June 2010
Nuncius: Journal of the History of Science;2010, Vol. 25 Issue 1, p41
Academic Journal
As the 'Darwin anniversary' (2009) has amply illustrated, Charles Darwin is seen as having forced a new understanding of self on humankind as a product of blind natural forces. However, mechanisms such as orthogenesis and the inheritance of acquired characteristics were maintained post-Origin to explain purposeful evolution. Only with the modern synthesis these mechanisms lost their validity, and Darwinian selection theory became the core of evolutionary biology. Thereafter, teleology was no longer an aspect of the natural world. This is how Theodosius Dobzhansky, Julian Huxley, Ernst Mayr, and George Gaylord Simpson told the history of evolutionary biology after Darwin throughout their lives. In the aftermath of the Darwin-year, it is worth taking another look: Was it in the evolutionary theories of the synthesis that humans finally became generally regarded as just another kind of living organism, subjected to the indifferent mechanisms of evolution and the whims of chance?


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