Here’s how Cambridge’s Jim Enderby’s review of some recent Darwin books begins:
On the morning of November 24, 1859, Charles DarwinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s On the Origin of Species made its first appearance and the world changed forever. An age of faith was plunged into profound religious doubt, and believers of every kind rose to pronounce anathema on DarwinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s godless tract, sparking a fresh battle in the long-running war between science and religion. But while the reactionaries raged, the scientific community soon came to accept natural selection, and the rediscovery of Gregor MendelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s work in 1900 (which marked the founding of modern genetics) set the seal on DarwinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s triumph by providing the missing piece to his puzzle Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a scientific understanding of just how inheritance works.
Unfortunately, everything in the previous paragraph is nonsense, apart from the OriginÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s publication date (and even that is wrong in Morse PeckhamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s recently reissued variorum edition, which claims it was November 26).
Well, there’s not only mythmaking, there is ridiculous hagiography, and more to come with the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth coming up. So it’s good to see some books exploring the reality that contradicts the spin and nonsense.