Monday, February 27, 2012

The Voice of Darwin . . . Really?

I ordered this book that I heard about last week because the idea of it fascinated me. It's called I, Charles Darwin, by Nickell John Romjue. The premise is that Darwin returns to earth in 2009, the 150th anniversary of The Origin of Species. He reacts to all the discoveries of science since his death -- the complexity of the cell, the Cambrian explosion, the lack of transitional fossils found -- and bemoans the mindset of modern scientists who refuse to address the fact that this evidence calls his theory into serious question. He reads of the ways his theory has been used socially and politically to the detriment of humanity, and regards the lack of continued evolution of humanity with despair.

As I said, it sounded fascinating! Unfortunately, I was disappointed.

I don't want to pound on Romjue. He frames this as a journal written by Darwin himself, and it's possible that its style is modeled on Darwin's own writings. I have read very little of Darwin in his own words, mainly because what I did read was difficult to read. So, perhaps that accounts for my disappointment. Or it may also be because most of the information presented was familiar to me already.

But, I was hoping for a more exciting read. More emotion from the man. I would like to have actually "seen" his moments of discovery and "felt" the shock and disappointment and outrage he experienced. I guess I wanted a novel.

It also bugged me that some passages read like an essay on Darwinism that someone used a search-and-replace function on to make it first person. "With 'consilience', Darwin's theory became dogma, Origin and Descent annexed as texts of a Church of Darwin," becomes "With 'consilience', I became dogma . . . " Just awkward sounding. It doesn't sound like someone speaking. The voice is wrong. But as I said, maybe this is an accurate representation of Darwin's voice in writing.

There are a few shining moments. "What is my legacy? I am a founder, I am a destroyer," he says. But oh, I wanted to hear more from his heart after that realization.

I found myself wanting to rewrite the thing. I mean, it's a great idea for a book, yes? But it needs to be more accessible and attractive to the masses. More showing than telling. More story than lecture.

Or . . . maybe it needs to be a play? Hmmmm......

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