Fwd: Shotgun wedding for evolution and culture

From: Steve Drew (srdrew_1@hotmail.com)
Date: Fri Mar 08 2002 - 21:58:36 GMT

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    Subject: Fwd: Shotgun wedding for evolution and culture
    From: Steve Drew <srdrew_1@hotmail.com>
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    hi Wade

    > Date: Fri, 8 Mar 2002 09:07:35 -0500
    > From: "Wade T.Smith" <wade_smith@harvard.edu>
    > Subject: Fwd: Shotgun wedding for evolution and culture
    > Shotgun wedding for evolution and culture
    > by Bea Perks, BioMedNet News
    > http://news.bmn.com/news/story?day=020307&story=2
    > "When I hear the word culture, I reach for my revolver," said Steve
    > Jones, professor of genetics at University College London, at last
    > night's launch of a program designed to bridge the gap between science
    > and culture. "It is a totally futile pastime to try to explain uniquely
    > human attributes, like culture, using Darwinism."

    I don't know about any one else, but the level of influence on culture
    between meme's and gene's is still very much up for grabs.
    > That futile pastime, however, "goes back to Darwin himself," sighed
    > Jones, introducing his talk, "The Culture of Darwinism: is man just
    > another animal?"
    > Both Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace, the naturalist who prompted Darwin
    > to publish his theory of natural selection, used evolution to argue for
    > their very different political viewpoints.

    It wasn't Wallace who urged Darwin to publish, but Wallace's letters to
    Darwin that made Darwin's friends urge him to publish, which Darwin did but
    also agve some credit to Wallace. It was Huxley who, as Darwin's Pitbull was
    the most vociferous champion of evolution.

    > Darwin himself used the theory
    > to support his interest in eugenics, said Jones. Wallace, on the other
    > hand, wrote a book arguing that Darwinism provided a rationale for
    > socialism.

    As i understand it, Darwin's interests in eugenics was an accident as it was
    Malthus' treatise on population which provided the spark for Darwin

    Wallace was a vociferous champion of socialism, even before he thought of
    evolution (in his terms)
    > A close friend of Darwin, the British philosopher Herbert Spencer who is
    > credited with coining the term "survival of the fittest," used Darwinism
    > as "a rationale for 19th century capitalism," said Jones

    In my reading, i have not come across any reference to Spencer as a close
    friend of Darwin. As far as i am aware Darwin was not too keen on Spencer's
    views, partly i suspect, because he still retained some of his childhood
    beliefs in god. this is despite his disavowal of god during the wasp saga.
    And possibly because Spencer still clung to residues of Lamarkism
    > "The problem of course is that you can fit this logic into any framework
    > you like," said Jones. "There seems to be a remarkable willingness to
    > accept Darwinian explanations for uniquely human attributes," he noted.
    > But evolution is no good at explaining things that are unique, he said,
    > because it is a comparative science.
    > "If you look into the various sociobiological explanations which are out
    > there for human behaviour ...every single one of them is perfectly
    > convincing but every one of them is untestable because there's no
    > standard of comparison," said Jones.
    > Socio-biology is an art not a science, he concluded. "When it comes to
    > culture and science, science can tell you everything you want to know
    > about yourself ... except, that is, for the interesting stuff."

    Then what is the point of science?
    > The program to bridge the cultural divide, Close Encounters? Culture
    > Meets Science, is the brainchild of Steve Connor, professor of modern
    > literature at Birkbeck College in London.
    > Referring to the current fascination for popular science, he told
    > BioMedNet News, "something is happening in the culture as a whole that
    > isn't happening in universities, which is where science gets done, which
    > is where high level sustained reflection about culture gets done."
    > There is, says Connor, "understandable, but I think very productive,
    > worry and antagonism about science and whatever the 'opposite' of science
    > is."
    > With that in mind, he has organised the series of public lectures at
    > Birkbeck to "bring together the many people who are actually addressing
    > people on 'the other side' or sometimes have found themselves on 'the
    > other side.'"

    I and many others don't live in London, but this or Oxbridge are assumed to
    be the centre's of debate in the UK.
    > Connor hopes that issues raised during the lecture series will become a
    > focus for further discussion in the future. He praised Jones for
    > providing "a highly scientific warning against the dangers of the
    > mythology of science."

    I am happy for this. Would they have the lecture at 7pm so poor sods like me
    who have to do non intellectual things for a living can take part,
    I won't hold my breath.

    I live within 50 miles of about 10 or so Universities but most debates are
    not round here.

     My dissertation was on scientific beliefs of the late Nineteenth and late
    Twentieth century beliefs in science.



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