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It seems rather appropriate that America has transcended its “original sin” and elected a black man president in Charles Darwin’s bicentenary year. Our anniversary contribution by Adrian Desmond offers a revisionist account of how Darwin’s theory of evolution was inspired by his determination to prove correct the anti-slavery movement’s claim about mankind’s common roots. Many scientists will scoff, but the cause was close to Darwin’s heart, and in his most productive period—the late 1830s—it intertwined with his ideas about the common origins of all life.

The author of the “survival of the fittest” was, it seems, a warm-hearted humanist after…

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