The Island of Doctor Moreau - Q3: Assisted Evolution?

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“With all his noble qualities… with all these exalted powers, man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin”

The above is a quote is actually from Darwin's The Descent of Man, published in 1871, a work that surely inspired Wells. Moreau is clearly trying to step outside of the natural course of evolution. Is he trying to accelerate the process, or to do something else? What future do these uplifted animals have? What future do the humans in the story have? Evolution is usually seen in opposition to the bible, but is that how it's presented here? Were evolution and Christianity in opposition in 1896 as they are now?

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    I think Moreau isn't doing "evolution" but "eugenics". It's about deliberate improving of a race. I don't recall Moreau espousing any religious views; instead, he's the epitome of the amoral scientist. Moreau is vivisecting because he can, and because he wants his peers to recognise his talents. He doesn't even consider the feelings or future of his creations.

    As for the actual future of the animals? I refer back to my answer to Q1: this is apologia for colonialism and a justification of the white man's burden.

    I don't know the detail of late-Victorian attitudes to evolution. I think some accepted it, some rejected it. I don't know what the proportions were.

    A thought that popped into my head while writing this: is Jurassic Park an adaptation of The Island of Dr Moreau? Amoral scientists, engineered animals, unexpected intelligence: there are many factors in common.

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    I realized quickly that Moreau was a sadistic sociopath, Montgomery was a pathetic ineffectual turd, and Prendick was an exploitative false ally, looking for a Brunei to rule. Fortunately the animals were not 'uplifted', and soon reverted to their usual selves. I kept thinking of the lion that was fed tofu in Futurama... (cough)

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    I was reading that people at the time believed that species could somehow climb or descend the evolutionary scale, and that this was what Wells was riffing off. The moral here seems to be that people are little better than animals, but that God (the firmament) can elevate. My take - not having made a study of Wells like Clash - is that he believed that natured revealed God, and the study of nature could bring one toward God. Moreau, on the other hand, has gone too far in trying to achieve god-like status.

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    @Apocryphal said:
    I was reading that people at the time believed that species could somehow climb or descend the evolutionary scale, and that this was what Wells was riffing off. The moral here seems to be that people are little better than animals, but that God (the firmament) can elevate. My take - not having made a study of Wells like Clash - is that he believed that natured revealed God, and the study of nature could bring one toward God. Moreau, on the other hand, has gone too far in trying to achieve god-like status.

    I think that is not a bad stab! ;)

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    The notion that there's a "direction" of evolution and that organisms are progressing upwards towards a higher state is one that's rejected by modern biology. Instead, organisms evolve to become more suitable for their environment, which may require the loss of features or less specialised forms.

    The "ascent" model is dangerous for another reason. It starts by saying that humans are "more highly evolved" and therefore better than animals. It's a short step to extend that logic and say that certain types of human are more highly evolved and therefore better than other humans.

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    Yes, that’s true. The new info hadn’t reached the writers of Star Trek, though, which had Jordie turn into a giant newt one episode and it turned out to be caused by something that advanced him evolutionarily along the line. Why they thought giant newt was the next step, or a logical consequence of long generations spent on starships, was never explained.
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