Is Darwinism Past its 'Sell-By' Date?

Speaker: Michael Ruse

Charles Darwin published his great work, On the Origin of Species in 1859. In that work, not only did he make the case for evolution he also offered a mechanism, natural selection or (as it became known later) the survival of the fittest. We are now celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Origin, as well as the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth. It is therefore appropriate to step back and look at the theory of the Origin, asking both about its success back then and even more how it fares today. My answers are that it did well in its own day but clearly needed more work to make it fully successful. Today, thank goodness, not one item of Darwin’s thinking remains intact; but, at the same time, everything that Darwin had to say is as vital and relevant as it ever was. The proper analogy is the Volkswagen, the “people’s car” of the late 1930s Germany. Not one part of that car still functions today, and yet the 2009 Beetle or Bug is so identifiably exactly the same car. As Heraclitus said, you cannot step into the same river twice. But then, as Parmenides said, nothing changes. Darwinism is the living embodiment of the truths of both of these sayings.

Michael Ruse
Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor (Florida State University) & Director of HPS Program (Bristol University)

Published Feb. 2, 2012 3:08 PM - Last modified May 25, 2012 11:14 AM