Friday, September 30, 2005

The Darwin debate, 1872

The debate over evolution and ID invariably brings to my mind a charming Russian poem by Alexei Tolstoy (novelist Leo's less talented but much saner and smarter, and unjustly forgotten, relative), "Epistle to M.N. Longinov on Darwinism" (1872). Tolstoy, a poet, writer and dramatist, was widely regarded as a retrograde in his day; in fact, while his political satire often skewered the left -- the socialists, the nihilists, the populists and other radicals -- he was far from being a reactionary and envisioned Russia evolving toward a more Western-style liberal society. Mikhail Longinov, a personal friend of Tolstoy's, was the chairman of Russia's Committee on Publishing (i.e. the official censorship board). Tolstoy wrote the poem after hearing about a proposed ban on Darwin's The Origin of Species, which apparently turned out to be a false rumor.

The poem is quite relevant to today's debate, and I've often wished there were a translation. Well, today, in a burst of inspiration, I translated it myself, in abbreviated form (the original has 22 stanzas, I kept only 10 [update: make that 11] -- omiting a parallel between Darwinian and Copernican theory, and the conclusion which points out that Russia is not isolated from the world and science will find its way in). Here goes. "Misha" is, of course, the nickname for Mikhail -- the Russian equivalent of "Mikey."


Is it true, what people tell me?
Everywhere, the news I'm getting:
Misha, it is said, considers
Darwin's system quite upsetting.

Come now, Misha, why get fretful?
You've no tail on your own arse,
So the origin of species
Shouldn't cause much of a fuss.

What's, in any case, your problem
With a gradual creation?
Do you think that in his methods
God from you should take dictation?

Why restrict how He can do things,
By what means and to what end?
I would say that such a viewpoint
Smells of heresy, my friend!

Truly, that's a poor example
You have set from your high place,
And I fear you might be labeled
As a man of little faith.

In the distant past, moreover,
Not much glory's there for man:
For a lump of clay's no better
Than some old orangutan.

Do you think, perhaps, that Darwin
Is for nihilists a banner?
What, good Lord, have they in common
In their message or their manner?

From the beasts to human level
Darwin does us elevate,
While the nihilists would have us
Sink into a beastly state.

Far from being Darwin's vanguard,
They confirm his basic facts,
And their brutish, wild behavior
Of regression often smacks.

Crude and ignorant and shameless,
Spiteful, puffed-up, condescending,
They themselves, I'd say, are backwards
Toward their ancestors descending.

For the acts of bratty rebels
Darwin needs no absolution.
Therefore, Misha, calm your anger,
Cease your foolish persecution!



By the way, nice description of the nihilists -- the far left of their day. Nothing new under the sun, is there.

Those who read Russian can find the original (and the rest of Tolstoy's brilliant satirical poetry) here.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Excellent, especially the "bratty rebels" trope.

You've done the world a great service, comrade.

Cathy Young said...

Thanks! I'm quite pleased with this one myself.

Anonymous said...

Great work! And very appropriate too for the debate. Sometimes it seems like the more things change, the more they stay the same. I liked this.

thecobrasnose said...

Rhyming "arse" and "fuss"? Wow!

Terrific poem--thanks for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

Great work!

Cathy Young said...

Thank you all.

John Howard said...

Yes, this is excellent, nicely worded. I like the condescending-descending line.

Permana said...

Obat Stroke Iskemik Herbal Alami adalah sebuah solusi untuk anda yang bingung mencari obat untuk mengatasi penyakit stroke, selain itu ada juga Obat Untuk Mengobati Stroke Ringan Herbal yang memang banyak dicari karena sekarang ini banyak sekali penderita penyakit stroke ringan. Obat Stroke Tradisional Alami Ampuh, memang sangat ampuh karena terbuat dari bahan-bahan tradisional. Obat Untuk Stroke Ringan Yang Manjur juga sangat ampuh untuk mengatasi stroke ringan. Untuk itu Obat Penyakit Stroke Alami dan Tradisional sangat membantu sekali untuk pengobatan penyakit stroke. Obat Mujarab Untuk mengobati Penyakit Stroke merupakan sebuah obat mujarab yang banyak dijadikan alternatif oleh banyak orang, Obat Penyakit Stroke Alami dan Tradisional dan Obat Alami Untuk Mengobati Penyakit Stroke ini sudah banyak membantu orang-orang yang mengidap penyakit stroke dengan menggunakan Obat Untuk Penyakit Stroke Paling Ampuh. Obat Herbal Untuk Penderita Penyakit Stroke ini sangat aman, karena terbuat dari bahan alami yang 100% herbal. Obat Tradisional Untuk Penyakit Stroke Berat pun tersedia untuk anda yang memang mengalmai stroke berat. Untuk itu baik Obat Tradisional Untuk Menyembuhkan Penyakit Stroke, Obat Untuk Mengobati Stroke Ringan Maupun Berat, ataupun Obat Herbal Yang Mampu Untuk Mengobati Penyakit Stroke sangat baik dan berkhasiat sangat tinggi untuk mengobati penyakit stroke hingga tuntas.

Murat BATTAL said...

Web tasarım
Grafik tasarım
Web tasarım
Grafik tasarım
Web yazılım
Kurumsal Kimlik Tasarımı
Logo tasarım
Tile levelling system
Floor drains
Aluminium profiles
Tile spacers
Women's clothes and lingeries
Textile and cheap accesorries
Sanitation products
Health products
Circular Blades
Straight Blades
Razor Blades
Guillotine Blades
Machine Knives
Industrial Blades
Punch Knives
Paper Cutting Blades
Packaging Blades
Plastic Cutting Blades
evden eve nakliyat
istanbul evden eve nakliyat fiyatları
şehirler arası evden eve nakliyat
ev eşya depolama şirketi
istanbul ofis taşıma firmaları
şehiriçi evden eve nakliye
antalya pedogog
antalya psikolojik danışman
antalya psikolojik testler
antalya ergen danışmanlığı
antalya psikolog
antalya çocuk pedagog
antalya çocuk danışmanlığı
antalya yetişkin psikolog
Siirt klima servisi
Siirt Beyaz Eşya Servisi
Siirt Klima Bayi
Siirt Klima montaj ve tamir
Siirt Soğutma

Murat BATTAL said...

Web tasarım
Grafik tasarım
Web tasarım
Grafik tasarım
Web yazılım
Kurumsal Kimlik Tasarımı
Logo tasarım
Tile levelling system
Floor drains
Aluminium profiles
Tile spacers
Women's clothes and lingeries
Textile and cheap accesorries
Sanitation products
Health products
Circular Blades
Straight Blades
Razor Blades
Guillotine Blades
Machine Knives
Industrial Blades
Punch Knives
Paper Cutting Blades
Packaging Blades
Plastic Cutting Blades
evden eve nakliyat
istanbul evden eve nakliyat fiyatları
şehirler arası evden eve nakliyat
ev eşya depolama şirketi
istanbul ofis taşıma firmaları
şehiriçi evden eve nakliye
antalya pedogog
antalya psikolojik danışman
antalya psikolojik testler
antalya ergen danışmanlığı
antalya psikolog
antalya çocuk pedagog
antalya çocuk danışmanlığı
antalya yetişkin psikolog
Siirt klima servisi
Siirt Beyaz Eşya Servisi
Siirt Klima Bayi
Siirt Klima montaj ve tamir
Siirt Soğutma

Ashwin Krishna said...

Thanks for sharing such a nice blog, As per my experience India Assignment Help is an amazing platform where you can get Assignment Help And Homework Help services for any topic and for any subject like engineering, accounting, geography, history, English, and so on. They provide the services like Essay Writing Help, Accounting Assignment Help , Finance Assignment Helpdissertations, thesis, presentations, research, case studies and much more.
Read Related Article

Ashwin Krishna said...

As the complete form explains, the Statement of Purpose Format is an essay stating the purpose of applying to a particular course in a specific university. Some Big Service providers providing Assignment Help and SOP Writing Help also. It is for mainly those students applying internationally. An SOP needs to be highly well-constructed, depicting clarity of thought in the language used. The professionals emphasise stressing some essential elements which is help to design a perfect Statement of Purpose Sample
Read Related Article

Ashwin Krishna said...

There are a lot of companies in the market which provide Accounting Assignment Help.
such as India Assignment Help which is specifically designed for the Indian students. They are delivering successfully Assignment Help for more than 10+ years. They also provide some of the additional services which could be availed by the students while booking the assignments such as Free revisions, 100% original and unique contents, fresh ideas, expert assistance, 24 X 7 customer support.

Assignment Helper said...

I like this website. I am glad that I landed here. Let me tell you one thing. If you want Math Homework Help, then you should spend your time looking for a good Assignment Help, website instead of wasting your time here. Marketing is a subject that does not require any introduction. It is such a general subject like essay help & academic writing help that seems as if it is quite common, yet it is quite specific.
READ RELATED ARTICLE.

Ashwin Krishna said...

There is a team of academic writers at India Assignment Help who have been assisting students in a better way. The team of in- house subject-specific offers the prominent Assignment Help and Homework Help services. They all are keen on researching and drafting assignments they can write on any topic. They have a team of experts also who have qualified from the best universities in the world. Many students have encountered difficulties in Major subjects Like Law Assignment Help , Accounting Assignment Help and Finance Assignment Help.

Read Related Article