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Eminent Lives in Twentieth-Century Science and Religion

With chapters on: Rachel Carson, Charles A. Coulson, Theodosius Dobzhansky, Arthur S. Eddington, Albert Einstein, Ronald A. Fisher, Julian Huxley, Pascual Jordan, Robert A. Millikan, Ivan P. Pavlov, Michael I. Pupin, Abdus Salam, Edward O. Wilson

Edited By Nicolaas A. Rupke

Can science and religion coexist in harmony? Or is conflict inevitable? In this volume an international team of distinguished scholars addresses these enduring yet urgent questions by examining the lives of thirteen eminent twentieth-century scientists whose careers were marked by the interaction of science and religion: Rachel Carson, Charles A. Coulson, Theodosius Dobzhansky, Arthur S. Eddington, Albert Einstein, Ronald A. Fisher, Julian Huxley, Pascual Jordan, Robert A. Millikan, Ivan P. Pavlov, Michael I. Pupin, Abdus Salam, and Edward O. Wilson. The richly empirical studies show a diversity of creative engagements between science and religion that defy efforts to set the two at odds.

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JITSE M. VAN DER MEER Theodosius Dobzhansky (1900-75) 105

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Theodosius Dobzhansky: Nothing in Evolution Makes Sense Except in the Light of Religion JITSE M. VAN DER MEER Theodosius Dobzhansky (1900-75) was born into a Russian Orthodox family living in occupied Ukraine. In 1927 he moved to the USA where he became internationally known for his work on the genetics of popula- tions. His motto was, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution" (Dobzhansky 1973c). My thesis is that for Dobzhansky nothing in evolution made sense except in the light of religion. The con- verse applied too, but that is not the focus of this paper. Dobzhansky him- self acknowledged that "philosophical" interests drove his research. He believed that it was hazardous to separate religious beliefs from other concerns because "a glaring inconsistency may assail one's mind at a most inopportune moment" (Dobzhansky 1973b, 102). Several authors have pointed out that ideological and social values may have played a role in the scientific positions that Dobzhansky took (Lewontin 1974, 29-30, 157; Beatty 1987a, b; 1994), but they have not explored the link with religion. Admittedly, Michael Ruse (b. 1940) has proposed that central parts of Dobzhansky' s scientific thought were rooted in a religious vision of cosmic progressionism. He concluded "that Dobzhansky read his progressionism into nature, rather than from it, and that his science was shaped in such a way as to support such a reading"(Ruse 1996, 401; see also Ruse 1999, 108, 119). However, Ruse's conclusion is based on sources dating from the...

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