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Book Details

  • Paperback
  • Bookstore's Wholesale Price: $27.03
  • January 2014
  • ISBN: 978-0-393-93726-8
  • 176 pages
  • Territory Rights: Worldwide

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Charles Darwin, the Copley Medal, and the Rise of Naturalism, 1861-1864

Reacting to the Past

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Marsha Driscoll (Author, Bemidji State University), Elizabeth E. Dunn (Author, Indiana University South Bend), Dann Siems (Author, Bemidji State University), B. Kamran Swanson (Author, Harold Washington College)

 

Part of the Reacting to the Past series, Charles Darwin, the Copley Medal, and the Rise of Naturalism thrusts students into the intellectual ferment of Victorian England just after publication of The Origin of Species.

Since its appearance in 1859, Darwin's long awaited treatise in “genetic biology” had received reviews both favorable and damning. Thomas Huxley and Samuel Wilberforce presented arguments for and against the theory in a dramatic and widely publicized face-off at the 1860 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Oxford. Their encounter sparked a vigorous, complex debate that touched on a host of issues and set the stage for the Royal Society’s consideration of whether or not they ought to award Darwin the Copley Medal, the society’s most prestigious prize. While the action takes place in meetings of the Royal Society, Great Britain’s most important scientific body, a parallel and influential public argument smoldered over the nature of science and its relationship to modern life in an industrial society.

A significant component of the Darwin game is the tension between natural and teleological views of the world, manifested especially in reconsideration of the design argument, commonly known through William Paley’s Natural Theology; or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity (1802) and updated by Wilberforce. But the scientific debate also percolated through a host of related issues: the meaning and purposes of inductive and hypothetical speculation in science; the professionalization of science; the implications of Darwinism for social reform, racial theories, and women’s rights; and the evolving concept of causation in sciences and its implications for public policy. Because of the revolutionary potential of Darwin’s ideas, the connections between science and nearly every other aspect of culture became increasingly evident. Scientific papers and laboratory demonstrations presented in Royal Society meetings during the game provide the backdrop for momentous conflict, conflict that continues to shape our perceptions of modern science.

Reacting to the Past is a series of historical role-playing games that explore important ideas by re-creating the contexts that shaped them. Students are assigned roles, informed by classic texts, set in particular moments of intellectual and social ferment. 

An award-winning active-learning pedagogy, Reacting to the Past improves speaking, writing, and leadership skills, promotes engagement with classic texts and history, and builds learning communities. Reacting can be used across the curriculum, from the first-year general education class to “capstone” experiences. A Reacting game can also function as the discussion component of lecture classes, or it can be enlisted for intersession courses, honors programs, and other specialized curricular purposes.

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Endorsements & Reviews

Reacting to the Past is the most absorbing and engaging teaching I have ever done. . . . Students engage each other with a passion I have rarely seen in a classroom.” — Elizabeth Robertson, Drake University

“Combines the student instinct for competitive gaming with the academic values of critical thinking and persuasive speaking.” — Craig Caldwell, Appalachian State University

“It is one of the best ways I know of engaging students in great books and significant moments in history.” — Larry Carver, University of Texas at Austin

Student-led classroom

Reacting to the Past is the perfect solution to a “flipped” classroom experience: students take charge of their own learning by assuming roles in a moment of historical crisis.  

History comes alive

Reacting to the Past games do not have a fixed script and outcome. While students must adhere to the beliefs and worldview of the historical figures they have been assigned to play, they must devise their own means of expressing those ideas persuasively in speeches or other public presentations. For these assignments they draw on the rich selection of primary sources in the student game manual.  

A proven pedagogy

By playing games in the Reacting to the Past series, students develop speaking, writing, critical-thinking, problem-solving, leadership, and teamwork skills. For its innovative approach to teaching and learning, Reacting to the Past has been supported by organizations like the Teagle Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education. 

The Reacting Consortium

Reacting to the Past was developed under the auspices of Barnard College, which hosts an annual institute where interested faculty can learn more about the series by playing condensed versions of the games. To learn more about the annual faculty institute and other events near you, go to the Conferences and Events page. 

    Introduction: Welcome to Victorian England
    Basic Principles
    The Play of the Game
    Game Setting
    Special Rules
    The Main Factions
    Brief Sketches of Game Characters
    Proceedings of the Royal Society
    Detailed Agenda (Session by Session)
    Protocol and Parliamentary Procedure
    Specific Written and Oral Assignments
    Playing a Natural Philosopher or Man of Science in Victorian England
    Introduction to the Philosophical Controversy
    The Historical Context: Things You Should Know

    Appendix A. Darwin, On the Origin of Species (1859)
    Appendix B. Primary Source Documents
    Appendix C. Additional Sources