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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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MARK STOLL Edward Osborne Wilson (b. 1929) 333

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Edward Osborne Wilson: The Gospel According to Sociobiology MARK STOLL In 1975 erupted perhaps the most vitriolic and most public scientific de- bate of the twentieth century, the sociobiology controversy. The cause of the uproar was a large, powerfully argued book, Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, by a shy, introverted entomologist, Edward 0. Wilson (b. 1929) of Harvard University. It had hardly appeared in the bookstores when a dramatic letter appeared in the New York Review of Books. Signed by a group of people calling themselves the Sociobiology Study Group, among them Wilson's Marxist Harvard colleagues Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) and Richard C. Lewontin (b. 1929), the letter linked socio- biology with "biological determinist" theories that had "provided an im- portant basis for the enactment of sterilization laws and restrictive immi- gration laws by the United States between 1910 and 1930 and also for the eugenics policies which led to the establishment of gas chambers in Nazi Germany" (quoted in Segersträle 2000, 14). In the ensuing months Gould, Lewontin, and others would relentlessly attack sociobiology for supposed rightist political implications. To many, the very term "sociobiology" echoed the Nazi pseudo-science Sozialbiologie. A political liberal himself, Wilson later admitted he was completely unprepared for a leftist assault associating his theories with eugenics and gas chambers. This was all the more the case due to the fact that, while he did have an ideological target in mind, it was not Marxism; it was relig- ion — conservative Protestantism in particular. In a series...

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