Owen's Ape and Darwin's Bulldog

Owen's Ape and Darwin's Bulldog

Beyond Darwinism and Creationism
Christopher E. Cosans
Distribution: World
Publication date: 02/18/2009
Format: Paperback 29 b&w photos
ISBN: 978-0-253-22051-6
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After Richard Owen criticized Darwin’s Origin, he was labeled a "creationist" by many, and his work on ape anatomy was derided by Darwin’s "bulldog" Thomas Huxley.In this close analysis of Owen’s texts, Christopher E. Cosans argues that Owen’s thought was much more sophisticated than Huxley portrayed it.In addition to considering Owen and Huxley’s anatomical debate, Owen’s Ape and Darwin’s Bulldog examines their philosophical dispute.Huxley embraced the metaphysics of Descartes, while Owen felt philosophy of science should rest on Kant’s claim that sense-perception does not tell us how things-in-themselves "really are." Owen thought the creationist-Darwinist dispute was unproductive, and held that both 19th century special creationists and Darwin’s suggestion in the Origin that God created the first life forms unnecessarily brought supernatural causation into science.

With the hindsight of how the theory of evolution has progressed over the last three centuries, the Owen-Huxley debate affords the history and philosophy of science a case study. It sheds light on theories of knowledge that have been advanced by Quine, Wittgenstein, Hanson, and Putnam. Owen’s Ape and Darwin’s Bulldog also examines Malthus, Mill and Marx for the influence of economic thought on early evolutionary theories, and considers broader ideas about how science and society interact.

Author Bio

Christopher E. Cosans teaches philosophy at Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne.


“Part history of science, part history of philosophy, part philosophy of science—but all in the service of the pragmatic dimensions of science in society. I know of no other book quite like this one.”
 — Jason Scott Robert, Arizona State University

“A fascinating new look at the Owen-Huxley controversy [that] gives us important insight into a hitherto thinly discussed aspect of the Darwinian Revolution. I much enjoyed reading it and learnt from virtually every page.”
 — Michael Ruse, author of Darwinism and Its Discontents

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: On the Origin of the Darwin Wars
Analytic Table of Contents

1. The Parable of the Hippopotamus Major
2. Philosophical Anatomy and the Human Soul
3. Evolution and the Discovery of the Gorilla
4. Does the Brain Distinguish Human from Beast?
5. Economics and Values on the Eve of the Origin
6. The Values and Metaphysics of Darwin's Origin
7. Why Owen Rejected Darwin's Analysis
8. Huxley's Hippocampus Counter-Attack
9. The Dissection of a Metaphysical Dispute
10. Ethics, Experience, and Truth

Appendix 1. Excerpt from Owen's 1851 Article on Ape and Human Brain Size
Appendix 2. The Concluding Pages of Owen's Anatomy of Vertebrates (1868) on Evolution, the Origins of Life, Metaphysics, and Theology