Against “Revolution” and “Evolution”
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Those standard historiographic themes of “evolution” and “revolution” need replacing. They perpetuate mid-Victorian scientists’ history of science. Historians’ history of science does well to take in the long run from the Greek and Hebrew heritages on, and to work at avoiding misleading anachronism and teleology. As an alternative to the usual “evo-revo” themes, a historiography of origins and species, of cosmologies (including microcosmogonies and macrocosmogonies) and ontologies, is developed here. The advantages of such a historiography are illustrated by looking briefly at a number of transitions the transition from Greek and Hebrew doctrines to their integrations by medieval authors; the transition from the Platonist, Aristotelian, Christian Aquinas to the Newtonian Buffon and to the no less Newtonian Lamarck; the departures the early Darwin made away from Lamarck’s and from Lyell’s views. Issues concerning historical thinking about nature, concerning essentialism and concerning classification are addressed in an attempt to challenge customary stereotypes. Questions about originality and influence are raised, especially concerning Darwin’s “tree of life” scheme. The broader historiography of Darwinian science as a social ideology, and as a “worldview,” is examined and the scope for revisions emphasised. Throughout, graduate students are encouraged to see this topic area not as worked out, but as full of opportunities for fresh contributions.
KeywordsBuffon cosmologies Darwin Greeks Hebrews historiography Lamarck ontologies origins species
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