Geschichte der biologischen Theorien, seit dem Ende des siebzehnten Jahrhunderts

Abstract

ALTHOUGH biology is now permeated by the evolution idea, and has continually before it the ideal of giving a genetic description of the present phase of the animate world, there is some reason to fear, as Dr. Radl indicates, a growing apathy towards the study of the evolution of the science itself. Whether it be that many workers share Nietzshe's view that the study of history paralyses the intelligence, or that they feel it their primary business to make history, not to read it, or that they regard historical inquiries as the philosopher's task, not theirs, it seems certain that too little attention—in our investigations, theories, and teaching alike—is paid to the historical evolution of the science. A notorious example may be found in the biological work of Herbert Spencer, who, though he had almost accidentally found inspiration from a slight acquaintance with the work of von Baer, deliberately set his face against looking for more. He preferred to think for himself. But all cannot be excused as we excuse Spencer, and even his work suffered from his peculiarly detached independence of outlook. Whether we will or no, the past lives in the present, and he who thinks himself most emancipated from all scientific tradition may be a signal instance of the rehabilitation or recrudescence of doctrines which characterised his unknown intellectual ancestors. It is not as if scientific discoveries were successive special creations which had their day and ceased to be, giving place to others unaffiliated to them. On the contrary, as Dr. Radl's book, and any other piece of careful historical work, shows, biology is an evolution. Generalisations grow and vary, there is an amphimixis of ideas, there is an adaptation to the social environment, there is a struggle for existence and a survival of the fittest.

Geschichte der biologischen Theorien, seit dem Ende des siebzehnten Jahrhunderts.

Teil i. By Dr. Em. Radl. Pp. vii + 320. (Leipzig: W. Engelmann, 1905.) Price 7s. net.

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