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13th Annual Robert Grant Lecture, Darwin’s Progress and the Problem of Slavery

Best-selling biographer James Moore talks about the influence of the abolitionist movement on Charles Darwin’s later works.

Charles Darwin's vision of nature-history was meliorative and hopeful. A rich and impeccably upright gentleman, Darwin went out of his way to develop privately a subversive image of human evolution, and he pursued the subject tenaciously for three decades before publishing The Descent of Man in 1871. Underpinning this work was a belief in racial brotherhood rooted in the greatest moral movement of the age, for the abolition of slavery.

But slavery did not evolve out of existence; it had to be destroyed. Intractable slavery collided with Darwin's post-Christian progressivism during the American Civil War. The triumph of the abolitionists' `sacred cause' enabled him to carry `the grand idea of God hating sin and loving righteousness' into The Descent of Man, where the driving of formerly enslaved races out of existence is naturalized as a by-product of human progress.

James Moore has researched Darwin's life and times for many years while teaching at the Open University and abroad. With Adrian Desmond, he wrote the best-selling biography Darwin, now widely translated, and his other books include The Darwin Legend and The Post-Darwinian Controversies. For the Darwin bicentenary, Moore and Desmond have published Darwin's Sacred Cause: Race, Slavery and the Quest for Human Origins (Allen Lane, 2009).


Mr James Moore | talks


Date and Time:

11 November 2009 at 5:00 pm


1 hour



Grant Museum of Zoology, UCL
Rockefeller Building
University Street
020 3108 2052

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A complimentary glass of wine will be served in a private view of the Museum after the event.

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