Robert Richards, Fishbein Professor of the History of Science and Medicine
This is a multi-part project designed to reconstruct the historical foundations of Darwin's theory as expressed in the -Origin of Species- and -Descent of Man- and to explore its contemporary significance for understanding human nature. The core question addressed in the project is: How does Darwinian theory help us understand the nature of human beings, especially that aspect that might be thought to transcend its biological roots as conventionally conceived. The three main activities that constitute the project are 1) Robert J. Richards will write a historical and philosophical commentary on Darwin's Origin of Species; the book will examine the historical, philosophical, and theological argument of each of Darwin's chapters. 2) Richards and Michael Ruse will co-author a book (U. of Chicago Press) -Debating Darwin.- Each of the authors has a very different view of Darwin's accomplishment. Ruse will emphasize the traditional mechanistic view and Richards will argue that Darwin?s theory is grounded in a Romantic and theistic conception; each will draw the implications for our contemporary view. 3) The collaborators will conduct two workshops (which will be videoed), with distinguished scholars, to explore the historical foundations of Darwin's theory and its contemporary impact on several disciplines: philosophy, anthropology, psychology, economics, and religion. Richards will also offer a course on the Origin and Descent of Man, which will be video-taped and put on the web. Darwinian theory is invading a whole range of contemporary disciplines that assume a conventional understanding of Darwin's accomplishment. Richards aims to reorient our contemporary understanding of the implications of Darwinian theory for those disciplines, to show that the conventional, materialistic, anti-theistic views were not the basis of evolutionary theory as originally conceived, and so to suggestion a wider set of possibilities for the theory as used by the disciplines.