Historical treatments of essentialism
Mary Winsor :
Actually, I suspect that many of us are allowing the spectre of modern creationism to bias our understanding of a pre-Darwinian creationist like Linnaeus. To a modern biologist who does not believe in God, Linnaeus's explicit piety has the effect of making the essentialism story seem plausible, but the link connecting these realms was the insight of a later generation. In 1857 Louis Agassiz, disturbed by the rising interest in evolution, argued in his "Essay on Classification" that the Creator had conceived each species in his divine intellect before giving it material existence (Winsor, 1991). He repeated these ideas after Darwin's revolutionary book appeared in 1859, and Agassiz remained adamant that the patterns recorded by taxonomists were direct evidence of God's thoughts. But all this was a century after Linnaeus. In Linnaeus's day the "requirements of Christian faith," contrary to Mayr's claim (1982: 259), did not forbid the possibility that the "kinds" mentioned in the Book of Genesis could have been at the taxonomists' rank of genus rather than species.