Have Only Men Evolved?

  • Ruth Hubbard
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 161)


Science is made by people who live at a specific time in a specific place and whose thought patterns reflect the truths that are accepted by the wider society. Because scientific explanations have repeatedly run counter to the beliefs held dear by some powerful segments of the society (organized religion, for example, has its own explanations of how nature works), scientists are sometimes portrayed as lone heroes swimming against the social stream. Charles Darwin (1809–82) and his theories of evolution and human descent are frequently used to illustrate this point. But Darwinism, on the contrary, has wide areas of congruence with the social and political ideology of nineteenth-century Britain and with Victorian precepts of morality, particularly as regards the relationships between the sexes. And the same Victorian notions still dominate contemporary biological thinking about sex differences and sex roles.


Sexual Selection Energetic Investment Mountain Sheep Group Marriage Social Doctrine 
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    For a discussion of this process, see Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd ed. (University of Chicago Press, 1970).Google Scholar
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    Nineteenth-century feminism is often dated from the publication in 1792 of Mary Wollstonecraft’s (1759-1797) A Vindication of the Rights of Woman; it continued right through Darwin’s century. Darwin was well into his work at the time of the Seneca Falls Declaration (1848), which begins with the interesting words: “When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man to assume among the people of the earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them...” (my italics). And John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) published his essay on The Subjection of Women in 1869, ten years after Darwin’s Origin of Species and two years before the Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex. Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ruth Hubbard
    • 1
  1. 1.Harvard UniversityUSA

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