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Was Hitler a Darwinian?: Disputed Questions in the History of Evolutionary Theoryby Robert J. Richards
Synopses & Reviews
Historians of science have long noted the influence of the nineteenth-century political economist Thomas Robert Malthus on Charles Darwin. In a bold move, Piers J. Hale contends that this focus on Malthus and his effect on Darwinand#8217;s evolutionary thought neglects a strong anti-Malthusian tradition in English intellectual life, one that not only predated the 1859 publication of the Origin of Species but also persisted throughout the Victorian period until World War I. Political Descent reveals that two evolutionary and political traditions developed in England in the wake of the 1832 Reform Act: one Malthusian, the other decidedly anti-Malthusian and owing much to the ideas of the French naturalist Jean Baptiste Lamarck. and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;
These two traditions, Hale shows, developed in a context of mutual hostility, debate, and refutation. Participants disagreed not only about evolutionary processes but also on broader questions regarding the kind of creature our evolution had made us and in what kind of society we ought therefore to live. Significantly, and in spite of Darwinand#8217;s acknowledgement that natural selection was and#147;the doctrine of Malthus, applied to the whole animal and vegetable kingdoms,and#8221; both sides of the debate claimed to be the more correctly and#147;Darwinian.and#8221; By exploring the full spectrum of scientific and political issues at stake, Political Descent offers a novel approach to the relationship between evolution and political thought in the Victorian and Edwardian eras.
Reading the sixth edition of Thomas Robert Malthusand#8217;s Essay on the Principle of Population famously led Charles Darwin to arrive at his theory of natural selection, for many have studied what Darwin took from Malthus and the influence of political economy on the theory of natural selection. In a bold move, Piers J. Hale contends that this focus on Malthus and his effect on Darwinand#8217;s evolutionary thought has neglected a strong anti-Malthusian tradition in English intellectual life, one that not only predated the 1859 publication of the Origin of Species but which persisted throughout the Victorian period at least until the First World War. Political Descent reveals that there were two evolutionary and political traditions that developed in tandem in England: the one Malthusian, the other decidedly anti-Malthusian and owing much to the transmutationist ideas of the French naturalist Jean Baptiste Lamarck. The split mirrored the rift in English radicalism that followed in the wake of the 1832 Reform Act. These two traditions developed in a context of mutual hostility, debate, and refutation.and#160;
In tracing the history of Darwinandrsquo;s accomplishment and the trajectory of evolutionary theory during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, most scholars agree that Darwin introduced blind mechanism into biology, thus banishing moral values from the understanding of nature. According to the standard interpretation, the principle of survival of the fittest has rendered human behavior, including moral behavior, ultimately selfish. Few doubt that Darwinian theory, especially as construed by the masterandrsquo;s German disciple, Ernst Haeckel, inspired Hitler and led to Nazi atrocities.
and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;In this collection of essays, Robert J. Richards argues that this orthodox view is wrongheaded. A close historical examination reveals that Darwin, in more traditional fashion, constructed nature with a moral spine and provided it with a goal: man as a moral creature. The book takes up many other topicsandmdash;including the character of Darwinandrsquo;s chief principles of natural selection and divergence, his dispute with Alfred Russel Wallace over manandrsquo;s big brain, the role of language in human development, his relationship to Herbert Spencer, how much his views had in common with Haeckelandrsquo;s, and the general problem of progress in evolution. Moreover, Richards takes a forceful stand on the timely issue of whether Darwin is to blame for Hitlerandrsquo;s atrocities. Was Hitler a Darwinian? is intellectual history at its boldest.
About the Author
Robert J. Richards is the Morris Fishbein Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Science and Medicine; professor in the Departments of History, Philosophy, and Psychology and in the Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science; and director of the Fishbein Center for the History of Science and Medicine, all at the University of Chicago. He is the author of numerous books, including, most recently, The Tragic Sense of Life, also published by the University of Chicago Press. He lives in Chicago.
Table of Contents
1 and#149; Introduction
2 and#149; Darwinand#8217;s Theory of Natural Selection and Its Moral Purpose
Appendix 1 The Logic of Darwinand#8217;s Long Argument
Appendix 2 The Historical Ontology and Location of Scientific Theories
3 and#149; Darwinand#8217;s Principle of Divergence: Why Fodor Was Almost Right
4 and#149; Darwinand#8217;s Romantic Quest: Mind, Morals, and Emotions
Appendix Assessment of Darwinand#8217;s Moral Theory
5 and#149; The Relation of Spencerand#8217;s Evolutionary Theory to Darwinand#8217;s
6 and#149; Ernst Haeckeland#8217;s Scientific and Artistic Struggles
7 and#149; Haeckeland#8217;s Embryos: Fraud Not Proven
8 and#149; The Linguistic Creation of Man: August Schleicher and the Missing Link in Darwinian Theory
9 and#149; Was Hitler a Darwinian?
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