The Centre for the History of European Discourses was incorporated in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities in August 2015.

The information in this website is therefore out of date but retained for archival and staff purposes.

Science, Progress and History

Evolution and Progress: An Uneasy Symbiosis

  • Public Lecture, Monday, 17 June 2013, 6:30 - 7:30pm

  • Professor Michael Ruse, Florida State University

  • Video for the talk can be accessed here

Evolution is the child of progress and, like so many such relationships, there have been positive and negative consequences in about equal measures.  From the beginning of the Enlightenment (1700) until the publication of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species in 1859, the idea that organisms were the end results of a long process of natural development was related to cultural hopes about societal improvement, and was (and was seen to be) little more than a pseudo-science like mesmerism or phrenology.  Darwin upgraded the status of evolutionary thinking, but it was still only at the level of a popular science with its true home in the museum not the university.  Progress was still a major theme.  Finally with the coming of modern genetics, around 1930, the neo-Darwinian paradigm was articulated.  However although all of the evolutionists then were (and many still are) progressionists, they saw that such a value-impregnated concept was antithetical to the aim of making a professional science, and so talk of progress had to be concealed if not rejected.

  • Time: 6:30 - 7:30, Monday 17 June 2013
  • Venue: Long Room, Customs House at Riverside
  • Arrangements: Doors open at 6pm. No need to book -- just show up!

Michael Ruse is the Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy and the Director of the Program in the History and Philosophy of Science at Florida State University.  He is the author and editor of many books, most recently The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Darwin and Evolutionary Thought.  He is particularly interested in ideological factors influencing natural science, a topic he explores in his next book,The Gaia Hypothesis: Science on a Pagan Planet.