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RE: Evolution in Science Fiction

> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-DINOSAUR@usc.edu [mailto:owner-DINOSAUR@usc.edu] 
> On Behalf Of Jeff Hecht
> Sent: Friday, July 10, 2009 8:28 AM
> To: ron.orenstein@rogers.com; allenph@unimelb.edu.au; dinosaur@usc.edu
> Subject: Re: Evolution in Science Fiction
> Thanks to everybody for all the great comments and ideas. I 
> thought I'd read a lot of science fiction over the years, but 
> you've reminded me how much I've missed (and some things I'd 
> forgotten). The mentions of Verne and Wells were great 
> because they were really speculating about evolution when the 
> idea itself was young. Having only seen the movie version of 
> Journey to the Center of the Earth, and that long ago, I 
> hadn't caught the way the linke to ontogeny as they went 
> inward. And split in the human evolution in "The Time 
> Machine" fits perfectly into the thinking of the late 19th 
> century. Great stuff. 

I can't recall if War of the Worlds was mentioned in this, but there are two
specific evolutionary issues that H.G. Wells -- student of T.H. Huxley,
after all! -- mentions in this work:

1) The discussion by the unnamed--and somewhat autobiographical--narrator of
the story as to the possible origin of the cephalopod-like Martians from a
more humanoid stock:
http://ftp.fourmilab.ch/etexts/www/warworlds/b2c2.html (about halfway down)
(In fact, the reference to the speculation of the future evolution of humans
by "a certain speculative writer of quasi-scientific repute" in the
"November or December, 1893, in a long-defunct publication, the Pall Mall
Budget" is apparently based on an actual Wells article.)

2) The defeat of the Martians is explained as a byproduct of natural
selection processes:
"For so it had come about, as indeed I and many men might have foreseen had
not terror and disaster blinded our minds. These germs of disease have taken
toll of humanity since the beginning of things--taken toll of our prehuman
ancestors since life began here. But by virtue of this natural selection of
our kind we have developed resisting power; to no germs do we succumb
without a struggle, and to many--those that cause putrefaction in dead
matter, for instance--our living frames are altogether immune. But there are
no bacteria in Mars, and directly these invaders arrived, directly they
drank and fed, our microscopic allies began to work their overthrow. Already
when I watched them they were irrevocably doomed, dying and rotting even as
they went to and fro. It was inevitable. By the toll of a billion deaths man
has bought his birthright of the earth, and it is his against all comers; it
would still be his were the Martians ten times as mighty as they are. For
neither do men live nor die in vain."
[the second to the last line in particular!]

Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Email: tholtz@umd.edu   Phone: 301-405-4084
Office: Centreville 1216                        
Senior Lecturer, Vertebrate Paleontology
Dept. of Geology, University of Maryland
Fax: 301-314-9661               

Faculty Director, Earth, Life & Time Program, College Park Scholars
Faculty Director, Science & Global Change Program, College Park Scholars
Fax: 301-314-9843

Mailing Address:        Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
                        Department of Geology
                        Building 237, Room 1117
                        University of Maryland
                        College Park, MD 20742 USA