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Monday, August 22, 2005

Class and evolution

Recent articles like this one on Intelligent Design (many of which Anbruch has linked to and commented on) have started me thinking about the class element involved in the evolution/creationism debate. Obviously there are people of means and even people with PhDs who believe in creationism or its ugly stepchild, ID, but so much of the popular suspicion of evolution seems to be based on a suspicion of the educated elite (and maybe more importantly, on the presumption that said educated elites look down upon the beliefs and attitudes of the average guy).

It’s interesting, because it reminds me of the reading I did for a paper that I wrote early on in grad school on Matthew Arnold and T. H. Huxley, “Darwin’s Bulldog”—the man responsible for popularizing and disseminating Darwin’s theories to a mass audience. (And yes, if you’re wondering, that subject is totally outside of my field!)

Apparently the notion that humans were descended from apes had actually been floating around for a long time before there was any kind of evidence for it, and the idea was really popular among many members of England’s working class because it seemed to provide a scrappy, up-by-the-bootstraps narrative of human development. Evolution was both the great leveler and itself a kind of social mobility, and by embracing the theory members of the lower orders could spit, metaphorically, in the faces of the political and religious leaders who wanted to keep them in their place.

(Can’t provide any citations for any of that just now—but it’s an interesting comparison, yes?)

link | posted by La Lecturess at 8:10 PM |


Anonymous Anonymous commented at 10:44 AM~  

I did a wee bit of evolution for anthropological evolutionism, and it always struck me at how distinct biological evolution was/is from social. With biological, to evolve is to change not necessarily for the better or the worse, but with social evolution, one necessarily progresses. It is a very interesting debate though.

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