Design in the Age of Darwin (Magill's Literary Annual 2009)
Design and evolution were topics of great significance during the nineteenth century, and Design in the Age of Darwin examines the interactions between evolutionary theories and design after the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in 1859. Although debates about natural history had many nuances, the main division between “intelligent design” and Darwin’s view of evolution shared an emphasis on the importance of the way plants and animals were designed and adapted to function within their environments. A key difference was in the agency of design. “Intelligent design,” especially as articulated by the Reverend William Paley in Natural Theology (1802), argued that such “intelligent design” in nature is ultimately the work of the Creator, God. Darwin, in contrast, saw design as evidence for the struggle for survival, and he proposed that evolution occurred by incorporating the most functional and adaptive designs to meet the challenges of survival.
Design in the Age of Darwin originated in an exhibition held at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University. Stephen F. Eisenman, professor of art history at Northwestern University, conceived and curated the exhibit whose purpose was to explore how British and American architects and designers responded to the challenges presented by Darwin’s theory of evolution. The book accompanies this...
(The entire section is 1795 words.)
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