Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Glorious Eighteenth

Last month, the conservative columnist John Derbyshire showed his love for the Eighteen Century in his National Review column, The Glorious Eighteenth.

Mr. Derbyshire is a vocal Darwinbot, which makes the following line kinda amusing…

I used to take the 19th century as my personal favorite — all that wonderful science and math; the social improvements; the comparative peace. The more I learn, the less sure I am of this, and the more I favor the 18th. There was science a-plenty in the 18th, too, after all; and that science had, as Richard Holmes describes in his recent book The Age of Wonder, a romantic quality it lost sometime around 1830.

Hmm, I wonder what happened around 1830.

Of course, my mind immediately jumped to Darwin and
The Beagle. Then - in a fit of serendipity - I stumbled across the Number One review of Mr. Holmes' book on Amazon.com.

According to the review...

Holmes goes on to label two huge expeditions as sorts of watermarks. Captain James Cook's first encircling of the world, between 1768 and 1771, and Charles Darwin's celebrated voyage and research conducted on the Beagle, between 1831 and 1836.

Yep, Darwin's voyage seems like a fair ending for "The Age of Wonder."

Darwinism. Materialism. Reductionism. Atheism. They are the world’s great universal acids. Is it no wonder science lost it's "romantic quality?"

Derbyshire continues…

The arts may have lost their footing at the same time: it is odd how many of the graphs in Charles Murray's Human Accomplishment turn to a long downward slide soon after 1800. Murray: "The environment for producing great art in any field became progressively less favorable over the course of [the 19th century] …"

Yep, I think there’s a link between Reductionism and the decline of the arts. But that’s a blog post for another time…

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