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Ridicule and Risk

SICKLY CHARLES DARWIN relied on five brave fellow scientists to carry out and defend his controversial message of natural selection and evolution at a time when many, even other scientists, were ridiculing and opposing his findings. 

The stories of those men and their dedicated journey alongside Darwin is told with candor and authority in Darwin’s Apostles: The Men Who Fought to Have Evolution Accepted, Their Times, and How the Battle Continues (Humanist Press, 2019).

Scientists David Orenstein and Abby Hafer ’80 widen the scope of study on Darwin in a new way to include the “apostles,” who risked their reputations to proselytize Darwin’s message. Two of them were converts who found no choice but to accept the theories after rigorous debate and exhaustive examination of the evidence. 

All eventually contributed evidence to support the theories of natural selection and evolution. The book includes correspondence among them, providing insight into their candidness. Their battle shook the values of 19th-century leaders in many fields, especially among the religious who held to a belief in a divinely inspired creation.

More than 160 years later, the battle continues. Darwinian disciples Orenstein and Hafer call on evolutionary biologists, climate scientists, and national park employees to rise up and be the apostles of today.