What is Darwin's Contributions to Modern Science

health : Modern theory of evolution: Darwin and the instigators

Charles Darwin's epoch-making work on "The Origin of Species" is a truly important book that many biologists believe they know, even if very few of them have read it. At the same time as the much less well-known British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, Darwin had found a revolutionary answer 140 years ago to the question of how life with its infinitely many facets develops and how evolution works. No other scientific theory has changed man's self-image as much as Darwin's view of nature. Since then - not only in biology - a struggle for the sovereignty of interpretation has raged and made the evolution theory as "Darwinism" the plaything of opinion dictators of all kinds.

For some, Darwin's theory became an ideology that seems to offer an explanation - and often enough justification - not only for natural phenomena, but (allegedly illegally) also for cultural phenomena in humans. For others, evolution is the most exciting and momentous truth of nature that human science has ever discovered. And Darwin is their prophet.

Indeed, the Darwin-Wallace theory has shown staying power. With the help of the universal biological principle of natural and sexual selection, it is possible to understand many phenomena in nature, including complicated and complex human behavior. Criticism of Darwinism is popular, but rarely sufficiently justified or even accurate. There was already talk of the alleged "mistake of the century".

But the evolutionary theory of chance and necessity, of selection as the motor of evolution, lives; nature is a blind watchmaker with an ingeniously simple way of working. The Darwin-Wallace approach currently provides the best starting point for a causal explanation of the diversity of life phenomena, including humans - no more, but also no less.

With the integration of genetic, biosystematic and palaeontological findings, this concept was put on what has since been established as a "synthetic theory of evolution" in the 1930s and 1940s. Neither the numerous critics who bumped the head at Darwinism nor the recent developments in molecular genetics and developmental biology have been able to change anything.

With "Darwin and the instigators" Thomas Weber now presents less of another in the long list of legitimizations of Darwinism. Rather, he tries to interpret it in terms of the history of science. He does this at a time when biological topics are suddenly conquering the feature sections of daily newspapers. The molecular geneticists busy working in the laboratory, on the other hand, are increasingly losing sight of the past. This view becomes all the more important, the more the discussions about the biological roots of humans in the course of genetic research increase in sharpness and socio-political urgency.

Anyone who only knows the Internet but has hardly seen a library from the inside - as is the case with a frightening number of biology students today - or who already considers publications older than five years to be history, may also consider knowledge of the roots of evolutionary biology to be dispensable. However, he will also miss out on what the recurring debates about Darwinism or the contributions of "nature" and "culture" essentially revolve around.

Weber's historical view tries to mediate between the camps of the supposed "two cultures" of Charles Percy Snow - here the natural sciences, there the humanities. The author has a doctorate in zoology and is a freelancer for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, for which he writes on the history of science. As a cross-border commuter between the natural sciences and the humanities, Thomas Weber knowledgeably describes how the interpretation of scientific results depends on the zeitgeist and cultural environment, but also why the support provided by biology in the area of ‚Äč‚Äčtension between "nature" and "culture" is ambivalent.

Weber presents forerunners and contemporaries of Charles Darwin, his theory, its consequences and opponents, starting with the natural and scientific philosophers of the 18th century, with Goethe and Kant, later John Herschel and William Whewell, to the development of the natural sciences in the 19th century Century by Georges Cuvier, Etienne Geoffroy St. Hilaire, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and Richard Owen. In the third part of the book Weber traces the path of Darwin's synthesis from sociobiology to "evolutionary psychology" and finally discusses the latest fashionable topic in biologists and the media with molecular genetics and under the heading Evo-Devo (for "evolutionary developmental biology") .

Weber and his "instigators" conduct an archeology of Darwinism. He has succeeded in an informative and well-read parforcer ride through the evolution of evolutionary biology, but by no means an outline of the "new biosciences" that his Cologne publisher is trying to sell Weber's Darwinism synopsis. The fact that Thomas Weber introduces and concludes with the latest trends in molecular genetics and developmental biology only makes it clear how much the Darwinist view has prevailed. It is not yet a new bioscience, regardless of all discussions about biology as the leading science of the 21st century.

Anyone interested in the historical roots and modern implications of this epochal theory will read "Darwin and the Instigators" at a profit. On this basis, the often frighteningly undifferentiated discussions about "the gene for ..." or about human clones and bio-robots can be assessed more relaxed.

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