Biology and Ideology from Descartes to Dawkins

Biology and Ideology from Descartes to Dawkins

by Denis R. Alexander, Ronald L. Numbers

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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780226608426
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 05/15/2010
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 416
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Denis R. Alexander is director of The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, St. Edmund’s College, Cambridge, and has worked in the biological research community for the past forty years. Ronald R. Numbers is Hilldale Professor of History of Science and Medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the coeditor of , also published by the University of Chicago Press.

Table of Contents


Denis R. Alexander and Ronald L. Numbers

Chapter 1. The cultural authority of natural history in early modern Europe

Peter Harrison

Chapter 2. Biology, atheism, and politics in eighteenth-century France

Shirley A. Roe

Chapter 3. Eighteenth-century uses of vitalism in constructing the human sciences

Peter Hanns Reill

Chapter 4. Biology in the service of natural theology: Paley, Darwin, and the Bridgewater Treatises

Jonathan R. Topham

Chapter 5. Race, empire, and biology before Darwinism

Sujit Sivasundaram

Chapter 6. Darwin’s choice

Nicolaas Rupke

Chapter 7. Biology and the emergence of the Anglo-American eugenics movement

Edward J. Larson

Chapter 8. Genetics, eugenics, and the Holocaust

Paul Weindling

Chapter 9. Darwinism, Marxism, and genetics in the Soviet Union

Nikolai Krementsov

Chapter 10. Evolution and the idea of social Progress

Michael Ruse

Chapter 11. Beauty and the beast? Conceptualizing sex in evolutionary narratives

Erika Lorraine Milam

Chapter 12. Creationism, intelligent design, and modern biology

Ronald L. Numbers

Chapter 13. The ideological uses of evolutionary biology in recent atheist apologetics

Alister E. McGrath




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