The Advancement of Science: Science without Legend, Objectivity without Illusions

By Philip Kitcher | Go to book overview

2
Darwin's Achievement

1. A Triumph for Heresy

Between 1844, when Charles Darwin first confessed to Joseph Hooker his unorthodox ideas on "the species question," and 1871, when Thomas Henry Huxley was prepared to declare that "in a dozen years the 'Origin of Species' has worked as complete a revolution in Biological Science as the 'Principia' did in Astronomy," biology underwent the most important transformation in its history.1The Origin has continued to dominate the biological sciences, and, as we look back over the hundred and thirty years since its publication, the initial impression is of a steady, cumulative building on Darwin's original achievement. Scrutinizing the initial phase of the Darwinian revolution and its aftermath offers us the opportunity to examine in a concrete context some of the ideas about progress and rationality that are at the heart of Legend.

Legend might view Darwin as combatting superstition, achieving a surprising victory because of his ability to marshall the evidence. But part of the secret of Darwin's quick success surely lay in his political skill. We should not be beguiled by the picture of the unworldly invalid of Down, whose quiet walks in his beloved garden were the occasion only for lofty musings on points of natural philosophy. Darwin's study was the headquarters of a brilliant campaign (which he sometimes saw in explicitly military terms),2 directed with energy and insight. His letters are beautifully designed to make each of his eminent correspondents -- Hooker and Huxley, Charles Lyell, Alfred Russell Wallace, and Asa Gray -- feel that he is the crucial lieutenant, the man on whose talents and dedication the cause depends.3 Morale is kept up and the troops are deployed with skill.

____________________
1
( Huxley 1896120). The passage is quoted in ( F. Darwin 1888 III132). Three years before it was written (i.e., in 1868), Darwin was prepared to talk of "the almost universal belief in the evolution (somehow) of species" ( F. Darwin 1903 1304). For Darwin's initial confession to Hooker, see ( F. Darwin 1888 II23).
2
See, for example, ( F. Darwin 1903 1304). Michael Ghiselin has provided a concise analysis of Darwin's tactics. See his ( 1969) especially chapter 6.
3
See ( F. Darwin 1888 II165, 216 ff., 232, 273, 302-303, 308, 330; III11). Two of these passages provide an interesting comparison. In November 1859, Darwin wrote to Huxley that, in advance, he had "fixed in [his] mind three judges on whose decision [he] determined mentally to abide" ( F. Darwin 1888 II232). By early 1860, the trio had expanded

-11-

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The Advancement of Science: Science without Legend, Objectivity without Illusions
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents *
  • 1 - Legend's Legacy 3
  • 2 - Darwin's Achievement 11
  • 3 - The Microstructure of Scientific Change 58
  • 4 - Varieties of Progress 90
  • 5 - Realism and Scientific Progress 127
  • 6 - Dissolving Rationality 178
  • 7 - The Experimental Philosophy 219
  • 8 - The Organization of Cognitive Labor 303
  • Envoi 390
  • Bibliography 392
  • Index 407
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