International Society for History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology

twitter 2015
     facebook 2015


THURSDAY, JULY 9  /  11:00 - 12:30  /  DS-M220
Individual papers
Evolution accross Borders: Politics and Education

The topic of evolution in textbooks of the socialist school in Mexico (1932-1941)

Erica Torrens (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico, Mexico); Ma. Alicia Villela (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico, Mexico)

Charles Darwin's book On the Origin of Species introduced evolution by natural selection to the public in 1859. In Mexico, evolutionism was supported by many physicians and naturalists of the time, such as Justo Sierra, Alfredo Dugés, Jose Ramirez and Alfonso L. Herrera. However, as in other parts of the world, the acceptance and reception of Darwinism occurred in a particular and peculiar way. The Mexican scenario is interesting in this regard. In Mexico as in France, there was a delay in the introduction, diffusion and acceptance of Darwinism. According to Genovese, this happened mainly by the ongoing armed conflict of that time; according to Maldonado the most important factor was the Mexican frenchifiying efforts of the Porfirian era extolling the positivist ideals. However, discussions of evolution were not absent in Mexico and were important for the development and establishment of modern biology in this country. On the subject of education: when was that evolution found its way into classrooms and text books of basic education? We know that Dugés (1878, 1884), Ramirez and Herrera (1904) published specialized books recurring to evolutionary ideas. Regarding textbooks for basic education, which represented a topic of intense debate between the state and various other groups (positivists as Gabino Barreda and religious sectors, for example), it was up to the presidency of Abelardo Rodríguez (1932-1934) and with the socialist school of the thirties in Mexico that the issue of biological evolution began to be contemplated in the plans and curricula of primary and secondary education. This paper presents the efforts to introduce the theme of biological evolution into Mexican classrooms in the mid twentieth century and questions if the information was truly Darwinian or just evolutionist and why.

An evolutionary analysis of Strawsonian reactive attitudes

Andrew Moffatt (Florida State University, United States)

Peter Strawson first brought the class of emotional phenomena called the reactive attitudes (resentment, gratitude, indignation, guilt, etc.) to the forefront of scrutiny in the debate about moral responsibility; but in the past decade, research in the fields of evolutionary and moral psychology have led to a profound reimagining of what these reactive attitudes are and what place they should have in our moral landscape. Recent studies by Joshua Greene and Jonathan Haidt have suggested a new way of conceiving of our moral minds, and as such the reactive attitudes that populate them. In this paper, I apply research from moral and evolutionary psychology to critique the placement of our reactive attitudes at the center of our moral lives as Strawson suggests. I argue that the reactive attitudes are essentially evolutionarily adapted emotions, some of which permit to rational justification, while others do not. Further, I contend that when rational justification does not apply to a reactive attitude, the objective attitude should be assumed instead.

Darwinism immigrates to America: A transnational social history of ideas

Adam Shapiro (Birkbeck, University of London, United Kingdom)

Recent historical studies have shed new light on the differences between German and English language interpretations of Darwinism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These differences not only shaped scientific practice, they also influenced the ways different public audiences understood and reacted to Darwinism. This raises the question of which Darwinisms hybrid and transnational communities experienced, and whether their reactions to “Darwinism” ought to be understood differently from those of groups whose experience of Darwinism were rooted in a single linguistic and cultural framework. This paper addresses the experiences of German Lutheran immigrants to the United States and their descendants from 1870 to 1920. It looks at the way that these communities formulated reactions to Darwinism and their complex relationship to American varieties of antievolutionism. Was it the case that these immigrants brought with them a Haeckelian interpretation of Darwinism and interpreted American debates over evolution’s role in education, eugenics and World War I in light of this? Or did German Lutheran seminarians and clergy encounter evolution as a part of their larger experience of adaptation and assimilation in a new national context? Though many in this community rejected or refuted Darwinism, and may have agreed with the conclusion that Darwinism was atheism, the grounds given for that conclusion were different than Fundamentalist ideas articulated in long established American denominations. This paper looks particularly at the experiences of German Lutheran immigrants and their descendants in Nebraska, a state which outlawed the German language in schools following the First World War. It explores the context of the German Lutherans who had a teacher removed from the Lutheran college in Fremont, Nebraska in 1922, which resulted in the U.S.’s first evolution trial, a slander lawsuit that took place nine months before the 1925 Scopes trial.