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. 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.
“A gripping book on the grey area between the use and abuse of biology for ideological purposes. Eugenics, racism and sexism, apologias for theism, vitalism, and atheism are just a few of the agendas that have shaped, and been shaped by, biological theory. Describing extrapolations that have often added to the sum of human suffering, the essays here, from distinguished historians of science, are authoritative, compelling, and disturbing.”