In 1914, James Leuba, a psychologist at Bryn Mawr, conducted several surveys of scientists and college students regarding their religious beliefs, publishing his findings in a 1916 book titled The Belief in God and Immortality. Among scientists generally, 41.8 percent indicated they were believers in a personal God (defined as a being to whom one could pray, expecting a response), whereas 41.5 percent expressed disbelief in such a God and 16.7 percent declared themselves to be agnostic. Among elite scientists (those (...) with an asterisk by their names in James McKean Cattell's American Men of Science), the percentage of believers was lower, at 31.6 percent. Among elite biologists, the subset who believed in God was even smaller—16.9 percent. In 1996 and 1998, Edward Larson and Larry Witham replicated Leuba's study, publishing their findings in the April 23, 1997, and July 23, 1998, issues of Nature. Their surveys revealed that of all scientists questioned, 39.3 percent professed belief in a personal God, about the same as in the 1914 study. However, among elite scientists—now defined as members of the National Academy of Sciences—the proportion who were believers had plummeted to 7 percent, with biologists showing the least religious conviction at 5.5 percent. In the general population of the United States, some 86 percent profess belief in the existence of a personal God, according to a 1999 Gallup poll. These figures dramatically indicate the great no-mans land separating the religious convictions of ordinary citizens from those of the scientific community, especially its leading members. This dissensus has fueled many of the bitter battles recently fought over evolution and stem cells and has ignited explosive devices laid along several political byways. (shrink)
From the beginning of his theorizing about species, Darwin had human beings in view. In the initial pages of his first transmutation notebook, he observed that “even mind & instinct become influenced” as the result of adaptation to new circumstances.1 Considering matters as a Lyellian geologist, he supposed that such adaptations would require many generations of young, pliable minds being exposed to a changing environment. Captain FitzRoy had attempted to “civilize” the Fuegian Jemmy Button by bringing him to London and (...) instructing him in the Christian religion; but back in South America, Button reverted to his old habits, demonstrating to Darwin that the “child of savage not civilized man”—transmutation of mind was not the work of a day.2 Darwin, though, had quickly become convinced that over long periods of time human mind, morals, and emotions had progressively developed out of animal origins. As he bluntly expressed it in his first transmutation notebook: “If all men were dead, monkeys make men.— Men make angels.”3 Presumably the transmutation of human beings into those higher creatures remained far in the future. (shrink)
If religion means a commitment to a set of theological propositions regarding the nature of God, the soul, and an afterlife, Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) was never a religious enthusiast. The influence of the great religious thinker Friedrich Daniel Schleiermacher (1768-1834) on his family kept religious observance decorous and commitment vague.2 The theologian had maintained that true religion lay deep in the heart, where the inner person experienced a feeling of absolute dependence. Dogmatic tenets, he argued, served merely as inadequate symbols (...) of this fundamental experience. Religious feeling, according to Schleiermacher’s Über die Religion (On religion, 1799), might best be cultivated by seeking after truth, experiencing beauty, and contemplating nature.3 Haeckel practiced this kind of Schleiermachian religion all of his life. Haeckel’s association with the Evangelical Church, even as a youth, had been conventional. The death of his first wife severed the loose threads still holding him to formal observance. The power of that death, his obsession with a life that might have been, and the dark feeling of love forever lost drove him to find a more enduring and rational sub-. (shrink)
Historians, the good ones, mark a century by intellectual and social boundaries rather than by the turn of the calendar page. Only through fortuitous accident might occasions of consequence occur at the very beginning of a century. Imaginative historians do tend, however, to invest a date like 1800 with powers that attract events of significance. It is thus both fortunate and condign that Abiology@ came to linguistic and conceptual birth with the new century. Precisely in 1800, Karl Friedrich Burdach, a (...) romantic naturalist, suggested that his coinage Biologie be used to indicate the study of human beings from a morphological, physiological, and psychological perspective.i Many other neologisms of the period (and Burdach issued quite a few) were stillborn or survived only for a short while. Biologie, though, fit the time, and with slight adjustment received its modern meaning two years later at the hands of the Naturphilosoph Gottfried Reinhold Treviranus. In his multi-volume treatise Biologie, oder Philosophie der lebenden Natur (1802-1822), Treviranus announced: AThe objects of our research will be the different forms and manifestations of life, the conditions and laws under which these phenomena occur, and the causes through which they have been effected. The science that concerns itself with these objects we will indicate by the name biology [Biologie] or the doctrine of life [Lebenslehre].@ii Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck, also in 1802, employed the term with comparable intention.iii In the work of both of these biologists, the word became immediately associated with the theory of the transmutation of speciesCa new term in recognition of the new laws of life. Treviranus thought the progressive deposition of fossils.. (shrink)
Just before Ernst Haeckel’s death in 1919, historians began piling on the faggots for a splendid auto-da-fé. Though more people prior to the Great War learned of Darwin’s theory through his efforts than through any other source, including Darwin himself, Haeckel has been accused of not preaching orthodox Darwinian doctrine. In 1916, E. S. Russell, judged Haeckel's principal theoretical work, Generelle Morphologie der Organismen, as "representative not so much of Darwinian as of pre-Darwinian thought."1 Both Stephen Jay Gould and (...) class='Hi'>Peter Bowler endorse this evaluation, and see as an index of Haeckel’s heterodox deviation his use of the biogenetic law that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.2 Michael Ruse, without much analysis, simply proclaims that “Haeckel and friends were not true Darwinians.”3 These historians locate the problem in Haeckel’s inclinations toward Naturphilosophie and in his adoption of the kind of Romantic attitudes characterizing the earlier biology of Goethe. These charges of heresy assume, of course, that Darwin’s own theory harbors no taint of Romanticism and that it consequently remains innocent of the doctrine of recapitulation. I think both assumptions quite.. (shrink)
Though Darwin had formulated his theory of evolution by natural selection by early fall of 1837, he did not publish it until 1859 in the Origin ofSpecies. Darwin thus delayed publicly revealing his theory for some twenty years, Why did he wait so long'? Initially this may not seem an important or interesting question, but many historians have so regarded it, They have developed a variety of historiographically different explanations. This essay considers these several explanations, though with a larger purpose (...) in mind: to suggest what makes for interesting problems in history of science and what kinds of historiographic models will best handle them.. (shrink)
In 1853, two decades after Goethe’s death, Hermann von Helmholtz, who had just become professor of anatomy at Königsberg, delivered an evaluation of the poet=s contributions to science.1 The young Helmholtz lamented Goethe=s stubborn rejection of Newton=s prism experiments. Goethe=s theory of light and color simply broke on the rocks of his poetic genius. The tragedy, though, was not repeated in biological science. In Helmholtz=s estimation, Goethe had advanced in this area two singular and “uncommonly fruitful” ideas.2 The poet (...) recognized, first, that the anatomical structures of various kinds of animals revealed a unity type underlying the superficial differences arising from variability of food, habit, and locality. His second lasting achievement was the related theory of the metamorphosis of organisms: the thesis that the various articulations within an organism developed out of a more basic kind of structure—that, for instance, the different parts of plants were metamorphosed leaves or that the various bones of the animal skull were but transformed vertebrae. These two general morphological conceptions, according to Helmholtz, grounded the biology flourishing at 1 mid-century. Goethe came to these ideas, Helmholtz shrewdly maintained, as the result of a poetically intuitive conception (anschauliche Begriffe).3 He described, for instance, Goethe=s immediate recognition, while playfully tossing around a sheep=s skull on the Lido in Venice, that the fused bones of the battered cranium consisted of transmuted vertebrae. This experience resulted in the poet=s vertebral theory of the skull, which became a standard conception in later morphology.4 Poetic intuition thus liberated an idea initially embedded in matter and made it available to the analytic understanding of the scientist. Forty years later, in 1892, at the meeting of the Goethe Society in Weimar, Helmholtz returned to reexamine the poet=s scientific accomplishments, and, it would seem, implicitly his own; for by the end of his career, Helmholtz himself had achieved a position in German culture only a few steps below that of Goethe.5 His evaluation of Goethe=s achievements in physical science was now more complex than his earlier assessment had been.. (shrink)
In a late reminiscence, Goethe recalled that during his close association with the poet Friedrich Schiller, he was constantly defending “the rights of nature" against his friend's “gospel of freedom.”1 Goethe’s characterization of his own view was artfully ironic, alluding as it did to the French Revolution's proclamation of the "Rights of Man." His remark implied that values lay within nature, values that had authority comparable to those ascribed to human beings by the architects of the Revolution. During the time (...) Goethe made his defense, he also faced another revolution, in which Schiller was a partisan—that of Kant in the intellectual sphere. Both upheavals had undermined the autonomy of nature, replacing her authority with that of human will and understanding. Previous papers in this volume have recorded the shifting fortunes of nature that brought her to this stage of jeopardy. In the early classical period, nature as a unified whole had not yet arisen. Animate and inanimate objects had natures— characteristic modes of action—but there was as yet, according Slatkin, no articulate concept of nature as a whole standing over against human beings. Park has described a long period of transition, when nature became personified in the form of a didactic female, a figure imaginatively based, it would seem, upon the system of a 1 natural philosophy (philosophia naturalis) that stood in contrast to the revealed wisdom of God. Nature in this guise yet derived her authority and nurturing capacity from that higher, divine power. During the seventeenth century, writers like Mandeville, as Allen has shown, began to suspect that nature might be a chimera, a fictive creature that disguised humanity's own hidden desires and inclinations. These doubts grew during the next century—with the likes of Hume accelerating the skepticism—till finally, in the two revolutions that so troubled Goethe, nature was completely stripped of her authority. Goethe had become confirmed in his defense of the rights of nature during his travels to Italy during the years 1786-1788.. (shrink)
In late winter of 1864, Charles Darwin received two folio volumes on radiolarians, a group of one-celled marine organisms that secreted siliceous skeletons of unusual geometry. The author, the young German biologist Ernst Haeckel (fig. 1), had himself drawn the figures for the extraordinary copper-etched illustrations that filled the second volume.1 The gothic beauty of the plates astonished Darwin (fig. 2 ), but he must also have been drawn to passages that applied his theory to construct the descent relations of (...) these little known creatures. He replied to Haeckel that the volumes "were the most magnificent works which I have ever seen, & I am proud to possess a copy from the author."2 Emboldened by his own initiative in contacting the famous naturalist, Haeckel, a few days later, sent Darwin a newspaper clipping that described a meeting of the Society of German Naturalists and Physicians at Stettin, which occurred during the previous autumn. The article gave an extended and laudatory account of Haeckel's lecture defending Darwin's theory.3 Darwin immediately replied in his second letter: "I.. (shrink)
When Charles Darwin (1859, 482) wrote in the Origin of Species that he looked to the “young and rising naturalists” to heed the message of his book, he likely had in mind individuals like Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919), who responded warmly to the invitation (Haeckel, 1862, 1: 231-32n). Haeckel became part of the vanguard of young scientists who plowed through the yielding turf to plant the seed of Darwinism deep into the intellectual soil of Germany. As Haeckel would later observe, the (...) seed flourished in extremely favorable ground. The German mind, he would write (1868), was predisposed to adopt the new theory. The great philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724- 1804), for instance, was on the verge of accepting a transmutational view in his Third Critique (1790; 1957, 538-39), though he stepped gingerly back from the temptation. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), about the same time, dallied with transmutational ideas, at least Haeckel would convince Darwin that the Englishman had an illustrious predecessor. Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck’s (1744-1829) conceptions had taken hold among several major German thinkers in the first few decades of the nineteenth century in a way they had not in England and France. Among those ready to declare themselves for the new dispensation was Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902), Haeckel’s teacher at Würzburg—though, this very political scientist would prove Haeckel’s nemesis later in the century. So Haeckel’s estimate of the ripeness of German thought was not off the mark. Darwinism took hold in the newly unified land, though not without some struggle; but at last it became the dominant view in the biological sciences. But with its success did it foster the malign racist ideology that transfixed Adolf Hitler (1889-1945)? (shrink)
Many revolutionary proposals entered the biological disciplines during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, theories that provided the foundations for today’s science and gave structure to its various branches. Cell theory, evolutionary theory, and genetics achieved their modern form during this earlier time. The period also saw a variety of new, auxiliary hypotheses that supplied necessary supports for the more comprehensive theories. These included ideas in morphology, embryology, systematics, language, and behavior. These scientific developments forced a reconceptualization of nature and (...) the place of human beings therein. The legacy for the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has been a materialization and mechanization of the most fundamental processes of life. From our current perspective, it’s easy to look back and assume that the foundational ideas of our contemporary science must have had the same character as they now seem to manifest. I think a closer inspection of biological science of this earlier period will reveal a discipline whose philosophic assumptions are quite different from those of its present incarnation. This becomes especially vivid when 1 we focus on the contributions of German Idealism and Romanticism to the biology of the earlier dispensation. (shrink)
Quite early in the construction of his theory, Darwin realized that he had to explain the distinctive features of the human animal to forestall the return of the Creator. For most British intellectuals, what distinguished man from animals was not reason, an operation in which faint sensory images followed the rules of association, but moral judgment. Thus, shortly after he first formulated the principle of natural selection in the fall of 1838, Darwin began a decades-long struggle to bring human moral (...) judgment under his advancing theory. The fruition of that work came in Descent of Man, where two long chapters are devoted to an evolutionary understanding of moral behavior in man and its antecedents in animals. Since that time, numerous efforts have been made by biologists, psychologists, and philosophers to fol-. (shrink)
Our image of Herbert Spencer is that of a bald, dyspeptic bachelor, spending his days in rooming houses, and fussing about government interference with individual liberties. Beatrice Webb, who knew him as a girl and young woman recalls for us just this picture. In her diary for January 4, 1885, she writes: Royal Academy private view with Herbert Spencer. His criticisms on art dreary, all bound down by the “possible” if not probable. That poor old man would miss (...) me on the whole more than any other mortal. Has real anxiety for my welfare—physical and mental. Told him story of my stopping cart horse in Hyde Park and policeman refusing to come off his beat to hold it. Want of public spirit in passers-by not stopping it before. “Yes, that is another instance of my first principle of government. Directly you get state intervention you cease to have public spirit in individuals; that will be a constantly increasing tendency and the State, like the policeman, will be so bound by red-tape rules that it will frequently leave undone the simplest duties.”1 Spencer appears a man whose strangled emotions would yet cling to a woman whose philosophy would be completely alien to his own, as Webb’s Fabian Socialism turned out to be. Our image of Darwin is more complex than our image of Spencer. We might think of him nestled in the bosom of his large family, kindly, and just a little sad. The photo of him taken by Julia Cameron reveals the visage of an Old Testament prophet, though one, not fearsome, but made wise by contemplating the struggle of life on this earth. These images have deeply colored our reaction to the ideas of each thinker. The pictures are not false, but they are cropped portraits that tend to distort our reactions to the theories of each. If we examine the major features of their respective.. (shrink)
Several scholars and many religiously conservative thinkers have recently charged that Hitler’s ideas about race and racial struggle derived from the theories of Charles Darwin (1809-1882), either directly or through intermediate sources. So, for example, the historian Richard Weikart, in his book From Darwin to Hitler , maintains: “No matter how crooked the road was from Darwin to Hitler, clearly Darwinism and eugenics smoothed the path for Nazi ideology, especially for the Nazi stress on expansion, war, racial struggle, and racial (...) extermination.” In a subsequent book, Hitler’s Ethic: The Nazi Pursuit of Evolutionary Progress, Weikart argues that Darwin’s “evolutionary ethics drove him [Hitler] to engage in behavior that the rest of us consider abominable.” Other critics have also attempted to forge a strong link between Darwin’s theory and Hitler’s biological notions. In the 2008 film “Expelled,” a documentary defense of Intelligent Design, the Princeton trained philosopher David Berlinski, in conversation with Weikart, confidently asserts: “If you open Mein Kampf and read it, especially if you can read it in German, the correspondence between Darwinian ideas and Nazi ideas just leaps from the page.” John Gray, former professor at the London School of Economics, does allow that Hitler’s Darwinism was “vulgar.” Hannah Arendt also appears to have endorsed the connection when she declared: “Underlying the Nazis’ belief in race laws as the expression of the law of nature in man, is Darwin’s idea of man as the product of a natural development which does not necessarily stop with the present species of human being.” Put “Darwin” and “Hitler” in a search engine and several million hits will be returned, most from religiously and politically conservative websites, articles, and books. (shrink)
Scholars have usually given Darwin’s theory a neo-Darwinian interpretation. A more careful examination of the language of Darwin’s notebooks and the language of the Origin of Species indicates that he reconstructed nature with a definite purpose: the final goal of man as a moral creature. In the aftermath of the Origin, Darwin, however, became more circumspect.
Who can divine the intentions of the human heart, the motives that guide behavior? Some of the reasons for our actions lie on the surface of consciousness, whereas others are more deeply embedded in the recesses of the mind. Recovering motives and intentions is a principal job of the historian. For without some attribution of mental attitudes, actions cannot be characterized and decisions assessed. The same overt behavior, after all, might be described as “mailing a letter” or “fomenting a revolution.” (...) The recovery of intentions is crucial for the historian’s narrative. (shrink)
In a series of articles and in a recent book, What Darwin Got Wrong, Jerry Fodor has objected to Darwin’s principle of natural selection on the grounds that it assumes nature has intentions.1 Despite the near universal rejection of Fodor’s argument by biologists and philosophers of biology (myself included),2 I now believe he was almost right. I will show this through a historical examination of a principle that Darwin thought as important as natural selection, his principle of divergence. The principle (...) was designed to explain a phenomenon obvious to any observer of nature, namely, that animals and plants form a hierarchy of clusters. Theodosius Dobzhansky made this the motivating observation of his great synthesizing work, Genetics and the Origin of Species (1937): “the living world is not a single array of individuals in which any two variants are connected by a series of intergrades, but an array of more or less distinctly separate arrays, intermediates between which are absent or at least rare. . . Small.. (shrink)
Through the last half of the nineteenth century and the ﬁrst part of the twentieth, no scientist more vigorously defended Darwinian theory than the German Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919). More people learned of the new ideas through his voluminous publications, translated into numerous languages, than through any other source, including Darwin’s own writings. He enraged many of his contemporaries, especially among the religiously orthodox; and the enmity between evolutionary theory and religious fundamentalism that still burns brightly today may in large measure (...) be attributed to Haeckel’s unremitting attacks on the ingressions of religion into science. Though he retained a life-long friendship with and the support of Darwin, some in the scientiﬁc community who were critical of evolutionary theory—Emil Du Bois-Reymond, Rudolf Virchow, and Louis Agassiz, for instance—accused him of deception. That charge has been renewed in our time based on seemingly incontrovertible evidence. In a Science magazine article published in 1997, ‘‘Haeckel’s Embryos: Fraud Rediscovered,’’ Haeckel, was indicted of having intentionally misrepresented embryological development (Pennisi 1997). The article reported that the work of Michael Richardson and his colleagues demonstrated this malfeasance through a comparison of Haeckel’s illustrations of early-stage embryos with photographs of the same species at a comparable stage (see Fig. 1). The photos showed embryos of various species that differed among themselves and certainly from Haeckel’s images. The differences were striking and the implication obvious: fraudulent misrepresentation. Richardson, as quoted in the article, afﬁrmed the charge: ‘‘It looks like it’s turning out to be one of the most famous fakes in biology’’. (shrink)
The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin is universally recognized as one of the most important science books ever written. Published in 1859, it was here that Darwin argued for both the fact of evolution and the mechanism of natural section. The Origin of Species is also a work of great cultural and religious significance, in that Darwin maintained that all organisms, including humans, are part of a natural process of growth from simple forms. This Companion commemorates the 150th anniversary (...) of the publication of the Origin of Species and examines its main arguments. Drawing on the expertise of leading authorities in the field, it also provides the contexts - religious, social, political, literary, and philosophical - in which the Origin was composed. Written in a clear and friendly yet authoritative manner, this volume will be essential reading for both scholars and students More broadly, it will appeal to general readers who want to learn more about one of the most important and controversial books of modern times. (shrink)
Our image of Darwin is hardly that of a German metaphysician. By reason of his intellectual tradition—that of British empiricism—and psychological disposition, he was a man of apparently more stolid character, one who could be excited by beetles and earthworms but not, we assume, by abstruse philosophy. Yet Darwin constructed a theory of evolution whose conceptual grammar expresses and depends on a certain kind of metaphysics. During his youthful period as a romantic adventurer, he sailed to exotic lands and returned (...) to construct a theory that attacked the citadels of orthodoxy. In the long process of theory construction, he explored diﬃcult philosophical questions—for instance, the nature of reason and the mind-body problem. Moreover, he founded that theory.. (shrink)
The eminent historian and philosopher of biology, Michael Ruse, has written several books that explore the relationship of evolutionary theory to its larger scientific and cultural setting. Among the questions he has investigated are: Is evolution progressive? What is its epistemological status? Most recently, in "Darwin and Design: Does Evolution have a Purpose?," Ruse has provided a history of the concept of teleology in biological thinking, especially in evolutionary theorizing. In his book, he moves quickly from Plato and Aristotle to (...) Kant and such British thinkers as Paley and Whewell. His main focus, though, is on Darwin's theory and its subsequent fate. Ruse rests his history on some shaky historical and philosophic assumptions, particularly the unexamined notion that evolutionary theory is an abstract entity that is unproblematically realized in different historical periods. He also assumes that Darwin conceived nature as if it were a Manchester spinning loom -- a clanking, dispassionate machine. A more subtle analysis, which Ruse eschews, might discover that Darwin's conception of nature owed a strong debt to German Romanticism and that he contrived to infuse nature with moral and aesthetic values, not to suck them from nature. Ruse proves he is a thinker to contend with, and this essay is quite contentious. (shrink)
discipline a general science of our "intellectual faculties, their principal phenomena, and the more remarkable circumstances of their activities" (1801, p. 4). Convinced of the sensationalist epistemology of Locke and Condillac, Destutt de Tracy believed one could resolve all ideas into the sensations that produced them and thereby test their soundness. The sensationalist assumptions of his project led him to propose that "ideology is a part of zoology" (1801, p. 1), and he consequently paid close attention to the way physiological..
History of science and philosophy of science are not perfectly complementary disciplines. Several important asymmetries govern their relationship. These asymmetries, concerning levels of analysis, evidence, theories, writing, and training show that to be a decent philosopher of science is more difficult than being a decent historian. But to be a good historian-well, the degree of difficulty is reversed.
While strolling the streets of Amsterdam, Sidney Smith, the renowned editor of the Edinburgh Review, called the attention of his companion to two Dutch housewives who were leaning out of their windows and arguing with one another across the narrow alley that separated their houses. Smith remarked to his companion that the two women would never agree. His friend thought the seasoned editor had in mind the stubborn Dutch character. No, said Smith. Rather it was because they were arguing from (...) different premises. In recent articles, Stephen Ball (1988) and Bart Voorzanger (1987) have objected strongly to my defense of evolutionary ethics. In their reconstruction of my arguments, however, they have assigned to me premises different from those upon which my original defense stood. Their objections may demolish the arguments they have reconstructed, but fortunately my theory does not reside thereon. They have made Dutch objections. (shrink)
Though I have not found enough of the latter to test out this bromide, I am sensible of the value bestowed by colleagues who have taken such exacting care in analyzing my arguments. While their incisive observation and hard objections threaten to leave an extinct theory, I hope the reader will rather judge it one strengthened by adversity. Let me initially expose the heart of my argument so as to make obvious the shocks it must endure. I ask the reader (...) to grant that altruistic behavior can be empirically justified, that is, to allow that we have evolved under the aegis of kin and group selection (or comparably effective mechanisms) to heed the community welfare, to be moved to aid the distressed even at.. (shrink)
Though not the first to use the term "psychology" (psychologia), ' Christian Wolff did give it currency in the mid-eighteenth century. He was the first to mark off the discipline of empirical psychology and to distinguish it from rational, or theoretical, psychology. This distinction and his conception of the two corresponding methods of conducting psychological inquiry, especially his emphasis on the use of introspection, profoundly inffuenced the course of psychological..