Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in the War and Postwar Years: Questions and Comments

Journal of the History of Biology 21 (2):245 - 263 (1988)
Of all the scientists discussed by Mitman, Keller, and Taylor, Odum stands out most as the technocrat, the social engineer. But less obvious candidates, like Allee, also fancied themselves in this capacity: “Our task as biologists and as citizens of a civilized country, is a practical engineering job.” Allee had in mind the establishment of an international cooperative order based on his biological principles. He apparently did not recognize the extent to which his principles were themselves an engineering feat: he had already constructed a world in which eternal peace and order were possible.To an engineer in the traditional sense, the world is changeable, but not in all respects; there are constraints, and these constraints are taken very seriously. Scientists acting as engineers, in the traditional sense, must also pay attention to constraints. But scientists sometimes also take the option of engineering the very constraints, intellectually reconstructing the world so that it can (supposedly) be physically manipulated in the desired direction. There seems to be a lot of engineering, in the extended sense, going on in the very interesting stories that Mitman, Keller, and Taylor tell
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