The Search for Purpose in a Post-Darwinian Universe: George Bernard Shaw, 'Creative Evolution', and Shavian Eugenics: 'The Dark Side of the Force'

The Irish playwright and socialist George Bernard Shaw has been of marginal concern for historians of biology because his vitalist Lamarckism has been viewed as out of step with contemporary science. However, Julian Huxley and J.B.S. Haldane were certainly of the opinion that Shaw was a man of influence in this regard and took pains to counter his views in their own attempts to engage the public in science. Previously, Shaw's colleague and friend H.G. Wells had also agued with Shaw from his own mechanistic neo-Darwinian perspective. The very public debate between Shaw and Wells, which continued to concern Huxley and Haldane, shows that public concern over the moral implications of Darwinism has a long history. Taking into account the opinions of John Maynard Smith on this matter, I suggest that a consideration of Shaw in this context can give us an understanding of the historical popularity of vitalist teleology as well as of the persistent ambivalence to the non-normative character of Darwinism
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