Philosophy of Science

The Primate Diaries

Category archives for Philosophy of Science

Chimpanzees have culture (or not) depending on your definition.Image: Irish Wildcat / Creative Commons Author’s Note: The following is an expansion on my reply to anthropologist Dan Sperber on the PLoS ONE article “Prestige Affects Cultural Learning in Chimpanzees.” Culture is like art or pornography, it’s hard for people to define but everyone knows it…

In his recent TED Talk Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith and Letter To A Christian Nation argues that science can and should be used to address moral issues. His newest book, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values, will be published in October, 2010. For more see Sam Harris, Franics…

Harvard Medical School physician and researcher J. Wes Ulm has a fascinating paper in the new edition of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, the quarterly academic periodical put out by Johns Hopkins University. His paper “The Cachet of the Cutthroat” investigates the legacy of ideas that formed the basis of laissez-faire social Darwinism: Ultimately, Social…

Why I Am Not A Humanist*

           Looking nonhumans in the eye.      Image: Elephant Man by Chris Gallucci In 1927 Bertrand Russell wrote his now famous essay “Why I Am Not A Christian” and outlined the general reasons for why he rejected such an ideology. This approach has been followed by other writers such as Ibn Warraq in Why I Am Not A…

Darwin and Spencer in the Middle East

It is a common argument by those who are opposed to evolution’s implication for religious belief to label Darwin as a social Darwinist and a racist. Adrian Desmond and James Moore’s book Darwin’s Sacred Cause has gone a long way towards dispelling any claims that Darwin sought to justify black inferiority (in fact, as they…

Animal Rights and Human Rights

It’s wonderful to see that my Open Letter to the Animal Liberation Front has generated discussion on this important topic. The issue as I see it is really quite simple and boils down to two essential issues: the benefits to science versus the ethics of invasive animal experimentation. The British Medical Journal study and BUAV…

Deconstructing Social Darwinism, Part IV

Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 Richard Hofstadter wrote in Social Darwinism in American Thought that this political theory was “one of the leading strains in American conservative thought for more than a generation.” In this series I have shown many of the inconsistencies that exist in the literature on…

The Scientific Revolution is Open

Scientific innovation relies on open communication and always has. It has only been through the free exchange of information and ideas that scientific pioneers have expanded the boundaries of knowledge. Through books, pamphlets, letters, journals, and now blogs, scientists communicate their results and imagine new frontiers in the natural world. But even as we reach…

Deconstructing Social Darwinism, Part III

Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 In Quentin Skinner’s celebrated history The Foundations of Modern Political Thought he writes that: If the history of political theory were to be written essentially as a history of ideologies, one outcome might be a clearer understanding of the links between political theory and…

Deconstructing Social Darwinism, Part II

Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4    English sociologist Herbert Spencer coined the term “survival of the fittest” in 1852.As I pointed out in Deconstructing Social Darwinism, Part I scholars have begun to seriously challenge the usefulness of the term as a political theory. For example, Gregory Claeys calls the political…