterpart in the logical pulverization of the objector.

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Published in: on October 4, 2010 at 8:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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