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Biology and Ideology: From Descartes to Dawkins

By: Denis R Alexander(Editor), Ronald L Numbers(Editor)

448 pages, 30 b/w photos, 1 b/w illustration

University of Chicago Press

Paperback | May 2010 | #204146 | ISBN-13: 9780226608419
Availability: Usually dispatched within 4 days Details
NHBS Price: £23.50 $31/€27 approx
Hardback | May 2010 | #204145 | ISBN-13: 9780226608402
Availability: Usually dispatched within 4 days Details
NHBS Price: £65.99 $86/€75 approx

About this book

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 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 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.


Denis R. Alexander and Ronald L. Numbers

Chapter 1. The cultural authority of natural history in early modern Europe
Peter Harrison

Chapter 2. Biology, atheism, and politics in eighteenth-century France
Shirley A. Roe

Chapter 3. Eighteenth-century uses of vitalism in constructing the human sciences
Peter Hanns Reill

Chapter 4. Biology in the service of natural theology: Paley, Darwin, and the Bridgewater Treatises
Jonathan R. Topham

Chapter 5. Race, empire, and biology before Darwinism
Sujit Sivasundaram

Chapter 6. Darwin’s choice
Nicolaas Rupke

Chapter 7. Biology and the emergence of the Anglo-American eugenics movement
Edward J. Larson

Chapter 8. Genetics, eugenics, and the Holocaust
Paul Weindling

Chapter 9. Darwinism, Marxism, and genetics in the Soviet Union
Nikolai Krementsov

Chapter 10. Evolution and the idea of social Progress
Michael Ruse

Chapter 11. Beauty and the beast? Conceptualizing sex in evolutionary narratives
Erika Lorraine Milam

Chapter 12. Creationism, intelligent design, and modern biology
Ronald L. Numbers

Chapter 13. The ideological uses of evolutionary biology in recent atheist apologetics
Alister E. McGrath


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Denis R. Alexander is director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, St Edmund's College, University of Cambridge, and has worked in the biological research community for the past forty years.

Ronald L. Numbers is the Hilldale Professor of History of Science and Medicine at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and coeditor of When Science and Christianity Meet, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

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