Is Darwinism past its ‘Sell By’ Date?

Professor Michael Ruse
17 February , 2009

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Why you should listen

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. 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 is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the History and Philosophy of Science Program at Florida State University. Born in England he taught at the University of Guelph Canada for 35 years while he established a reputation as an expert on the social and philosophical consequences of Darwin’s theories. He has published over 20 books on this topic including Darwinism and its Discontents (2006) The Evolution-Creation Struggle (2005),and Darwin and Design: Does evolution have a purpose? (2003). As a frequent commentator on the Evolution-Creation struggle he debates regularly with advocates of intelligent design. He was the founder of journal Biology and Philosophy and his current research interests are in metaphysical and ethical issues in the biological and biomedical sciences.