Book Review: Darwin’s Sacred Cause: How a Hatred of Slavery Shaped Darwin’s Views on Human Evolution by Adrian Desmond and James Moore | Science News

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Book Review: Darwin’s Sacred Cause: How a Hatred of Slavery Shaped Darwin’s Views on Human Evolution by Adrian Desmond and James Moore

Review by Josh Korenblat

By
4:09pm, April 23, 2009

While forming his theory of common descent, Charles Darwin peered beyond his observations of ants, barnacles and blue-footed boobies to try to comprehend a broader subject: human slavery. He encountered the slave trade’s horrors through stories told within his moneyed, abolitionist family. After visiting slave-holding nations on the Beagle, Darwin was forever haunted by the distant cry of a tortured slave, the authors write.

Desmond and Moore, who received acclaim for a 1991 Darwin biography, persuasively show Darwin as a great unifier. He balanced his heated belief in abolitionism with scientific discipline — not letting one affect the other (despite the book’s subtitle). The landmark result: On the Origin of Species with, the authors contend, a refutation of slavery at its heart.

In Darwin’s day, slavery supporters believed black Africans were a species apart from white Europeans. And Africans were fettered to the lowest ru

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