The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading)

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In The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals Charles Darwin argued that emotions put forward by facial expressions were the products of natural selection. He compared modern facial expressions in various people and found the same basic movements regardless of the person's ethnic or cultural background. He also compared human and animal expression and found many startling similarities. He thought facial expression was not a learned behavior but somehow innate. This condition could only be explained by ...
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The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading)

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Overview

In The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals Charles Darwin argued that emotions put forward by facial expressions were the products of natural selection. He compared modern facial expressions in various people and found the same basic movements regardless of the person's ethnic or cultural background. He also compared human and animal expression and found many startling similarities. He thought facial expression was not a learned behavior but somehow innate. This condition could only be explained by common descent, which was a rather radical idea for the time.<%END%>
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Product Details

Introduction

Speculating as to whether smiles, frowns, and other facial expressions humans make are learned behavior or biological and whether culture and ethnicity play a role, naturalist Charles Darwin began questioning the origins of human facial expressions and their connections to emotions in the early 1870s. Darwin wondered whether these most human of actions were the result of the same evolutionary forces that he believed had shaped the rest of our human selves. He conducted a series of observations of many different types of people-including his own children-as well as observations of animals. He wanted to know if their expressions were as unique as the individual having them or if they were universal. He also wanted to know if animals had genuine facial expressions and if they were similar to those of humans. It was one more bold work by a man whose entire career was a bold work devoted to explaining the nature of life.

Few names conjure up as much reaction as that of Charles Darwin: it brings to mind images of monkeys turned to men, of a universe unguided by any divine hand, and a view of life that is always changing. Few individuals have left an imprint on the world as he, or rather his ideas, have. The father of modern evolutionary thought, Darwin showed the world a new way to explain the origins and workings of living things, including humans. His ideas were also used to show-though it was never his intention that they would-that not only do living things change, but so do non-living ones. The evolutionary concept has been applied to fields outside biology and natural history, and it is now common to read of the evolution of music, hairstyles, and machines. Darwin (1809-1882) provided a way to explain that all life, culture, and even thought itself was fluid and changed over time whether we like it or not. For this insight he was and is both praised and reviled.

There is much controversy over what is sometimes referred to as Darwin's "dangerous" idea. Most of this comes from people not really understanding what Darwin was talking about. There are also a number of myths attributed to Darwin: that he "invented" evolution; that he hated God; that he renounced Christianity; that he said humans descended from monkeys; or that on his deathbed he renounced belief in evolution. None of these are correct. He is blamed for the notion of social Darwinism-the idea that the strong should conquer the weak-even though he hated his name being associated with a worldview he renounced. Outside of scientific circles his work is often referred to but rarely understood.

Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England, to Robert and Susannah Darwin. He came from a long line of medical doctors, including his grandfather Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802), who wrote Zoonomia, one of the first books to propose a form of evolutionary mechanics. Thus it was expected that Charles would follow the other Darwin men into medical school. He went to Scotland and entered Edinburgh University to earn his medical degree, but soon dropped out because he could not cope with human dissections or even the sight of blood. He returned to England and entered Christ Church College, Cambridge University, to study for the Anglican ministry. This was a good change for him because, while interested in theology, his real love was natural history. Darwin thought that as a minister assigned to some quiet country parish he could spend most of his time collecting bugs and rocks and skeletons and flowers: a life that would make him happy. He took classes in zoology, geology, and especially botany, at which he excelled. Darwin did so well that just before he graduated he was offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sail aboard the HMS Beagle as ship's naturalist on an expedition to study the geology, flora, and fauna of South America. At that time, the British Empire was routinely sending out research vessels to map and explore various parts of the world and bring that data back home.

The trip aboard the Beagle, a small partially converted warship, lasted from 1831 to 1836. On the journey, recounted in The Voyage of the Beagle (1839), Darwin experienced things few naturalists back in England ever had: he saw exotic plants and animals, he lived through an earthquake, he collected fossils and many different specimens. Darwin saw many sights that amazed and delighted him; he also saw darker aspects of the human condition that revolted him. He saw for the first time the effects of the slave trade and became an abolitionist. He saw cruelties done in the name of religion. He saw things that opened his mind and changed his view of the world.

Upon his return home-to a hero's welcome-Darwin settled down to the life of a naturalist. He published a number of books on his travels and the material he had collected. Underneath it all, however, an idea was growing. He had come to the conclusion that living things did transmute, or evolve, from one form into another. He wrote it all down, but did not publish it for fear of ridicule. In 1859, spurred on by colleagues and the work of a young English naturalist named Alfred Russel Wallace, he published The Origin of Species. The publication of this book caused a furor that continues to this day. Many loved it, others hated it. Darwin argued that evidence from nature and the artificial breeding of animals done by humans showed that living things evolved according to a process he called natural selection. Darwin said all life on earth was the result of a slow, incremental, and natural process, not the sudden supernatural creation in which most people then believed.

Readers see the focus of Darwin's work as the idea that living things evolve from other living things. While this is generally correct, Darwin had other things in mind as well. The crux of Darwin's work on humans was to show not just that they had evolved, but that humans were not beings apart from the rest of nature-they were part of it. He wanted to show that humans were animals like any other and followed the same rules of behavior. Theologians and naturalists alike, even those who accepted evolution, believed that humans were special and separate from the rest of the natural world. Darwin attempted to disprove this notion, and he published a pair of books specifically on this topic. In 1871, he wrote The Descent of Man and argued that there was considerable evidence to show that humans were part of the animal kingdom and had been created according to the same natural laws that had produced all other life on earth. Darwin had been inspired to write this work in part by Man's Place in Nature (1863) written by his friend Thomas Henry Huxley. In his book, Huxley compared human and primate anatomy to show how similar they were and to demonstrate that this similarity was the result of evolution and a common descent of the two groups. In The Descent of Man Darwin argued that not only were human bodies the result of evolution, but human behavior was as well. For example, when people dress or act a certain way in order to attract a mate they are doing the same thing and for the same reason that brightly colored birds perform for one another. Darwin said that human behavior, like that of other animals, was a result of natural selection. He also saw morality as a product of evolution: if humans behave in a moral way toward one another, the species will prosper and procreate. Most provocative of all, he argued that belief in God was a result of an increase in the human intellect and reason.

To further his thesis that humans are part of the natural world, Darwin published The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872). In this, one of his most underrated works, Darwin argued that facial expressions in humans were complex outward forms of internal emotions performed by intricate musculature which was the result of evolutionary processes. The emotions put forward by facial expressions were themselves the products of natural selection. He compared modern facial expressions in various people and found the same basic movements regardless of the person's ethnic or cultural background. He also compared human and animal expression and found many startling similarities. He thought facial expression was not a learned behavior but somehow innate. This condition could only be explained by common descent. This was a rather radical idea for the time and further broke down the wall separating humans and the rest of life on earth.

Earlier work had been done on this topic-particularly by Sir Charles Bell-that argued that the specialness of humans was proved by the way they and animals made facial expressions. Animals, it was believed, did not make facial gestures the way humans did. Most researchers argued that facial expression was a complex and unique form of visual communication peculiar to humans and not other animals. Darwin showed that human and animal facial expressions were very similar in both mechanics and intent and that they were the result of long periods of evolutionary forces. Even the underlying emotional engine that drove facial expression was itself an evolutionary product. While the combination of emotion and facial expression allowed for creatures-both human and animal-to communicate with other members of their species in efficient ways that allowed for greater social cohesion and thus species survival, Darwin was more interested in how and when these emotions and facial gestures were employed. He spent a great deal of time connecting specific facial movements and tics with the corresponding emotion and then how other humans recognized the meaning of those movements. He also believed that facial expression and emotions were consistent throughout the human species regardless of ethnic background, language construction, or geographic distribution. He then showed that many animals used similar facial expressions in the same way humans did. At the time, it was commonly held that all of human nature was learned and that expression varied from culture to culture. Today, sociologists have begun to realize that Darwin may have been correct: that there is a level of universal meaning to human and animal facial expression and emotion and that human character is a combination of learned and biological behavior.

The writings of Charles Darwin have been controversial from the moment they were first published. It should not be surprising that his work caused such a furor since he questioned the very foundations of life on earth-where life came from, how it got here, the reality of the Divine. His work has also undergone an evolution of its own. By the twentieth century, advances in genetics, molecular biology, and biochemistry have given deeper insight than was available to Darwin. The synthesis of classical natural selection and these new modern disciplines have resulted in the appearance of Neo-Darwinism. It also showed just how right Darwin was all along.

Who we are and where we come from and why we do the things we do will always be controversial. Science provides facts and evidence to consider, observe, and test while theology and superstition offer only blind belief. The conflict between these two world views, while intense at times, is something which helps push our knowledge of the universe forward and makes life and its discoveries so fascinating.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 16 of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2004

    THIS BOOK MUST BE READ

    Amazing, incredibly insightful treaty of animal emotion. Let doubters beware...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2013

    Cant read

    Strange characters and letters cAnt read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2011

    I havnt read it

    I must ask will this mabye help me to understand body language and the human mind?

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted January 18, 2010

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