Re: more on social Darwinism

From: Gregory Arago <gregoryarago@yahoo.ca>
Date: Fri Feb 24 2006 - 04:29:31 EST

“(1) Do one's best to separate science as science from science as grand metaphysical program, as one should do for folks like Dawkins.”
   
  “The evolution/social Darwinism is not a necessary one--on that we agree, and that was the point of my stressing as response number (1) that we be careful to separate evolution from metaphysical extrapolation.” – Ted Davis
   
  Not a necessary one ‘what’? Sorry Ted, if I think that you’re completely out of your league here (not really knowing what your league is), as is Dawkins. Evolutionary sociology and social Darwinism are quite different things. But evolution and social evolution should be distinguished as well.
   
  As an issue in philosophy of science, you’re probably right on (and rather unique in the approach you’re taking to this topic) about distinguishing ‘science as science’ from ‘metaphysics.’ But in terms of sociology of science or sociology of knowledge, there’s an entire dimension you’re leaving out. ‘Grand metaphysical program’ and ‘social Darwinism’ are not synonymous. Neither are sociology and metaphysics. But probably you weren’t suggesting they were.
   
  “It comes from a book written by Vernon Kellogg, a leading American biologist from the early 20th century… an elite body of scientists advising the govt at that time.” – Ted
   
  American anti-evolution-ism is its own cloistered experience. The world and its science are, however, not constrained by a particular ‘great conversation’ in one country about evolutionary theory. Why not share the wealth/advice and be advised/shared by the wealth from elsewhere? Globally-minded theorists are not as likely to suffer the same biases as those forced upon/confronting individual scientists in a specific national milieu – which comes from a book by V. Kellogg (though his Frosted Flakes may be tasty).
   
  Where what Ted has said that is clearly worth repeating is about how evolution is/was used for nationalistic purposes, as the case in Germany (and others) suggests. Evolution was/is used for nationalistic purposes. The ‘racism’ question is a global question, not one that can be isolated to a national boundary or just to Jews.
   
  As much as Germans in Hitler’s time used evolutionary theory, there are other nations’ scientists who embrace(d) evolutionary theory just as wholeheartedly. This does not in any sense mean, however, (in case anyone would jump to that impression) that I am comparing or equating current-day America with Hitler’s Germany; far from it. The usage of evolutionary theory for social purposes is relative, as the officer in Ted’s quotation notes, based on which “form of social relationship is best.” War, competition, struggle, negotiation, cooperation, altruism – such different concepts are available with which to start dialogue. Americans have chosen their approach to evolution just as the Germans did. Both are steeped in ideology and, it seems, less dependant on the actual science being done across the fields of the academy.
   
  Philosophers of science seemingly *must* call in social scientists to the discussion table for assistance. Likewise, scientists need to listen to what/whom they do not usually consider in their particular specialized/fragmented fields. Philosophers of science and social scientists have in common rejecting the condescension normally faced from ‘natural scientists’ about what ‘science really is’ and thus, what counts for socially acceptable knowledge. What is needed is more respect (for knowledge and wisdom, not just information) on all sides.
   
  G. Arago

Ted Davis <tdavis@messiah.edu> wrote: The evolution/social Darwinism is not a necessary one--on that we agree, and that was the point of my stressing as response number (1) that we be careful to separate evolution from metaphysical extrapolation.

However, historically, the link *was* perceived as necessary by many
scientists and others. Let me offer just one wonderfully clear example, a
highly relevant one in this context of talking about antievolutionism, since
this paticular book more than any other led Bryan to commit himself to the
antievolution crusade after WW1. It comes from a book written by Vernon
Kellogg, a leading American biologist from the early 20th century. Kellogg
was a member of the National Research Council, an elite body of scientists
advising the govt at that time. In the years before the US was involved as
a combatant in WW1, Kellogg was working in Belgium as part of relief
efforts. He was billetted at the HQ of the German command in that part of
the theater. Several nights each week he dined with the officers (he was
fluent in German, as many American scientists of that generation were).
Here is his description of one of the officers, a former university
professor. (quoting Headquarters Nights, pp. 28-29)

"Prof von Flussen is Neo-Darwinian, as are most German biologists and
natural philosophers. The creed of the *Allmacht* of a natural selection
based on violent and inevitable struggle [Ted: Please note the necessitarian
language here end elsewhere] is the gospel of the German intellectuals; all
else is illusion and anathema. ....

"This struggle not only must go on, for that is the natural law, but it
should go on, so that this natural law may work out in its cruel, inevitable
way the salvation of the human species. By its salvation is meant its
desirable natural evolution. That human group which is in the most advanced
evolutionary stage as regards internal organization and form of social
relationship is best, and should, for the sake of the species, be preserved
at the expense of the less advanced, the less effective. It should win in
the struggle for existence, and this struggle should occur precisely that
the various types may be tested, and the best not only preserved, but put in
position to impose its kind of social organization--its *Kultur*--on the
others, or alternatively, to destroy and replace them."

Thus, to conclude. Is evolution necessarily linked to racism and
militarism? Well, no, since we can also find Dawkins and others (Huxley an
even more prominent example) expressly denying a link between science and
morality. But, yes, it isn't hard to find important historical examples of
people who were convinced that such a link not only exists but is necessary.
As I said before, they ain't makin' this up.

Ted
                
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Received on Fri Feb 24 04:30:53 2006

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