Saturday, May 17, 2008
Bringing Home the Bacon
Darwin was prepared for the abuse which the content of his theory, especially its implications for man, was to receive from certain quarters, but he was not prepared for the criticism which his methodology was to receive from the most respected philosophers and scientists of his day. Most contemporary commentators tend to dismiss these criticisms as facile, disingenuous and superficial, suspecting that they stemmed more from a distaste of the content of Darwin's theory than from his methodology, but this dismissal is itself too facile. Certainly the repeated invocation of the Baconian method by many of Darwin's critics and even by Darwin himself indicated no great understanding of the actual nature of this method or the philosophy from which it stemmed, but the leading philosophers contemporary with Darwin, John Herschel, William Whewell, and John Stuart Mill, were equally adamant in their conviction that the Origin of Species was just one mass of conjecture. Darwin had proved nothing! From a philosophical point of view, evolutionary theory was sorely deficient. Even today, both Darwin's original efforts and more recent reformulations are repeatedly found philosophically objectionable. Evolutionary theory seems capable of offending almost everyone.
- David L. Hull, Darwin and His Critics: The Reception of Darwin's Theory of Evolution by the Scientific Community (1973)
Labels: Hull: Darwin's Critics