Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Wilkins on Dennett/Dawkins/Ruse

John Wilkins offers these wise words about the recent brou ha ha surrounding Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins and Michael Ruse. Here's an excerpt:

Ruse appears to think that there is an ideological movement called “Darwinism”. I'm not sure why, apart from the tendency of historians and philosophers to reify abstract positions with labels that have capital letters. There have been any number of people who have called their views “Darwinism” - I'm thinking of the despicable views in the early 20thC of Benjamin Kidd and John B. Haycraft - but calling it “Darwinism” doesn't make it so. The term has also been employed in many contexts within science, usually to mean just an emphasis on natural selection. But there are people in the evolutionary field whose views differ enough from other people I would call Darwinian that we need a more differentiating name than “Darwinism”. Gould and Eldredge tried to revive some terms of Darwin's student George Romanes used against Weismann and Wallace: “ultra Darwinian” and “neo Darwinian”. Dennett and Dawkins appear to enjoy being so tarred. Fine. Even this phrasing is insufficient to bring out the actual nuances in the debates.

Well said. Go read the whole thing.