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Institute of Advanced Study


Michael Ruse: Is Darwinism an Exhausted Paradigm?

26th April 2007, 17:15 to 18:45, Elvet Riverside 140

Professor Michael Ruse, Florida State University

This is the opening public lecture in 'The Darwinan Legacy: Earth, Life and Mind' Series.

Many people – evangelical Christians, Marxist biologists, threatened social scientists, science-ignorant philosophers – think that the days of the theory of evolution through natural selection are numbered if not already over. The theory – call it Darwinism after the author of the Origin of Species – has supposedly run out of steam, if indeed it ever did have the force originally claimed. Supposedly the main mechanism of natural selection is either tautological or inefficient, the theory fails to explain major phenomena like the fossil record, and overall Darwinism is infected with a crude village atheism. There is little wonder that its main supporters today are drawn from the lists of professional God-haters like Dan Dennett and Richard Dawkins. This talk takes on all of these people and shows that their doubts and hostility are a combination of ignorance and fear. Darwinism is the jewel in the crown of science. The critics cannot accept that we have a terrific theory that explains the wonderful world in which we all live. Even the most secular refuse to see that it makes a difference that we humans are the end-product of a long, slow, meaningless force of change, rather than the special creation of a good god on the Sixth Day. The time has come to accept the findings of evolution and to move forward in this knowledge. Let us leave religious bigots, trembling philosophers, and craven politicians in the dust behind us.

Michael Ruse is English-born and a sometime Quaker. He taught philosophy for nearly forty years at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, and is now Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. He is the author of many books on and around evolutionary theory, most recently Darwinism and its Discontents, published by Cambridge University Press.

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