This chapter presents a historical analysis of pseudoscience, tracking down the coinage and currency of the term and explaining its shifting meaning in tandem with the emerging historical identity of science. The discussions cover the invention of pseudoscience; science and pseudoscience in the late nineteenth century; pseudoscience in the new century; and pseudoscience and its critics in the late twentieth century.
Charles Darwin's Origin of Species, published in 1859, was a revolutionary attempt “to overthrow the dogma of separate creations,” a declaration that provoked different reactions among the religious, ranging from mild enthusiasm to anger. Christians sympathetic to Darwin's effort sought to make Darwinism appear compatible with their religious beliefs. Two of Darwin's most prominent defenders in the United States were the Calvinists Asa Gray, a Harvard botanist, and George Frederick Wright, a cleric-geologist. Gray, who long favored a “special origination” in (...) connection with the evolution of humans and questioned whether natural selection can account for the formation of organs, the making of eyes, etc., embraced natural selection as the primary mechanism underlying the production of most species. He also went so far as to invoke divine providence, rather than randomness, to explain the variations on which natural selection acted. This chapter discusses creationism, intelligent design, and modern biology. (shrink)
Historians of modern medicine often divide their subject into two parts, separated by the bacteriological revolution of the late nineteenth century, when medicine supposedly became 'scientific' for the first time. The history of medical geography - to say nothing of other subjects - calls this common view into question. At least in the United States, students of medical geography, arguably the pre-eminent medical science in an age dominated by miasmatic theories of disease, readily adapted to the discovery of germs. And (...) although bacteriology quickly eclipsed medical geography in the world of medicine, place remained an important consideration in treating asthma (and allergies generally) throughout the post-bacteriological period. (shrink)
Over the course of human history, the sciences, and biology in particular, have often been manipulated to cause immense human suffering. For example, biology has been used to justify eugenic programs, forced sterilization, human experimentation, and death camps—all in an attempt to support notions of racial superiority. By investigating the past, the contributors to _Biology and Ideology from Descartes to Dawkins_ hope to better prepare us to discern ideological abuse of science when it occurs in the future. Denis R. Alexander (...) and Ronald L. Numbers bring together fourteen experts to examine the varied ways science has been used and abused for nonscientific purposes from the fifteenth century to the present day. Featuring an essay on eugenics from Edward J. Larson and an examination of the progress of evolution by Michael J. Ruse, _Biology and Ideology_ examines uses both benign and sinister, ultimately reminding us that ideological extrapolation continues today. An accessible survey, this collection will enlighten historians of science, their students, practicing scientists, and anyone interested in the relationship between science and culture. (shrink)