This essay reviews key controversies in the history of the Darwinian research tradition: the Wilberforce-Huxley debate in 1860, early twentieth-century debates about the heritability of acquired characteristics and the consistency of Mendelian genetics with natural selection; the 1925 Scopes trial about teaching evolution; tensions about race, culture, and eugenics at the 1959 centenary celebration Darwin’s Origin of Species; adaptationism and its critics in the Sociobiology debate of 1970s and, more recently, Evolutionary Psychology; and current disputes about Intelligent Design. These controversies, I argue, are etched into public memory because they occur at the emotionally charged boundaries between public-political, technical-scientific, and personal-religious spheres of discourse. Over most of them falls the shadow of eugenics. The main lesson is that the history of Darwinism cannot be told except by showing the mutual influence of the different norms of discourse that obtain in the personal, technical, and public spheres. Nor can evolutionary biology successfully be taught to citizens and citizens-to-be until the fractious intersections between spheres of discourse have been made explicit. In the course of showing why, I take rival evolutionary approaches to be dynamical historical research traditions rather than static theories. Accordingly, I distinguish Darwin’s version of Darwinism from its later transformations. I pay special attention to the role Darwin assigned to development in evolution, which was marginalized by twentieth-century population genetical Darwinism, but has recently resurfaced in new forms. I also show how the disputed phrases “survival of the fittest” and “social Darwinism” have shaped personal anxieties about “Darwinism,” have provoked public opposition to teaching evolution in public schools, and have cast a shadow over efforts to effectively communicate to the public largely successful technical efforts to make evolutionary inquiry into a science.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/david_depew/12/