Darwin-L Message Log 4:12 (December 1993)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.

<4:12>From Michael_Kenny@sfu.ca  Mon Dec  6 20:28:53 1993

Date: Mon, 6 Dec 93 18:32:12 -0800
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
From: Michael_Kenny@sfu.ca (Michael Kenny)
Subject: Re: List owner's monthly greeting

This note is in response to Dr. O'Hara's invitation that new subscribers to
the List introduce themselves and their interests.

I am in the Dept. of Sociology/Anthropology at Simon Fraser University near
Vancouver, B.C., and am currently occupied with a crossover project between
anthropology and social history. To wit a study of the so-called
"Poughkeepsie Seer" -- Andrew Jackson Davis (1826-1910) -- a clairvoyant
progressivist mystic who acquired a considerable following in the mid years
of the 19th century through his "Harmonial Philosophy." When first tuning
into to this list, I encountered a discussion of the "palaetiological
sciences"; Davis used this term when trying to place himself relative to
the intellectual currents of his age. In his "Nature's Divine Revelations"
(1847), he said the following:

"It is the office of palaetiological sciences to set forth general truths
in the departments of astronomy, geology, anatomy, physiology, &c., all as
in perfect harmony with each other, and as forming a general and undeniable
proof of the united chain of existences, and binding the whole together as
one grand BOOK...the only authentic and eternal Book of truths, which is
inspired by the Original Designer, the First Cause."

Davis's scheme is evolutionary and teleological, from the beginning in 1847
positing, among other things, the mutability of species (Davis says that he
was in fact accused of cribbing from Chamber's Vestiges of the Natural
History of Creation, and denied it vehemently). Infinite Progress was
Davis's theme, and he  deployed the science of the day, geology,
astronomy,biology, electromagnetism, etc. to reinforce his points. The
Spiritualist movement claimed scientific status, mediumistic communication
supposedly "proving" personal survival of death (Ben Franklin was virtually
a patron saint, and often returned from the dead himself).

So, my theme is popularized evolutionary thought in the mid to later years
of the 19th Century. I would be much interested in communicating with
anyone involved in such issues, or with social historical aspects of
popularized 19th Century science in general.

Dept. of Sociology/Anthropology
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C.  V5A 1S6

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