The Darwin Wars: The Scientific Battle for the Soul of Man

The Darwin Wars: The Scientific Battle for the Soul of Man

by Andrew Brown

A witty, insightful examination of today's rival Darwinian theories, the shocking feuds between the different camps, and what it all means for our understanding of evolution and human nature.The Darwin Wars is an entertaining account of today's competing neo-Darwinist theories -- including the influential "selfish gene" theory -- and the misunderstandings and even deep hatreds they provoke. For the first time, an impartial observer explains and evaluates the ideas that have transformed the field of biology and shows the profound impact they have had on our beliefs and our culture.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Science
  • Rating: 3.38
  • Pages: 256
  • Publish Date: October 5th 2001 by Simon & Schuster (UK)
  • Isbn10: 0743203437
  • Isbn13: 9780743203432

What People Think about "The Darwin Wars: The Scientific Battle for the Soul of Man"

I purchased this book since it was the primary reference detailing the death of George Price. First off, the writing is drenched with religious undertones that cause significant conflict when reading. Example 2: "The behaviours and dispositions produced by natural selection are always in some circumstances inadequate..." ALWAYS in SOME CIRCUMSTANCES?

The personalities are important, as much of the argument in the debate is (regrettably) ad hominem; science often takes second place to point scoring rhetoric. This feeling is where the controversy stems from, for it is the application of evolutionary ideas to human beings which has always offended since Darwin's The Descent of Man. It hasn't helped the quality of the discussion that much of the debate has been carried on in popular science books, like Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene, rather than in more restrained technical publications. (The silliest example Brown quotes is an argument that millionaires build penthouse suites to live in because for our ancestors on the African plains a preference for high places gave a better chance for survival by making them able to see further. As Brown points out, to crouch in a hollow hides you from predators, so almost the same argument should imply that millionaires prefer basement flats.) Much that has been written on the subject amounts to a series of illustrations of the futility of arguing from effects to causes. (The sociogenetic position can easily be turned into an attack on religion, by portraying spirituality as a construct of evolutionary utility.) Brown is himself an atheist, though by spending some years as a religious affairs journalist he has more understanding and sympathy for those who have a religious belief.

The first couple of chapters other than being a crusade against science appeared to me to give a good overview of the disputes between the - as the author chose to call them - Dawkinsians and the Gouldians at the time (the book's from 1998). But that's just an early impression and as it turns out what he has to say about religion (a topic with that to deal with in this context seems kinda natural for the reason alone that it is such an important sparing-partner for the Dawkinsians) isn't so unreasonable at all. So basically his point is, referring also to Gould's view of the matter, that for one thing all those disputes about science and truth take place in a social setting (duh!) and furthermore the creationist's popularity might just (at least to some extent) be understood from that angle. It's not only about the truth of science but it's at least as much a clash of ideologies, i.e. in this case between a new morality according to Spencerian social Darwinism and an opposition that doesn't so much only struggle to hold on to a literal understanding of the book of Genesis but - at least in part - against an ideology that justifies social injustices. Towards the end the book becomes full cycle starting with Price going mad over his discovery that mathematically there's no real altruism and the moral consequences we have to deal with facing the world after Darwin. And as the selfish gene or gene centrism as a paradigm that fuelled the evolution of sociobiology towards a much less gene centred evo-psych is somewhat the red line of this book Brown uses the last chapter to bring his point about context and meaning home.

Within ten rather brief chapters, Brown attempts to include the main viewpoints and theoretical standpoints, whilst looking at the human motive behind such scientific work. Gould and Richard Dawkins), Brown pits them against one another in a fight, in the words of the books subtitle, for the scientific battle for the soul of man. The Darwin Wars never threatens to obtain such a lofty position, with Brown himself labelling such work as pop science books: pages for the general public and not simply the specialists.

George Price had been a "dogmatic and optimistic atheist", but went mad when he discovered an evolutionary explanation for altruism and became a fundamentalist Christian, giving away everything and eventually committing suicide.

This book begins with detailing the suicide of a creationist turned christian.