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The Darwin Wars by Andrew Brown

The Darwin Wars

by Andrew Brown

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Though it has been a matter of much comment at Amazon, I think, first off, we ought to put away the idea that it is somehow wrong or remarkable that Brown is a journalist writing a book about science.

The extent to which a good journalist (and Brown is one) cannot sufficently grasp the issues in modern Darwinism is precisely the extent to which no popular books ought to be written about it at all, by anyone.

If an intelligent journalist working full time on the issue can't correctly understand it, what hope does the casual reader have?

The fact is that most of the issues really aren't all that tough, and where things do get complicated, the issues are often philosophical and interpretive. Areas where scientists have not shown themselves to be particularly adroit (as Brown notes). There is plenty of writing out there by scientists whose credentials in the lab are impeccable and whose command of the facts I wouldn't dare to question.

But when some of these folks quit the job of fact gathering and start interpreting and sketching out implications . . . well, let's just say that words & phases like naive, wishful thinking, overly ambitious and even stupid start coming to mind.

Brown (though he briefly forgets which sex is XY) generally seems to have his facts straight, he digs up little-told portions of the history of the Darwin Wars, and has an interesting take on the personalities involved.

Brown's philosophical sympathies lie with the Gould camp (emphasizing the limits on what science can really say with confidence about things like society and culture), but he presents a pretty balanced view nonetheless, very solid on the sometimes rather half-baked philosphical underpinnings of scientific interpretation at its most exalted (and perhaps most dangerous) level.

A valuable book. ( )
  ehines | Jun 26, 2011 |
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The current disputes in evolutionary biology differ in no mportant respects from other scientific controversies. Accusations of rediscovering the wheel, beating dead horses, attacking straw men, and parodying the views of one's opponents have been ubiquitous . . . No disinterested, non-committal, theory-free characterisation of such events is possible.

David Hull, Science as a Process
Violent zeal for truth hath an hundred to one odds to be either petulancy, ambition, or pride.

Jonathan Swift, Apophthegms and Maxims
Evolution is to analogy as statues are to birdshit.

Steve Jones, New York Review of Books
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God, when he died, left many situations vacant. (Foreword)
George Price killed himself in a squat near Euston station in the winter of 1974.
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Evolutionary theory is now one of the main myths of our time. It has to bear the weight of most of our hopes and fears about what being human really means. And for over twenty years it has been riven by a holy war, conducted with an extraordinary fury that reverberates far outside the walls of academe. The two scientific camps are currently divided between 'Dawkinsians' on the one hand who may not agree with Richard Dawkins about very much but are convinced Stephen Jay Gould is dangerously wrong, and the 'Gouldians' on the other hand who take the opposite views. But who is right, or wrong, and what does it all mean? The Darwin Wars is an entertaining and lucid account of the evolution of today's neo-Darwinist theories, including the hugely influential Selfish Gene theory, and the misunderstandings and even deep hatreds that they provoke. With wit and insight, Andrew Brown puts in context the wide-reaching debate and explains its real significance for us all. For just as Darwinism now provides the main explanatory framework of our times, so disputes about Darwinism are really disputes about our very nature and place in the world [retrieved 9/28/2015 from Amazon.com]

1 The Deathbed of an Altruist 1

2 The Birth of the Selfish Gene 23

3 Machiavelli among the Entomologists 45

4 Marxists at the Museum 67

5 Some Types of Selfishness 83

6 Primitive Combat 101

7 Sociobiology Resurgent 123

8 Enter the Meme 147

9 And the Meme Raths Outgrabe 167

10 Replication is Not Enough 201

Sources and Further Reading 221
Index 227
(Page numbers from the Touchstone ed. (2000)
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