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New Left Review 63, May-June 2010


hilary rose and steven rose

DARWIN AND AFTER

Today a mutant Darwinism increasingly suffuses culture. Generated in academia, it is taken up with uncritical enthusiasm for a wide variety of purposes, ranging from those of the Economist as it offers advice to policymakers to those of novelists seeking framing devices. The compliment is returned by evolutionary biologists such as John Maynard Smith, who draw on Chicagoan economics to apply game theory, optimal resource management and ideas of ‘rational choice’ to animal behaviour. But increasingly, it is variants of evolutionary theory that seek to redraw the boundaries between the biological sciences and the social sciences and humanities. Today there are evolutionary ethics, evolutionary psychiatry and medicine, evolutionary aesthetics, evolutionary economics, evolutionary literary criticism. In his influential 1975 book Sociobiology, ethologist E. O. Wilson proposed that ‘sociology and other social sciences as well as the humanities are the last branches of biology waiting to be included in the Modern Synthesis’. In 1998, in Consilience, he went further, demanding a unitary epistemology and subordinating the social sciences and humanities to the biological and physical. [1] Edward O. Wilson, Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, Cambridge, ma 1975; and Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, Cambridge, ma 1998.

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