Biology, History and Philosophy of Science, Reviews

Review: Owen, On the Nature of Limbs

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This month’s issue of the journal Nature is running a nice review of Richard Owen’s nineteenth century treatise on biological forms On the Nature of Limbs—one of the foundational works contributing to the development of modern evolutionary theory—newly reprinted in a facsimile edition edited by Ronald Amundson. Michael Coates writes for Nature:

A decade before Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, Owen very nearly sketched a theory of evolutionary transformation, fragments of which appear here. However, as Padian describes, such were the sociopolitical and philosophical strains on Owen’s position that he stalled at the final intellectual leap. Owen’s patrons were of the Oxbridge-educated establishment—adherents to the natural theology of the ‘argument from design’ (for the existence of God) as advocated most influentially by William Paley (now sadly repackaged with a molecular gloss by the proponents of ‘intelligent design’).… But it remains an excellent source for those interested in how we identify and interpret pattern in nature. A dissertation on similarity, conservation and variability in form, it addresses issues of enduring interest to systematic biologists as well as to the revitalized field of evolutionary developmental biology.…
Read the rest of the review on the Nature website.