Biology And Ideology From Descartes To Dawkins PdfBy Josh C. In and pdf 02.04.2021 at 22:42 6 min read
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This article illustrates some of the relationships between science and ideologies. It discusses how science has been enlisted to support particular ideologies and how ideologies have influenced the processes and interpretations of scientific inquiry. An example from the biological sciences illustrates this.
- Biology and Ideology from Descartes to Dawkins
- Biology and Ideology from Descartes to Dawkins
- The ideological uses of evolutionary biology in recent atheist apologetics
- Biology and Ideology from Descartes to Dawkins
Biology and Ideology from Descartes to Dawkins
This article illustrates some of the relationships between science and ideologies. It discusses how science has been enlisted to support particular ideologies and how ideologies have influenced the processes and interpretations of scientific inquiry. An example from the biological sciences illustrates this. In the early 20 th century, evolutionary theory was used to support socialism and laissez-faire capitalism.
Those two competing ideologies were justified by appeal to biological claims about the nature of evolution. Those justifications may seem puzzling.
If science claims to generate only a limited set of facts about the world—say, the mechanisms of biological diversification—it is unclear how they could inform anything so far removed as economic theory. Part of the answer is that the process of interpreting and applying scientific theories can generate divergent results.
Thus, the apparently clear deliverances of natural sciences have been leveraged to endorse competing views. Rightly or wrongly, this leveraging has long been part of the aims and practice of scientists. Many of the Early Modern progenitors of natural science hoped that science would apply to large swaths of human life. They believed that science could inform and improve politics, religion, education, the humanities, and more.
One fictional version of this ideal, from Francis Bacon in the 17 th century, imagined scientists as the political elites, ruling because they are best equipped to shape society. Such hopes live on today. It is not only in its applications that science can become ideological; ideologies also can be part of the formation of sciences. If natural sciences are not hermetically sealed off from society, but instead are permeable to social values, power relations, or dominant norms of an era, then it is possible for science to reflect the ideologies of its practitioners.
This can have a particularly pernicious effect when the ideologies that make their way into the science are then claimed to be results derived from the science. Not all sciences seem equally susceptible to ideological influence or appropriation. Ideologies seem to have closer connections to those sciences investigating topics nearer to human concerns. Sciences that claim to bear upon immigration restrictions, government, or human sexuality find wider audiences and wider disputes than scientific conclusions limited to barnacle morphology or quantum gravity.
It hardly makes science trivial, or just one view among others. Science must be used well and taken seriously in order to solve real-world challenges. Part of taking science seriously involves judicious analysis of how ideologies might influence scientific processes and applications.
The topic is vast, and this article confines itself to some historical cases that exemplify significant interactions between science and ideologies.
First, a brief note about definitions. Much has been written attempting to define these concepts, but we only need the broad outlines of such attempts before moving on. It has historically been closely associated with philosophy. At least since the Renaissance, the term has acquired connotations of theoretical, organized, and experiential knowledge. In the 17 th century, a constellation of practices, ideas and institutions among natural philosophers contributed to what most historians recognize as the advent of modern science.
Science encompasses two distinctive strands, including both a body of knowledge and a coordinated set of instrumental activities that generate technological or engineering solutions.
The former continues the legacy of natural philosophy through its aim to understand, explain, and predict the world. The latter strand has more pragmatic concerns to build tools and solve problems. Perhaps unsurprisingly, philosophers have paid most attention to the first, natural philosophical, strand of science. In the mid th century, philosophers launched a vigorous campaign to correctly characterize science and thus distinguish it from illegitimate forms of knowledge or pseudoscience.
If the scientific method could be correctly identified, they supposed, then the right method for knowledge generation could be secured, and there would be a better way to jettison dubious, nonscientific, or merely ideological claims.
For example, Karl Popper was famously keen to exclude Marxist historiography and Freudian psychoanalysis from the province of science. Along with Popper, Imre Lakatos and others contributed to a sophisticated body of literature on scientific method, attempting to square the idea of characteristic and rational rules of science with the historical record of dynamic, changing scientific theories and practices.
Paul Feyerabend, by contrast, urged abandoning the search for rules of science altogether; he argued that, since science is a creative and evolving enterprise, there is no specific method it ever did, or should, follow.
The campaign to distinguish science from pseudoscience has now largely subsided with no clear resolution. Some philosophers see scientificity as a matter of degree that can be instantiated to a greater or lesser extent according to how systematic the study may be.
Nonetheless, a single definition of science remains elusive. The diversity of activities and methods used across the natural sciences makes it difficult to find anything that neatly separates sciences from other human activities not typically considered scientific, like auto mechanical work.
There is not just one way to build a house, or even to grow tomatoes. But the word has since changed its meaning and today frequently carries a negative connotation. This pejorative sense of ideology comes largely from classical social theorists, especially Karl Marx. While ideologies claim to describe the way things are, Marx claimed that in reality they function to defend political structures underpinning class hierarchies. Marx diagnosed and critiqued such ideologies, hoping thereby to liberate individuals from self-oppression and to bring about social reforms.
In this tradition, ideology was often seen as antithetical to science. This conceptual contrast between science and ideology has largely been passed down to us today, for example, when science is imagined to be quintessentially nonideological.
Following Marx, subsequent theorists extended views of ideology and why it might be harmful. Political philosopher Hannah Arendt criticized ideology for the way it short-circuits substantive political debate.
Ideologies posit basic tenets or first principles, such as racial purity, class struggle, or free markets, from which other ideas automatically follow. According to Arendt, ideologies have a pernicious role in replacing genuine ethical debate with their own abstract and internal logic. Promising certainty, ideologies run roughshod over tradition, concrete historical particulars, and the difficult business of moral deliberation Arendt This second, broader use is in accord with the practices of empirical anthropology, which might seek to describe the organizing beliefs of a foreign culture.
When conceived of in this descriptive sense, ideologies may be understood as necessary or positive for many political purposes. Some important features are common to both the pejorative and more neutral senses of ideology.
First, ideologies are beliefs that legitimate or stabilize social power structures. Broadly speaking, ideologies relate to politics because they have a social function, and as such they can engender a sense of group identity or motivate the need for action.
Second, ideologies are not always transparent to those who hold them. It is often easier to recognize ideology in others than in oneself. That is to say, they are not easily acquired and released, because they play a structural role in how we see things, what is construed as evidence, and sometimes even personal identity. Fourth, there is typically a complex admixture of descriptive and prescriptive elements to ideologies: Their defense would appeal to the way things are and how things ought to be Seliger We need not dwell on these attempts to define such complex terms as science and ideology.
It is worth noting, however, that particular definitions of the terms would render an analysis of science and ideology much less significant—or even meaningless.
If science were just descriptive and ideology just prescriptive, then perhaps they would be two radically different sorts of things, and the two should never meet, since, according to some philosophers working in the tradition of David Hume, an is cannot generate an ought. On this view, they could not overlap without some improper transgression of one into the rightful territory of the other. However, ideologies are not just wishful desires; they are informed by some facts and make claims about the way the world is.
Conversely, some philosophers argue that science is not accurately characterized as value-free, purely descriptive facts, but instead that science is laden with values Douglas A second set of definitions that might render the topic of science and ideology less meaningful would be if science were essentially or only ideological in nature, so that the two terms wholly collapse into one another.
If science were just politics by other means,. While we can fruitfully analyze the generation and transmission of scientific knowledge in its purely social and anthropological dimensions—that is, without reference to truth or to any unconditioned external reality—this does not make science nothing but ideology. Ignoring the distinctiveness of the world from human cognition risks an untenable relativism. Accordingly, we may rest content with broad and common notions of science and ideology, recognizing that they label many different things and that their boundaries are not precise.
This need not hinder investigation. Prototypically at least, sciences are not just ideologies. There may be overlap in the real-world history of science, but the terms regularly and usefully label distinct notions. Many well-known discussions of ideological influence on science illustrate how ideology can warp science. One notorious episode frequently construed as an ideological distortion of science is from mid th century Soviet biology, when the agricultural research of Trofim Lysenko was at the center of a broader effort to shape a uniquely Soviet biology Roll-Hansen ; Graham Lysenko and others claimed that grain growth and heredity could be significantly influenced by environmental alterations such as treating the seeds with cold and moisture, and that such alterations could lead to improved crop yields and the reformulation of genetics writ large.
The claims about temperature effects are true, while the latter claims are contested and more problematic. Second was the Marxist precept that organisms are shaped primarily by their environments rather than determined by innate biological traits.
Some Soviet scientists and politicians of the period understood Western genetics to be corrupted by capitalist notions of competition, innateness, and individualism, while they saw Western science more generally as unduly prioritizing pure theoretical science disconnected from the needs of the masses. While there was some merit in such critiques, Lysenkoist science was a failure on its own terms: Crop yields were not radically improved.
Political power structures that hinder open and critical debate damage science. Ideological influence is not only exerted upon scientific research, but on the dissemination of that research as well. Popular understanding of science is crucial for public policy formation, and that understanding can be shaped by any number of forces. For example, multiple independent lines of evidence established a link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer in the s and s, yet the tobacco industry, aware of these health effects, lobbied think tanks, academics, and media executives to disseminate a message that this science was inconclusive.
The same tactics of purposefully manufacturing scientific uncertainty have been deployed to spread ignorance about scientific knowledge of acid rain, ozone hole depletion, and greenhouse gas emissions Oreskes and Conway Behind this campaign of manufactured doubt has been a political concern that some science could be used to support environmental or public health regulations, thus threatening the unregulated markets that some groups find central to political economics.
While ideologies can distort science and its popular understanding, it is important to point out that many of the classic studies of science and ideology investigated which ideologies provided the best contexts for scientific advance Bernal , Merton An important thesis concerned whether Western-style liberal democracies could be the best political arrangements for the production of quality science.
One idea here was that good science may require a kind of openness to critique that is essentially a political ideal, and that such openness also underpins liberal democracies. Political ideologies shape science through funding, planning, institutionalization, and their political ethos. Much discussion has also been generated by the question of which political or economic ideologies might be supported by particular scientific theories.
To take just one example, the theory of evolution by natural selection has been used to legitimate multiple and incompatible political ideologies, from conservative politics and laissez faire capitalism to socialism.
Biology has often been used to reinforce essentialist, individualist, and conservative doctrines. If people are who they are because of innate traits, and society is the way it is because of those traits too, then it seems as if nature itself underwrites the political order. On this view, class structure has its particular form because the upper classes have the right stuff in their blood.
Biology and Ideology from Descartes to Dawkins
More titles may be available to you. Sign in to see the full collection. 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.
Ever since modern science emerged in the 16th and 17th centuries it has been used and abused for purposes that lie well beyond science. Biology has been particularly susceptible to ideological manipulation and application, a trend that shows no sign of abating. Today the ideological uses of biology continue on as much as they ever did. This was particularly the case for the President Obama who never was: the thrice-defeated Democratic candidate for the presidency of the United States and campaigner for liberal reform, William Jennings Bryan Early in , as Numbers recounts, Bryan helped to launch a crusade aimed at driving evolution out of the churches and schools of America. What Numbers brings out so clearly in his chapter is the way in which the theory of evolution was socially transformed into a bogeyman for virtually anyone who had an axe to grind. Rather than simply explaining the origins of biological diversity, it became an icon of materialism, or militarism, or atheism, or socialism, or capitalism.
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The ideological uses of evolutionary biology in recent atheist apologetics
Don't have an account? During the first few years of the twenty-first century, a number of high-profile populist books offering an aggressively atheist critique of religion appeared. Drawing on the recent works of Dennett and Dawkins, this chapter explores how Darwinism has been transposed in recent atheist apologetics from a provisional scientific theory to an antitheistic ideology.
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Biology and Ideology from Descartes to Dawkins
Over the course of human history, the sciences in general 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. It brings together fourteen experts to examine the varied ways science has bee It brings together fourteen experts to examine the varied ways science has been used and abused for non-scientific purposes from the fifteenth century to the present day. Featuring a chapter on eugenics and an examination of the progress of evolution, the book uses both benign and sinister, ultimately reminding us that ideological extrapolation continues today. Keywords: human suffering , biology , eugenics , forced sterilization , human experimentation , death camps , racial superiority , abuse of science , evolution.
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, andMoreOver 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.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution. Rent this article via DeepDyve. Bacon, F. Meditations Sacrae and Human Philosophy. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing.
PDF | In none of these generally well-written and well-documented L. Numbers, eds., Biology and Ideology from Descartes to Dawkins.
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.
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