March 3, 2017 | By Kylie Larkin — Professor Edward J. Larson delivered two lectures at Messiah College, presented by the Central Pennsylvania Forum for Religion and Science, the Messiah College Honors Program, and the Department of History, on February 27. Larson’s first lecture was titled “The Election of 1800 and the Birth of Partisan Politics,” and the second was titled “Darwin and the Victorian Soul.”
Via Messiah College:
Introduction to The Election of 1800 and the Birth of Partisan Presidential Politics:
Was 2016 the most contentious election in American history? It seems that every election we hear the same things: “Political polarization has never been worse.” “The rancor and divisiveness is unprecedented.” But when historians hear words like “never been worse” or “unprecedented,” our natural inclination is skepticism. As Americans we can so easily become enslaved by the narcissism of the present that we start to believe that what is happening today is the “best,” the “worst,” or the “most hard fought” of ALL TIME.
We can have an honest debate about whether the 2016 election was the most divisive election in American history. But any such debate MUST take into the consideration the Election of 1800. This was an election of cantankerous politicking. It was the first United States presidential election that saw the peaceful transition of power from one political party to another. And it had a controversial ending that makes last night’s announcement of “Best Picture” pale in comparison.
We are privileged today to have Ed Larson with us to help us sort it all out.
Darwin and the Victorian Soul:
The basic idea of evolution rapidly captured Anglo-American science after Darwin published On the Origin of Species, but there was much resistance to extending that to theory to human evolution—especially the evolution of human consciousness, higher critical thought, and morality, which are often associated with the human soul. Dr. Larson compares reactions to Darwin’s two most famous books, On the Origin of Species and The Descent of Man. He also compares Darwin’s views with those of Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-discoverer of evolution by natural selection. Finally, he examines the views of Richard Dawkins, Francis Collins, and the Roman Catholic Church. Overall, Dr. Larson offers an historical perspective on how scientists and other people have accepted evolution without rejecting the idea of a supernatural soul.
Recipient of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in History for a book about the Scopes trial, Edward J. Larson holds the Darling Chair in Law and is University Professor of History at Pepperdine University. Before moving to Pepperdine, Larson taught for twenty years at the University of Georgia. He has also been Associate Counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor and an attorney with a major Seattle law firm. Author of ten books and more than eighty articles, Larson writes mostly about issues of science, medicine and law from an historical perspective. His most recent book, The Return of George Washington, 1783-1789, a New York Times Bestseller, is the first full-length study of George Washington’s role in creating the American Constitution. His book, Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory, is used as a textbook in a course at Messiah College.