Tag Archives: Darwin

The Politics of Cognition: Liberalism and the Evolutionary Origins of Victorian Education

AHP readers may be interested in a forthcoming piece in The British Journal for the History of Science on the politics of cognition in Victorian Britain. Full details below.

The Politics of Cognition: Liberalism and the Evolutionary Origins of Victorian Education,” by Matthew Daniel Eddy. Abstract:

In recent years the historical relationship between scientific experts and the state has received increasing scrutiny. Such experts played important roles in the creation and regulation of environmental organizations and functioned as agents dispatched by politicians or bureaucrats to assess health-related problems and concerns raised by the public or the judiciary. But when it came to making public policy, scientists played another role that has received less attention. In addition to acting as advisers and assessors, some scientists were democratically elected members of local and national legislatures. In this essay I draw attention to this phenomenon by examining how liberal politicians and intellectuals used Darwinian cognitive science to conceptualize the education of children in Victorian Britain.

Reflecting on “Functionalism, Darwinism, and the Psychology of Women” 40 Years Later

The August 2016 issue of Feminism & Psychology features a special focus section looking back at Stephanie Shield’s seminal “Functionalism, Darwinism, and the Psychology of Women” some 40 years on. Full details on the pieces that make up this special section follow below.

Special Focus: “Functionalism, Darwinism, and the psychology of women” forty years on: reflections, implications and empirical work
I. Special Focus: Revisiting “the woman question”
Lisa Lazard, Hale Bolak Boratav, and Helen Clegg

II. “Functionalism, Darwinism, and the Psychology of Women” as critical feminist history of psychology: Discourse communities and citation practices
Shayna Fox Lee, Alexandra Rutherford, and Michael Pettit

III. Historical significance of Shields’ 1975 essay: A brief commentary on four major contributions
Rhoda Unger and Andrea L Dottolo

This article argues that Shields’ work demonstrated that it is impossible to practice value-free science. And, despite the efforts of many feminist psychologists who have argued that the question of sex differences is someone else’s question, biological theories about the differences between women and men are still popular and influential today. This paper will call attention to four areas of scholarship produced by second-wave feminist psychologists who were inspired by Shields’ work: (1) rediscovery of the work of first-wave feminist psychologists, (2) discussion of the impossibility of value-free research on sex differences, (3) introduction of new categories of analysis such as “gender” and reframing research based on these new categories, and (4) addition of more value-laden categories to sex such as race, social class, and sexuality and using intersectionality theory to design new avenues of research.

IV. Has the psychology of women stopped playing handmaiden to social values?
Alice H Eagly Continue reading Reflecting on “Functionalism, Darwinism, and the Psychology of Women” 40 Years Later

JHBS: Darwin, Freud, & Psychiatric Legitimacy

The Fall 2011 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences has just been released online. Included in this issue are three articles that may be of interest to historians of psychology. In her article “The naturalist and the nuances,” which won the 2009 John C. Burnham Early Career Award from the Forum of the History of Human Sciences, Stéphanie Dupouy situates Darwin’s investigation of emotional expression within the context of previous scientific investigations on the subject. Articles by Anthony Kauders and Gerald Grob move into the twentieth century and discuss, respectively, Freud’s reception in Germany in the mid-twentieth century and challenges to psychiatric authority in the 1960s.

“The naturalist and the nuances: Sentimentalism, moral values, and emotional expression in Darwin and the anatomists,” by Stéphanie Dupouy. The abstract reads,

Comparing Charles Darwin’s account of emotional expression to previous nineteenth-century scientific studies on the same subject, this article intends to locate the exact nature of Darwin’s break in his 1872 book (as well as in his earlier notebooks). In contrast to a standard view that approaches this question in the framework of the creationism/evolutionism dichotomy, I argue that Darwin’s account distinguishes itself primarily by its distance toward the sentimentalist values and moral hierarchies that were traditionally linked with the study of expression—an attitude that is not an inevitable ingredient of the theory of evolution. However, Darwin’s approach also reintroduces another kind of hierarchy in human expression, but one based on attenuation and self-restraint in the exhibition of expressive signs.

“’Psychoanalysis is good, synthesis is better’: The German reception of Freud, 1930 and 1956,” by Anthony D. Kauders. The abstract reads, Continue reading JHBS: Darwin, Freud, & Psychiatric Legitimacy

Special Issue: History of Evolutionary Psychiatry

The June 2010 issue of History of Psychiatry, dedicated to “A Hundred Years of Evolutionary Psychiatry (1872-1972),” has just been released online. This special issue features a number of articles of interest to historians of psychology, including, among others, an article on Harry Harlow (left) and the nature of love by Marga Vicedo of the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology and an article on the work of Lauretta Bender and the African American psyche by Denis Doyle. Titles, authors and abstracts to these and the other articles in the June issue follow below.

“The evolutionary turn in psychiatry: A historical overview,” by Pieter R. Adriaens and Andreas De Block. The abstract reads:

Ever since Darwin, psychiatrists have been tempted to put evolutionary theory to use in their efforts to understand and explain various aspects of mental disorders. Following a number of pivotal developments in the history of evolutionary thought, including degeneration theory, ethology and the modern synthesis, this introductory paper provides an overview of the many trends and schools in the history of ‘psychiatric Darwinism’ and ‘evolutionary psychiatry’. We conclude with an attempt to distinguish three underlying motives in asking evolutionary questions about mental disorders.

“Schizophrenia, evolution and the borders of biology: On Huxley et al.’s 1964 paper in Nature,” by Raf De Bont. The abstract reads: Continue reading Special Issue: History of Evolutionary Psychiatry

Origin: 150 Years Ago Today

Although Darwin celebrations have been taking place for more than a year, today has particular significance for such celebrations. It was 150 years ago today that Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life was published. To celebrate this anniversary the Darwin Correspondence Project has launched a new interface for their website. Available, fully searchable on the site, are the complete transcripts of all known letters written and received by Darwin up to the year 1867. These letters were originally published in volumes 1 to 15 of the Correspondence of Charles Darwin. The most recent volume, number 17, was published in July of this year. There is generally a two to three time lag between the publication of a volume of correspondence and the appearance of the correspondence on the project’s website.

Notably, a number of first edition volumes of Darwin’s work, including a first edition of On the Origin of Species, are currently on display at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto. This display has been put on in association with the “150 Years After Origin: Biological, Historical, and Philosophical Perspectives” Conference wrapping up at the University of Toronto today.

The Evolution of Charles Darwin

In a four part series which begins airing today, CBC Radio’s Ideas explores the development, reception, and legacy of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, a volume celebrating the 150th anniversary of its publication this year. Produced by York University Department of Film professor Seth Feldman, this series, “The Evolution of Charles Darwin,” explores the import of Darwin’s idea of natural selection from its initial proposal to modern times. The series includes interviews with a number of prominent Darwin scholars, including Darwin biographers Janet Browne and James Moore, as well as historian of Victorian science Bernard Lightman. Also interviewed are current evolutionary scientists, including Niles Eldridge of the American Museum of Natural History, as well as Rosemary Grant and Peter Grant, professors emeritus at Princeton University.

The description of the program asserts that,

Darwin showed us how and why all life is change; that nothing stays the same; that over time all living things adapt and evolve, or perish; and that above all, this is a Natural Process, not the result of Divine Intervention. Darwin’s theory – of evolution through Natural Selection – completely changed the way we see the world.

It is this altered world view, one that Darwin helped to bring about, that the series explores over its four episode run. Continue reading The Evolution of Charles Darwin

“Darwin’s Darkest Hour” on PBS Tonight

For those interested in evolutionary theory, tonight the US Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) will broadcast  a “two-hour scripted drama [that] tells the remarkable story behind the unveiling of the most influential scientific theory of all time, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection…. Daunted by looming conflict with the orthodox religious values of his day, he resisted publishing—until a letter from naturalist Alfred Wallace forced his hand. In 1858, Darwin learned that Wallace was ready to publish ideas very similar to his own. In a sickened panic, Darwin grasped his dilemma: To delay publishing any longer would be to condemn his greatest work to obscurity…. But to come forward with his ideas risked the fury of the Church and perhaps a rift with his own devoted wife, Emma…”

The website for the program is here.

If you miss it tonight, it appears that you will be able to watch the entire episode on-line here starting tomorrow.

Video: Origins of American Psychology

Chris Green, president of Division 26 of the American Psychological Association (and AHP collaborator), has produced a second short teaser on the history of American functionalist psychology. 

He describes this video as follows:

A short history of the origins of American Functionalist Psychology, from Chauncey Wright, through William James and John Dewey, to James Rowland Angell (~1870 to ~1910).

It is the much abridged version of A School of their Own (part 2), below. Continue reading Video: Origins of American Psychology

American Psychologist on Darwin & Psychology

Donald A. DewsburyThe flagship journal of the American Psychological Association, American Psychologist, has just published a special issue on the influence Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution has had on psychlogy over the century-and-a-half since it was first published.

The issue was guest edited by Donald Dewsbury (U. Florida) and, including Dewsbury’s introduction, it contains ten articles. Christopher Green (York U.) writes on the evolutionary roots of American functionalist psychology, while Raymond Fancher (York U.) considers the relationship between Darwin and his cousin Francis Galton. Robert Wozniak (Bryn Mawr) discusses the evolutionary thought of developmental psychologist James Mark Baldwin. Gordon Burghardt (U. Tennessee) delves into Darwin’s impact on comparative psychology and ethology while Stephanie Shields (Penn State U.) & Sunil Bhatia (Connecticut Coll.) investigate Darwin’s thoughts on race, gender, and culture. There are two articles on the Darwin’s influence on emotion research: Ursula Hess (U. Québec) & Pascal Thibault (McGill U.) on expression, and Randolph Nesse & Phoebe Ellsworth (both of U. Michigan) on disorders. Finally, David Buss (U. Texas) writes about the emergence of modern evolutionary psychology.

The complete articles are only available on-line by subscription but the abstracts are available here.

Happy Birthday Charles Darwin!

Today is the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin. It seems superfluous to explain who he was or why he was important. Needless to say, his revolutionary contributions to biology had a profound impact on many areas of psychology.

Charles Darwin

AHP has previously posted several popular items about Darwin.  They include: