Evolution's Workshop: God and Science on the Galapagos Islands
"It was on the Galapagos in the early autumn of 1835 that Darwin took the first step out of the fairytale of creationism into the coherent and ... Show synopsis "It was on the Galapagos in the early autumn of 1835 that Darwin took the first step out of the fairytale of creationism into the coherent and comprehensible world of modern biology", the influential biologist Julian Huxley observed over a century after Darwin's visit, "for it was here that he became fully convinced that species are not immutable - in other words, that evolution is a fact". This, as Huxley went on, "effected the greatest of all revolutions in human thought". It changed how scientifically informed people view nature, life and humankind. The central role played by the Galapagos Islands in this revolutionary moment eventually transformed that remote, seemingly desolate, archipelago into a sacred site for science and a place of tremendous interest to biologists and eco-tourists alike. The Islands came to be called "Darwin's Eden" and "The Galapagos Wonderland", but people have not always seen the archipelago that way. At nearly the same time that a young and impressionable Charles Darwin first began to comprehend its marvels, Herman Melville published ten sketches about his visit to the place, which he called "The Encantadas", or "Enchanted Isles", and for him it represented "evilly enchanted ground". Science exorcised the enchantments that seemed to hold the Galapagos Islands spellbound. And since Darwin the achipelago has in turn played an ever larger role in the history of science. That is the story told in this richly rewarding and deeply absorbing book. Pulitzer-Prize winner Edward Larson tells the tale of early British buccaneers and explorers; of Darwin's discoveries and post-Darwinian debates; of the fabulous expeditions of the Roaring Twenties, run in black-tie from rich men's yachts; of the struggle for control of research and efforts by creationists to use the Galapagos to undercut evolutionary theory; and of the growing threats to the archipelago's native environments. Inspired by this isolated island universe, Larson's history captures something of the grand, sweeping evolution of human understanding.