Archive for July, 2010

On June 22nd we had our first attempt at a summer meeting of the Forum. The reading up for discussion was J.B.S Haldane’s influential 1932 book The Causes of Evolution. Specifically, we discussed the concluding chapter, although it was obvious several people in the room had cheated and read the entire book.

Haldane’s book represents a historical turning point in the treatment of evolutionary theory by biologists. The Causes of Evolution presented the first real published account of evolution that removed the notion of evolutionary ‘progress’ from the story. The undermining of Man’s place at the “top” of an evolutionary “scale” was a thematic thread running through much of the book. We discussed briefly how Haldane’s political beliefs (he was a Marxist) may have interacted with and sometimes contradicted his scientific work. As a Marxist, Haldane was a believer in the inevitability of Progress, so it seems incongruous that his scientific work is so vehemently against the idea of progress in Nature. A number of times through the text, Haldane reverts to the language of progress despite repeatedly denying that such progress has occurred/does occur in natural systems. Also notably, Haldane eventually argues that human beings must take charge of the direction of our future evolution, an argument that to 21st century readers is tainted by the taboo on eugenics.

Due to low turnout, we’ve decided to make our second summer meeting a little more low key. The next ‘reading’ will be Baba Brinkman‘s Rap Guide to Evolution.

The Rap Guide to Evolution is freely available for download here.

I apologize for the lateness and brevity of this meeting’s blog entry. I was distracted from my forum-blogging duties by the excitement of the recently concluded Evolution meetings in Portland.


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