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The changing faces of Charles Darwin
on 12 October 2010
I was made aware of this book by a very entertaining seminar on human expression and FACS coding. As a biologist of course I had to buy this less well known book by Darwin.
As always, Darwin takes great care as he works his way through the origins and recognition of emotions in both man and animals. He tries to explain how they might have evolved. Darwin uses a wealth of references to back his ideas. Modern readers can find Victorian writers a bit heavy in the way they write but this is an enjoyable book if you read it in stages (as I am still doing!)
Perhaps one of the most interesting facts was Darwin's belief in the "inheritance of acquired characteristics", as proposed by Lamarck. Darwin could see nothing wrong with the idea that expressions in frequent use become acquired. It made me, as a biologist, aware that Darwin was a man of his time. We must not forget that there was no physical explanation at the time about how natural selection works on genes that are transferred to offspring. Darwin was unaware of Mendel's work, for example.
Darwin's work on the expression of emotions fell into disfavour in the 20th Century. The balance of scientific opinion swung towards a belief that cultural factors were more important. Now the pendulum is swinging the other way. It is therefore a pleasure to find that many of Darwin's findings are being rediscovered and confirmed in new research.
The book includes comments by Paul Ekman. Paul is a modern expert, researcher and teacher in facial expression. This is great for the reader, who can then see how Darwin's work fits in with modern opinion. I should add that science is still actively debating the expression of emotions to this day!
An thoughtful book which is a great addition to your bookshelf.