Mountstuart E. Grant Duff (1829-1906) – Scottish Politician and Author:
26 March 1881: Bywater quoted a passage from a sermon of Burgon’s against Darwin: “If they leave me my ancestors in Paradise, I am content to leave them theirs in the zoological Gardens!”
What a wonderful sermon that must have been! Oh, the days when dissing one’s ancestors was the norm!
Moncure D. Conway (1832-1907) – American Clergyman:
Amid the universal homage to Darwin one adverse sentiment is widely noted and rebuked. L’Univers, the Roman Catholic organ in Paris, said, “When hypothesis tends to nothing less than the destruction of faith, the shutting out of God from the heart of man, and the diffusion of the filthy leprosy of Materialism, the savant who invents and propagates them is either a criminal or a fool. Voila ce que nous avons a dire du Darwin des singes.
Google Translate tells me this means This is what we have to say Darwin’s apes.
Darwin’s mechanism works through the differential reproductive success of individuals who, by fortuitous possession of features rendering them more successful in changing local environments, leave more surviving offspring. Benefits accrue thereby to species in the same paradoxical and indirect sense that Adam Smith’s economic theory of laissez-faire may lead to an ordered economy by freeing individuals to struggle for personal profit alone – no accident in overlap, because Darwin partly derived his theory of natural selection as a creative intellectual transfer from Smith’s ideas.
The fact that Darwin adapted Smith’s thought in the framing of his theory may be surprising to many of you, but perhaps we as scientists fail to put great theorists into a cultural perspective. Darwin also, unsurprisingly, borrowed heavily from Thomas Malthus’ ideas on Population (population grows at a geometrical rate but food at an arithmetic rate – thus there is a struggle for existence among individuals for food). If I had the patience to type out a lot more extracts, I could demonstrate how, for many people at the time, evolutionary ideas were linked to social radicalism and the French Revolution. Did this conglomeration of radical social thought, ideas of population and private ownership create cumulatively Evolution by Natural Selection? Do we like controversial science more than objective science?
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) – Austrian Psychoanalyst:
When I further took into account Darwin’s conjecture that men originally lived in hordes, each under the domination of a single powerful, violent and jealous male, there rose before me out of all these components the following hypothesis, or, I would rather say, vision. The father of the primal horde, since he was an unlimited despot, had seized all the women for himself; his sons, being dangerous to him as rivals, had been killed or driven away. One day, however, the sons came together and united to overwhelm, kill and devour their father, who had been their enemy but also their ideal. After the deed they were unable to take over their heritage since they stood in each other’s way. Under the influence of failure and regret they learned to come to an agreement among themselves, they banded themselves into a band of brothers by the help of the ordinances of totemism [what in the world does that mean?], which aimed at preventing a repetition of such a deed, and they jointly undertook to forego the possession of the women on whose account they had killed their father. They were then driven to finding strange women, and this was the origin of exogamy which is closely bound up with totemism. The totem-feast was the commemoration of the fearful dead from which sprang men’s sense of guilt (or “original sin”) and which was the beginning at once of social organization, of religion and of ethical restrictions.
Trust Freud to capitalize on sexual selection! I actually laughed for a good ten minutes when I read this. How dreadfully sexist, though! And what in the world is totemism? Somebody let me know please!
Robert Frost (1874-1963) – American Poet:
This is an extract from Frost’s poem Accidentally on Purpose. Read the entire poem here, and please do, for the whole is much better than this part.
Till Darwin came to earth upon a year
To show the evolution how to steer.
They mean to tell us, though, the Omnibus
Had no real purpose until it got to us.
Never believe it. At the very worst
It must have had the purpose from the first
To produce purpose as the fitter bred:
We were just purpose coming to a head.
Frost seems to take great offense at Darwin’s theory. Numerous examples of such responses abound – philosophers, poets, people who derive beauty from the natural world like William Paley, all utterly baffled at the way Darwin has subsequently removed all need for spirituality in their lives. We were just purpose coming to a head? How arrogant!
Index of Prohibited Books – The Vatican:
 With his system, Darwin destroys the bases of revelation and openly reaches pantheism and an abject materialism. Thus, an indirect condemnation of Darwin is not only useful, but even necessary, together with that of Caverni, his defender and propagator among Italian youth.
That seems surprisingly tame for the Vatican, no?
Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) – English Author:
“It was magnificent,” [Sherlock Holmes] said, as he took his seat. “Do you remember what Darwin says about music? He claims that the power of producing and appreciating it existed among the human race long before the power of speech was arrived at. Perhaps that is why we are so subtly influenced by it. There are vague memories in our souls of those misty centuries when the world was in its childhood”.
From 'A Study in Scarlet', one reference you may have missed if you've read Doyle.
Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) – English Author:
I’ve been trying once more to plough through The Descent of Man and every fiber […] of my body revolted against it. To believe in it that it is necessary never to have – Hullo! Where is this one-idea’d pen going off to anew?
Somebody try to interpret this please. I have an inkling but am too embarrassed to say. Or am I reading too much into it?
Joseph Stalin (1878-1953) – Russian Dictator:
Evolution prepares for revolution and creates the ground for it; revolution consummates the process of evolution and facilitates its further activity. Similar processes take place in nature. The history of science shows that the dialectical method is a truly scientific method: from astronomy to sociology, in every field we find confirmation of the idea that nothing is eternal in the universe, everything changes, everything develops. Consequently, everything in nature must be regarded from the point of view of movement, development.
See what I mean? Association of Darwinism to such heretical ideas – not something Darwin wholly prepared for?
Emile Zola (1840-1902) – French Novelist:
Was Darwin right, then, and the world only a battlefield, where the strong ate the weak for the sake of beauty and continuance of the race?
Sure, the strong-weak narrative has been perpetuated shamelessly and I don't like that too much, but isn't this just beautiful?
Albert Einstein (1879-1955) – German-American Physicist:
Darwin’s theory of the struggle for existence and the selectivity connected with it has by many people been cited as authorization of the spirit of competition. Some people also in such a way have tried to prove pseudo-scientifically the necessity of the destructive economic struggle of competition between individuals. But this is wrong, because man owes his strength in the struggle for existence to the fact that he is a socially living animal. As little as a battle between single ants of a hill is essential for survival, just so little is this the case with the individual members of a human community.
Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) – German Political Theorist:
Just as Darwin discovered the law of development of organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history: the simple fact, hitherto concealed by an overgrowth of ideology, that mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion etc. …
This is an extract from the speech Engels made at Karl Marx's funeral.
Lastly, here's one reference I didn't find in this book. This is Third Eye Blind's Darwin: