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‘Progress’ is another slippery term. Its basic meaning is to move forward, which implies improvement. However, taking this in its literal sense, one can walk forward into a bog, or over a cliff. To the Victorians, ‘progress’ meant that they were moving towards a more perfect world. Nowadays we are more sceptical, and we are aware that improvements can bring huge hazards as well as benefits.

Progress now takes its meaning from the advances of science and natural history which gradually led the people studying nature in the eighteenth century to realise that nature herself was on the move and not, as everyone had supposed, immutable. The scientist who finalised these discoveries and arranged them in his new theory of evolution was Charles Darwin, who ...

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