Re: more on social Darwinism

From: Ted Davis <>
Date: Fri Feb 24 2006 - 08:25:16 EST

>>> Gregory Arago <> 02/24/06 4:29 AM >>>writes:

"(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.

Ted replies:
I don't know what league I'm in either, Gregrory, but there is nothing unique about stressing the difference between "science as science" and "science as metaphysics." ASA members have been doing this for at least a full generation, if not longer; and even Michael Ruse is now doing exactly this in his latest book, using even the term "evolutionism" that ASAers and others have been using again and again. It's new for him, and now that he says it others might start to use that term thinking that Ruse coined it, but there is no uniqueness here. We agree, incidentally, that social Darwinism isn't equivalent to "grand metaphysical program," but the latter can certaily subsume the former--and that's what was the case in Germany during the period under discussion. The title of Haeckel's best seller (something in excess of half a million copies, if I recall correctly) was "The Riddle of the Universe," which pretty much sums it up. And many of the Americans who bought eugenics (!
and there were a lot of 'em) did think that "science" was functionally equivalent to "Truth."


Gregory also writes:
  "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).

Ted replies:
Perhaps I'm reading too much into this, but Gregory's comments seem to imply that Kellogg was an anti-evolutionist. He wasn't. Kellogg was, like many of his generation, a neo-Lamarckian evolutionist; he was utterly appalled at what he heard in Belgium, however, and lamented that arguments alone were insufficient to answer the German view; "you long for the muscles of Samson," is how he put it, which I take to be reference to Allied arms. This book galvanized Bryan, who had long opposed evolution on religious and moral grounds but now had an enormously powerful political argument to throw on top of his other political arguments against teaching it in publicly funded schools. See his comments here:

Received on Fri Feb 24 08:26:37 2006

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