Biology and Ideology from Descartes to Dawkins by Denis R. Alexander, Ronald L. Numbers

By Denis R. Alexander, Ronald L. Numbers

Over the process human heritage, the sciences, and biology particularly, have frequently been manipulated to reason vast human discomfort. for instance, biology has been used to justify eugenic courses, pressured sterilization, human experimentation, and loss of life camps—all in an try and aid notions of racial superiority. by way of investigating the previous, the participants to Biology and beliefs from Descartes to Dawkins wish to raised organize us to determine ideological abuse of technological know-how whilst it happens within the future.     Denis R. Alexander and Ronald L. Numbers assemble fourteen specialists to ascertain the numerous methods technological know-how has been used and abused for nonscientific reasons from the 15th century to the current day. that includes an essay on eugenics from Edward J. Larson and an exam of the growth of evolution by way of Michael J. Ruse, Biology and beliefs examines makes use of either benign and sinister, finally reminding us that ideological extrapolation maintains at the present time. An obtainable survey, this assortment will enlighten historians of technology, their scholars, working towards scientists, and an individual attracted to the connection among technological know-how and tradition.

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When Gulliver visited the grand academy of Lagado (a thinly disguised simulacrum of the Royal Society), he encountered an ingenious architect who had contrived a new method for building houses, beginning at the roof and working down to the foundation. ”73 What these reactions suggest is that, while natural history had become far more prominent over the course of the seventeenth century, and while a strong case had been advanced for its importance, there were still those who remained to be convinced.

This distortion of the true aims of the sciences and their degeneration into a pedantic concern with texts and ancient authorities, metaphysical arguments, and pointless disputations, were the consequences of a defection away from an original biblical model. 80 Bacon’s expanded conception of the goals of the study of nature was enormously influential. ”82 The utilitarian imperative also informed the ideology of the Royal Society, founded in the 1660s. Thomas Sprat, in an account of the activities of that august group, insisted that the formal study of nature could fulfill moral and religious goals while at the same time contribute to practical and technological advancement.

Works of natural history attracted a growing and increasingly broad audience, and the idea that such books had a salutary moral and religious effect on their readers was widely natural history in early modern europe 35 accepted. Although at times natural history could degenerate into a mere “culture of collecting,” its scientific status also became more secure. The Baconian justifications for natural history were bolstered by the development of powerful systems of classification, which demonstrated that its practitioners were capable of more than simply amassing facts to pass on to their philosophical superiors.

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