In the debate on evolution, scientists and their advocates like to say that the theory of evolution by random mutation and natural selection is pure objective evidence-based science, and bears no relationship to philosophy, values, or culture. As far as I'm concerned, this quote found by Camassia blows that claim all to hell -- at the theory's very source.
This week I’ve been reading a lovelyillustrated book that narrates the basic history of life on Earth, called The Book of Life. . . . It includes an interesting preface by the editor, Stephen Jay Gould, discussing the social context of scientific thought. If there’s anyone left out there who thinks scientific thought changes purely through advances in reason and knowledge, Gould sets them straight. But, he adds, the social context is not just an impediment. Darwin, for instance, “derived natural selection more by wondering how he might transfer the laissez-faire principle of Adam Smith’s economics into nature than by observing tortoises on the Galapagos Islands.” [Emphasis added.]
It was fascinating to read this, because I’d speculated about the Smith-Darwin connection already, but had no real proof. Hearing this from a pro-Darwin partisan like Gould is certainly compelling. Of course, Gould thinks this is a good thing, while I find it more troubling.
Here's part of what Camassia said when she "speculated about the Smith-Darwin connection":
It doesn’t take any great powers of observation to notice that people tend to look at nature and see themselves. Pagan lore is full of anthropomorphized animals and humanlike spirits pushing around the winds and the seas. The Hebrews looked at God alternately as a tribal patriarch, a shepherd, and even a mother hen. Scientists tend to congratulate themselves on their ability to observe nature without such biases, and recognize how wholly different it is from us.
But is it? Darwin’s famous On the Origin of Species came out about 75 years after another seminal book, Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. Smith sought out the hidden system behind the emerging industrial society much as Darwin sought out the system behind the natural society. And what they saw is remarkably the same. Both saw a world of continual competition driving constant change, powered by material self-interest. Darwin’s natural world, in other words, looked a great deal like the capitalist society that had begun to develop in England well before he wrote.