How Charles Darwin Shaped Debate During the American Civil War

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Artist depiction of Charles Darwin.
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When the evolutionary theories of English naturalist and geologist Charles Darwin were first introduced, they were lauded for their application to business and free markets — the survival of the fittest could explain wealth disparities in the Gilded Age for those most inclined to believe in their own successes.

But there was also a group of thinkers and writers in America who found a much different application of Darwinism, one that could apply to reconciling religion with science and perhaps most importantly, a better understanding of race.

University of Tulsa Professor Randall Fuller is author of "The Book That Changed America: How Darwin's Theory of Evolution Ignited a Nation." In his new work, he begins his story on New Year's Day 1860, a little more than a year before the start of the Civil War, when a dinner party filled with luminaries like Henry David Thoreau first encountered a copy of Darwin's new book. The rest was history.