De invloed van Darwin op ons wereldbeeld
Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, which appeared 150 years ago, caused ‘a conceptual landslide without precedent in the history of science’, according to philosopher of science Chris Buskes. Evolutionary Thinking is the first book to demonstrate so authoritatively the enormous impact of Darwin’s revolution in all fields, not just biology and medicine but language, ethics and religion. Buskes offers far more than a comprehensive overview of the implications of Darwinian thought; the main thrust of his polemic is his assertion that evolutionary theory deserves more space than it is usually given, although he is always careful to point out its boundaries and limitations.
Buskes begins with a succinct account of the life and thought of Charles Darwin. The clarity and occasional irony with which he tells about the young Darwin’s voyage of discovery on the survey ship HMS Beagle sets the tone. His description of Darwin’s method of collecting evidence for what would become his theory of evolution reads like an adventure story. When writing about the significance of evolutionary theory for various branches of learning, the author goes into great depth and draws on impressively detailed knowledge, while maintaining the same vibrant tone and avoiding jargon.
Finally Buskes asks: What are the consequences – often still barely considered – of the theory of evolution for all manner of disciplines? He empowers readers to engage actively with this question by giving a sober analysis of arguments for and against evolutionary explanations of culture, for example, or consciousness. By applying the theory to different domains and examining contemporary debates, he enables readers to take part in the discussions that so often arise around these issues. Why do we find some things beautiful and others not? What is the origin of human language? Do we act purely out of self-interest or is there such a thing as altruism?
A further merit of Evolutionary Thinking is that it places developments in evolutionary theory within a philosophical framework, commanding a broad intellectual terrain from Plato to the question of what is wrong with the notion that we are created by God. Man is no fallen angel, Buskes concludes, but an upwardly mobile primate. For many this is an unwelcome conclusion, since ‘religion, as its revival goes from strength to strength, will collide increasingly often, and more violently, with the insights of advancing science. But we must make no compromises, as the Darwinian revolution is irreversible.’