Charles Kingsley and the Theological Interpretation of Natural Selection
44 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2006
Date Written: May 1, 2006
This paper questions the common view that Darwinian biology is a straightforward extension of classical political economy. Our analysis contrasts the economists' classification scheme - whereby all humans were presumed natural kids, to be equally competent for economic and political decision making - with the classification scheme that developed, post-Darwin. When the tools of political economy were imported into biology, the presumption of homogeneity of competence was denied. Charles Kingsley played a significant role in the transition from one sort of classificatory scheme to another, in the overthrow of the economists' notion that humans are the same in their capacity for trade and moral judgment. Darwin sent Kingsley presentation copy of Origin of Species and quoted in the second edition as the celebrated author and divine who had sketched a theology in which Providence used natural selection in the creation process The economists' doctrine that all people form a natural kind had many opponents. Biologists agreed with economists that, whatever differences existed between races of people, none put a person outside the protection of law. Other opponents, e.g., Thomas Carlyle, criticized both the economists' premise and their conclusion regarding protection under the law. Kingsley moved from a Carlylean to a Darwinian opposition to natural kinds.
Keywords: classical political economy, Charles Darwin, Charles Kingsley, natural kinds, natural theology, classification, great man theory of history, little man theory of history
JEL Classification: A12, A13, B12, B25, B31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation