Biology as a Technology of Social Justice in Interwar Britain: Arguments from Evolutionary History, Heredity, and Human Diversity

Science, Technology, and Human Values 39 (4):561-586 (2014)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

In this article, I am concerned with the public engagements of Julian Huxley, Lancelot Hogben, and J. B. S. Haldane. I analyze how they used the new insights into the genetics of heredity to argue against any biological foundations for antidemocratic ideologies, be it Nazism, Stalinism, or the British laissez-faire and class system. The most striking fact—considering the abuse of biological knowledge they contested—is that these biologists presented genetics itself as inherently democratic. Arguing from genetics, they developed an understanding of diversity that cuts across divisions of race, class, or gender. Human diversity rightly understood was advantageous for societal progress. Huxley, Hogben, and Haldane did not hold identical political ideals, but they all argued for democratic reforms and increased planning geared toward greater social equality, and they did so under the label of scientific humanism. Huxley took issue with the notion that evolutionary history does not carry any moral lessons for human societies. Rather than being its antithesis, evolution was the basis of human sociality. In fact, the entire future progress of individuals and communities toward a democratic world order needed to be founded on the cosmic principles of evolution—a process that had to be guided by the biological expert with a strong sense of social responsibility.

Links

PhilArchive



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 92,038

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Evolutionary accounts of human behavioural diversity introduction.Gillian R. Brown, Thomas E. Dickins, Rebecca Sear & Kevin N. Laland - 2011 - Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 366 (156):313-324.
Evolution and the idea of social progress.Michael Ruse - 2010 - In Denis Alexander & Ronald L. Numbers (eds.), Biology and Ideology From Descartes to Dawkins. London: University of Chicago Press.
Racial discrimination: How not to do it.Adam Hochman - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences (3):278-286.
J. B. S. Haldane, Ernst Mayr and the Beanbag Genetics Dispute.Veena Rao & Vidyanand Nanjundiah - 2011 - Journal of the History of Biology 44 (2):233 - 281.
Last Judgment: The Visionary Biology of J. B. S. Haldane. [REVIEW]Mark B. Adams - 2000 - Journal of the History of Biology 33 (3):457 - 491.
Evolution and the social sciences.Robin I. M. Dunbar - 2007 - History of the Human Sciences 20 (2):29-50.
Ideas about heredity, genetics, and 'medical genetics' in Britain, 1900–1982.William Leeming - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 36 (3):538-558.
Biological explanations and social responsibility.Inmaculada de Melo-Martín - 2003 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 34 (2):345-358.
Race: A Social Destruction of a Biological Concept.Neven Sesardic - 2010 - Biology and Philosophy 25 (2):143-162.
The Temptations of Evolutionary Ethics.Paul Lawrence Farber - 1994 - University of California Press.

Analytics

Added to PP
2020-11-26

Downloads
7 (#1,388,675)

6 months
4 (#792,963)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

References found in this work

Evolution. — The Modern Synthesis.J. Huxley & T. H. Huxley - 1950 - Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia 6 (2):207-207.
The J. H. B. Bookshelf.Vassiliki Betty Smocovitis - 1998 - Journal of the History of Biology 31 (2):289-302.
Eugenics and society.Julian S. Huxley - 1936 - The Eugenics Review 28 (1):11.
Eugenics and the Left.Diane Paul - 1984 - Journal of the History of Ideas 45 (4):567.

View all 12 references / Add more references