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The information in this website is therefore out of date but retained for archival and staff purposes.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

Contingency and Order in History and the Sciences

  • Harris Manchester College, Oxford, 11-14 August 2013

Workshop themes

  • This workshop is part of a larger project that seeks to investigate questions of progress and purpose as they apply to the domains of human history and the ‘historical sciences’ (primarily evolutionary biology).
  • It will explore the emergence of order and complexity at biological levels on the hand, and in human history on the other, with the goal of finding both historical and logical connections between ideas of emerging order and progress in these domains.
  • A key focus will be the question of how, if at all, historically contingent events, on the scales of human, organic, and cosmic history, give rise to order and apparent directionality (or not).
  • The project thus seeks to explore—without presuming any particular outcome—whether common questions, and perhaps common answers, can be advanced in the historical sciences and human history.


  • John Beatty (UBC) 
  • Naomi Beck (Max Planck, Berlin)
  • Zachary Blount (Michigan State University)
  • Michael Burdett (Postdoc, Oxford)
  • Simon Conway Morris (Cambridge)
  • Nancy Cartwright (Durham, UC San Diego)
  • Peter Harrison (UQ)
  • Ian Hesketh (UQ)
  • Peter Jordan (PhD Candidate, UQ)
  • William Kelly (DPhil Candidate, Oxford)
  • Bernard Lightman (York)
  • Ard Louis (Oxford)
  • George McGhee (Rutgers)
  • Dan McShea (Duke)
  • Allan Megill (UVA)
  • Michael Ruse (Florida State)