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Freud and Darwin II

I was originally going to post this as a response to David Coppedge’s post, but it got too long.

The relationship between Freud and Darwin – both intellectually and institutionally – is more complicated than has been suggested here.

Although Freud had top-notch academic credentials, his career was always that of an outsider, whose main constituency was in the larger public intellectual culture and well-educated middle class people who were his client base. (Freud’s books won literary prizes, not scientific ones.) One way you can see Freud’s outsider status is that he was never granted a professorship even though he tried several times. While his theories were somewhat embraced by medical schools (peaking in the US in the 1950s), experimental psychologists, while of course familiar with his claims, generally kept their distance. In fact, Freud’s fall from grace has been really from psychiatry, which is the only field within striking distance of natural science in which he was ever held in grace.

However, it’s only been since the 1970s that Freud has been shunned specifically because his theories and treatments don’t work. Before that time, he was shunned because of what we would now regard as the interdisciplinary character of his work: He borrowed things from a lot of disciplines, and so it was always hard to test anything he said. For example, already in the 1920s Karl Popper was talking about psychoanalysis as ‘unfalsifiable’ rather than simply false. Nowadays people are more comfortable saying Freud is false.

As for Darwin, he certainly influenced Freud. But more to the point, until 1920s or possibly even 1930s, Darwin’s and Freud’s theories were subject to roughly the same degree of (dis)approval – in both cases, questions were asked whether their rather ‘big picture’ explanations could ever be tested properly, or whether they were even necessary for the conduct of empirical work in, respectively, biology and psychology. However, by the 1940s, Darwin’s theory had come to be embraced by leading biologists (outside the USSR and possibly France) as providing a valid explanatory framework. Why Darwin managed to achieve that status, while Freud never did is the interesting comparative question to ask.

Let me suggest the following: The people originally behind the Neo-Darwinian synthesis in the 1930s, whatever their (typically pro-) views about eugenics, downplayed, if not outright denied, Darwinism’s significance for explaining human behaviour. In fact, this strategy worked well for about 40 years – until E.O. Wilson published Sociobiology and Richard Dawkins published The Selfish Gene. Not surprisingly, Darwinism has come to attract an increasing amount suspicion and scepticism, once its implications for the human condition have become clearer. In contrast, Freud could never hide that his theory was about the human condition, and so accordingly it has always been under a cloud.

In short, if you want to turn Darwin into the next Freud, evolutionary psychologists should keep on coming up with the back-of-the-envelope ‘my reptilian brain made me do it’ explanations that Denyse O’Leary regularly skewers on this blog. Freudians were skewered by similar means in their day.

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40 Responses to Freud and Darwin II

  1. Dr Fuller,

    Here, here to skewering tomfoolery. But could you document more clearly the influence you think Darwin had on Freud?

    I found, by the power of GreyskullGoogle, this in a review of a book trying to make that connection

    In publications and letters Freud referred to Darwin about 20 times, generally with respect, but did not endorse the idea of natural selection.

    I would be interested in other opinions. I feel we are edging further away from Mr Coppedge’s “largely influenced”.

  2. Steve, help yourself to another skewer and load it up. There’s plenty in the kitchen.

    The problem with evolutionary psychology is that it is a discipline without a subject.

    Old Stone Age man lived and died without leaving a memoire.

    We know only a very little about him. He often buried his dead in the hope of rising again (tucked into a fetal position, with grave gifts). But he never wrote a theological tract.

    As for pre-humans, we know nothing at all. I can’t understand dogs or cats in the present day very well, so once we have defined something as “not human”, you are telling me I can’t understand it. So I just don’t know, and bet no one else does very well either.

    I remember a vet confessing to me, in despair, “The trouble is, I cannot ask him what is happening.”

    Why I didn’t believe Freudians decades ago:

    Occultism. = A charge once levelled at me: “You say that because you hate your mother.” All the external evidence is against that view. Freud is for it. Who to believe?

    You don’t need to believe either Freud or me, but you might want to look at the external evidence before coming to a reasonable conclusion.

    Oh wait. According to Ivy League’s Steve Pinker, our brains are shaped for fitness, not for truth, so what is reasonable does not matter anyway.

    And where does THAT leave you?

    Well then, fast forward to evolutionary psychology.

    Now the beauty with evolutionary psychology is, as noted above, that it moves the whole story beyond any reach of disconfirmation.

    No one knows what was fit for Old Stone Age man, beyond the reach of common sense, which you don’t need an expensive education or a degree to figure out.

    Like, it was better to hunt and fish than whine and loaf, and it was better to have two legs than one, but … I should get a degree for realizing this fact?

    See, that was Freud’s big problem. Live people can disprove and disclaim stupid opinions by the witness of their own lives.

    But long dead people can’t similarly blow it all out of the water.

    So evolutionary psychology is, in some ways, a much better racket than Freud.

    But it is a racket.

    Once you have loaded up your skewer, put it on the grill and turn it every 60 seconds.

  3. I always think of Frued, anologically, as a kind of intellectual magician. He creates an alluszion that has the weak minded masses convinced- though nobody really banks on his magic being 100% true reality.

    There is somthing obviously missing between the translation of one’s fear of spiders and their sexual difficulties regarding the relationships with their mother or wemon in general.

    Meanwhile Darwin plays his charade by getting you to focus on his right hand which holds a picture representing a system of statistical chance- while his other hand slips in complex positive genetic changes.

    I think the Platonist have it right when they see language as objective nothing more than an allusion of the mind. Perhaps Popper is right that it is the lack of falsifiability in both instances (DE and PA) that prevents them from attaining the reality of true theories like general relativity.

    If the question is whether Darwinism and Fruedianism is false or just merely unfalsifiable doctrines- I would hold the position that they are neither false nor unfalsifiable doctrines but in fact analogical allusions.

    Belive in Fruedianism while the pschiatrist pciks your pocket- and belive in evolution while the fittness landscapes cannot be purchased within the theory.

    Oh, and btw, believe in Marx while the government taxes you into oblivion.

    We can all be happy, equally poor, disabled, bi-polar schizophrenic atheists, if we would just listen to and accept the intellectual consensus on all of this.

    We might even be able to stop global warming.

    And certainly this would all be for the benefit of humanity- and not for the government, the medical industry, and public sector’s teacher’s unions.

    Watch the left hand. Pay no attention to the right.

  4. Dr Fuller–thank you for the clarifications graciously stated.

  5. Nakashima,

    I put forth several quotes about Freud in Mr. Coppedge’s post. It took all of 20secs to find.

    Maybe you doubt the source I list. But it is not a conservative site.

    Freud was an atheist and was disgusted by religion. He would naturally look to Darwin’s evolution.

    Are you denying Freud was influenced by Darwin?

    Here is another story about Freud from Jewish World Review…

    “A great amount of scholars have discussed and criticized Freud’s theory. Clearly, Freud was influenced by Darwin and Robertson Smith, two dominating figures in the 19th century who initiated the “primal horde” theory. Modern anthropologists have rejected this theory. (See H.L. Phillip, Freud and Religious belief, London, Rocklif, 1956.)”

    I guess, what you’re saying is many people are wrong to connect Freud to Darwin?

    http://www.jewishworldreview.com/0601/freud.asp

  6. More quotes from books on Freud…

    Freud, Biologist of the Mind—whose subtitle is Beyond the Psychoanalytic Legend—is thus as much an attack on the hagiographic proclivities of traditional scholarship on Freud as it is a revisionist interpretation of the psychoanalytic revolution. Freud’s ideas, Sulloway insists, are simply an offshoot of the Darwinian paradigm that has dominated biological thought from the late nineteenth century to the present.

  7. More from Freud and his Critics:

    Sulloway’s placing of Freud between Darwin and Wilson suggests a more general tactic of his reinterpretation. He is eager to disabuse us of the notion that Freud conceived his ideas in intellectual isolation. The legend, Sulloway contends, has greatly overstated Freud’s independence and originality. Not only did Freud enjoy the sustaining inspiration of Darwin, but he also made his critical discoveries within a rich context of contemporary intellectual influences. Wilhelm Fliess, to whose relationship with Freud Sulloway devotes his two central chapters, was only the most prominent among those influences. Whether by way of personal and professional association (as with Fliess, Jean Martin Charcot, and Josef Breuer) or by way of books and correspondence (as with the sexologists Havelock Ellis and Albert Moll), Freud developed his ideas not through courageous and lonely self-examination but through the familiar vehicle of intellectual dialogue. Sulloway argues, in particular, that the figures who influenced Freud most profoundly shared the evolutionary assumptions and modes of reasoning that constitute the “hidden rationality” of psychoanalysis.

    book link:
    Darwin query search

  8. It does not appear to be a controversial issue given Freud’s atheism and the times. And the circles of people and influences in his life.

  9. continued from Freud and His Crtics…

    The author here is critical of Freud’s critic – Sulloway:

    “The unconscious, after all, belongs uncompromisingly to the realm of the psychological. Accordingly, it is neglected. I hardly need add that this neglect stands in stark contrast to Freud’s own assessment of its significance. The unconscious was for him his single most important contribution, an idea of truly epochal consequence, whose discovery he compared, in a famous passage, to the revolutions in thought brought about by Copernicus and Darwin before him.”

    So, Freud himself was comparing himself to Darwin’s momentous “revolution” as well as Copernicus. So we establish not just Freud’s awareness of Darwin, but of his thoughts of Darwin as one of the most important revolutions in science of the three – including arrogantly his own.

    “Just as Copernicus had removed humanity from the center of the universe and Darwin denied it any special place in the hierarchy of nature, so Freud himself, he boasted, had delivered an even more devastating insult to mankind’s self-confidence.”

    Well, well… and thus he see’s himself as an equal with Darwin in removing man from his high place. You’d think Freud would know about the fallen state of Adam, but I’d be digressing.

    Freud…
    ““Human megalomania will have suffered its third and most wounding blow from the psychological research of the present time which seeks to prove to the ego that it is not even master in its own house, but must content itself with scanty information of what is going on unconsciously in its mind.”[4]”

    We are meaninglessly placed in an obscure darkness of a far flung universe, made up of Darwin’s evolutionary tales over billions of years and we cannot trust our own minds to tell us the truth.

    Does that sum it up well? Here is Freud making the argument for all theist today. Thank you kindly Sigmund.

    “In Sulloway’s interpretation, this “Freudian revolution” effectively collapses.”

    Yes, but it supports the argument that atheist can’t have a clue. Whereas theist do.

  10. Nakashima,

    Do you require more information about Freud’s thoughts on Darwin?

  11. Mr DATCG,

    Thank you, but in Sulloway and ‘Freud and His Critics’ we are already at a second and third remove from Freud himself. What I can see in the quotes from Freud brought so far, Freud was quite aware of Darwin. Yes, who couldn’t be at that time and place in intellectual history! But as in th equote about religion brought by Mr Tribune7, Freud shows he is willing to borrow the vocabulary of ‘evolution’ that was current in order to justify by analogy a theory of mind that was not itself derived from evolutionary ideas.

    For example, where in Freud is common descent? Natural selection? The development of the human mind from the needs of more primitive life?

    As a doctor, not a ‘scientist’ in the modern sense, Freud built and revised his theory on the fly. It doesn’t seem to have a stable foundation in anything beyond Freud’s personal experiences. IMHO!

  12. 12

    DATCG: Thanks for the quote research. Did you run across any quotes in the other direction? i.e., hinting that Darwin approved of evolutionary psychology? It appears Freud’s work did not get rolling till after Darwin’s death (1882), but materialistic psycho-physiologies were kicking around in Germany in the 1870s and Darwin in his old age may have heard of proponents. If Darwin knew about these approaches and approved of them, it satisfies the other side of the equation. (This, of course, would be in addition to Darwin’s own suggestions in The Descent of Man and The Expression of Emotions.)

    Freud studied under some of these “Darwinian” physiologists in medical school. They would have viewed the human mind as another physical trait subject to natural laws of evolution. Whether they attributed evolution to natural selection (strict Darwinism) or not is a red herring; the Darwin-Freud influence would have consisted of seeking to explain all aspects of life (in this case the human mind) as products of descent from lower organisms via unguided natural laws and chance.

  13. Thank you for your humble opinion!

    Sulloway disagrees with you and makes the connections with Fleiss. However, if you read carefully my book link, you’ll see the author disagrees with Sulloway and agrees with you.

    I’ll leave it to readers to determine if they think Sulloway made the case or not about Freud’s psycho-biologist renderings.

    Frankly, I agree with you that Freud’s foundations are unstable.

    Still, will you answer the straight question put forward to you.

    Do you think Freud was influenced by Darwin? The quote by Freud himself is quite enlightening and certainly being an atheist and approving of Darwin as 1 of 3 revolutions in science(including his own), then he’d be aware that evolution plays a role in the human brain.

    Correct? Or, are you now saying Freud could not add 2+2?

    Even with as unstable of a foundation as you state Freud had IYHO!, certainly you do not deny the simple deduction of Darwin’s evolution upon the human brain?

    And thus that Freud would recognize Darwin’s theory on the brain? Are you saying Freud a complete fool? That he could simultaneously understand Darwin’s theory as a revolution, but could not understand the relation to humans of such a theory?

  14. David,

    First, thank you for all you do on your web site.

    I only searched quickly the one direction.

    Although a quick search turns up… Allen MacNeill, which is gosh darn funny:

    On Evolutionary Psychology quoting Allen…

    “Finally, Darwin asserted that much of animal and human behavior is the result of “the direct action of the excited nervous system…independent of the will, and independently…of habit.” In essence, this is an argument against the idea that human behavior is the result of “free will” or conscious intent. Freudian psychology caused a firestorm of controversy in western culture because Freud also suggested that most of human behavior was motivated by drives that were largely unconscious, and therefore not the result of “free will.” Despite a century of research into animal and human behavior, this idea – that our actions are largely not the result of “free will” – is still hugely controversial, even among evolutionary biologists.”

    Now, I’m not sure exactly how Mr. MacNeill will respond, but I suspect he’ll side with the very humble opinion(!) of Mr. Nakashima.
    Besides, I miss Allen.

    What I sought to do was show that indeed this is not limited to you or others here at UD. That there are other scholarly looks at the subject.

    I think the quote by Freud himself is most telling for several reasons. One, Freuds own EGO. Two, He recognized Darwin’s substantial influence on ALL of science which included his own. Three, he concurred with Darwin’s reasoning to some degree. And I’d argue quite strongly as a result of his atheistic beliefs.

    As you say, a verbatum quote of natural selection is a red herring. The key is whether or not he agreed and was influenced by Darwin revolution in science. It is obvious by the one single quote that he did. Otherwise, he would have been critical of Darwin, not flattering.

    I find it awkward, if not disturbing to think Freud would not understand Darwin’s link to his own thoughts on the brain, or that Darwin’s evolution theory would not be applicable in part.

  15. Nakashima,

    Calling it a night. Good to see you again.

  16. Nakashima’s response to this post illustrates a curious asymmetry in how people generally deal with intellectual history – especially when it concerns an iconic figure like Darwin.

    On the one hand, if it is claimed that Darwin has influenced something ‘bad’ (e.g. Freud, Nazism), then an enormous burden of proof is demanded, such that it becomes easy to dismiss quite obvious references to Darwin as merely semantic window dressing. On the other hand, if it is claimed that Darwin has influenced something ‘good’ (i.e. basically anything in biology today), then the slightest reference to ‘evolution’ will suffice to accord Darwin credit.

    Freud was just as scientifically competent as any highly trained medical doctor of his day, and his use of Darwin was not peculiar. After all, what exactly do you suppose Darwinism was circa 1900 – before it was fully integrated with modern genetics, let alone molecular biology (none of which existed)? Because the mechanism of heredity had not been clearly established, it was quite normal for scientific thinkers to slide between what we would now as quite distinct evolutionary positions. If Freud was a charlatan, his use of Darwin would be one of the LAST places I’d look for evidence.

    What distinguished Freud was his independent-mindedness: He was not one to let the academic establishment discourage his pursuit of some interesting ideas. Here we might think of Freud as having established a separate power base for psychoanalysis by turning it into a self-sustaining business of fee-paying customers. Unlike other academics, he didn’t need state grants to keep his research afloat – his subjects paid to see him! Freud’s success and growing non-academic influence clearly rankled academics who could not see the scientific basis for his success.

    The take home point here for our understanding of Darwinism in all this is that it would be a mistake to suppose that Darwinism circa 1900 was somehow destined to become the Neo-Darwinian synthesis which is now spearheaded by the latest breakthroughs in molecular biology. In fact, Darwinism could have become more like Marxism – a general explanatory framework and political ideology – a notion still retained in what we now call ‘Social Darwinism’. Had that happened, Freud’s use of Darwin would be completely unproblematic.

    But as it turned out, biology was gradually colonised by a physics-based mentality, culminating in the quite explicit infusion of physicists and chemists by the Rockefeller Foundation in the 1930s and 1940s to tackle the molecular bases of life, culminating in the discovery of DNA’s genetic significance. These people didn’t spend a lot of time thinking or talking about Darwin – they didn’t need to, and they still don’t need to. Here Stephen Meyer’s ‘Signature in the Cell’ strikes the right note, because just as Darwinism circa 1900 need not have led to today’s molecular biology, today’s molecular biology need not be beholden to Darwinism of any period.

  17. Dr Fuller,

    Since you’ve called out my response by name, I feel somewhat compelled to respond.

    If someone says “the theories of X (largely based on Darwinism)…” there is a burden of proof on them. That would be true if X is Freud or Jonas Salk or Velikovsky.

    As a completely historical question, there are many ways to go about researching it. How many books of Darwin were in Freud’s surviving library? Were they read and marked in any way? As we discussed last month, the relation of Darwin and Mendel can be documented in this way.

    Turning to the writings a person we can lok for quotations from Darwin, and references to Darwin. But these can’t be weighed as evidence in isolation. We need to see who else was quoted and referenced in order to assign some relative value of influence.

    As helpful as all that evidence would be, we eventually have to locate ideas in the theories of one man traceable to “Darwinism” not Darwin. What could Freud have understood Darwinism to be? Common descent and natural selection.

    For example, Darwin himself in “Expression of Emotion” sets down a pattern of argument used by evo-psych ever since – document some characteristic as universal in humans and reason that it is therefore hereditary, not learned, and therefore the product of selection in evolution, and relatable to similar characteristics in our close relative species.

    Does Freud ever do that? Well, his theories certainly assume that there are universals – that his theories are applicable to all human minds, not just bourgeois Viennese. But the assumption of commonality across all humans is not a unique feature of Darwinism, it is a very common assumption of our culture.

    I think if you look at Frued’s theories, he is much more interested in how the idiosyncratic experience of each person needs to be explicated, not that the universality of the Oedipus complex means there is a similar complex in chimpanzees. Penis envy among bonobos doesn’t motivate his theory, nor does he argue that anal and oral stages were selected for in our ancestors.

    If he did make such arguments, I think it would be clear that he was largely influenced by Darwinism. As it is, I haven’t seen such evidence adduced. So it is only in this alternate universe constructed by Dr Fuller that Mr Coppedge’s attribution makes sense.

  18. Mr DATCG,

    I think it is clear that Freud wanted to be ranked with Darwin, and in his own mind his theories overtopped Darwin in the “wounds” they caused.

    To your question, I do think there was influence from Darwin to Freud, but it was not great, and Mr Coppedge’s “largely” is unjustified.

    If Freud had indeed been largely influenced by Darwin, the mind in his theories would have been a remarkable early example of what Richad Dawkins called the extended phenotype. But it seems that Freud abandoned the brain for the mind early in his career.

  19. If we are examining the influence Darwin had on Freud, then I am with Nakashima on this one. However, Coppedge are merely comparing the two. I don’t see either of them anywhere making a strong case for a Darwinian influence on Freudian theories. I don’t see them saying anywhere that Freud was necessarily and greatly influenced by Darwin.

    Coppedge frames his question by comparing three modern thinkers: Marx, Darwin and Freud. Freud has already gone down. Marxism is still alive though I think we have sufficient evidence to conclude he was wrong about almost everything. An atheist professor I had in college suggested that Marx may have been right about revolutions in agriculturalized societies like Russia instead of the industrialized societies Marx had envisioned. So if anything Marxism is a refuge of the backward, not the future of humanity.

    And then there’s Darwin.

  20. sorry, “Coppedge and Fuller are merely comparing”

  21. Hi Steve,

    I really appreciate your scholarly analysis. It is top notch.

    “Why Darwin managed to achieve that status, while Freud never did is the interesting comparative question to ask.”

    Isn’t the answer to this question rather obvious. There is no alternate materialistic explanation to evolution. It is either Darwinism or nothing. Since the status of biologists is dependent on their claim to knowledge evolution is the only game in town. It will most likely never be rejected by the “scientific” establishment of biologists. To reject evolution would mean the acceptance of creationism.

  22. Nakashima,

    While much of what you say about Freud is literally true, you seem to miss the overall point of his work. Yes, Freud is focused on human universals that distinguish us from the animals, but those universals turn out to be mechanisms for repressing our animal nature. Indeed, we all end up becoming neurotic because civilised humanity is such an uphill struggle. This view is not so different from TH Huxley’s view that the human condition is organized resistance against natural selection. You don’t see things that way unless you already accept Darwinian naturalism as the baseline view.

    Now, it’s true that Freud blended this Darwinism with other philosophies, theologies and mythologies that stressed our struggle against our animal nature. So he’s certainly not an unalloyed Darwinist (but then who is?). Indeed, purer Darwinists (e.g. the anthropologist Edward Westermarck) contested one of Freud’s signature theories – the incest taboo – by showing that the taboo was not unique to humans but occurred in other primates. The nature of the debate indicated that Freud was trying to define what was unique about humans in terms that Darwinists might recognise. Today we’d say he didn’t succeed.

  23. #22

    Freud is focused on human universals that distinguish us from the animals, but those universals turn out to be mechanisms for repressing our animal nature. Indeed, we all end up becoming neurotic because civilised humanity is such an uphill struggle. This view is not so different from TH Huxley’s view that the human condition is organized resistance against natural selection. You don’t see things that way unless you already accept Darwinian naturalism as the baseline view.

    Would Darwin himself have agreed with Huxley on this?

    Even if we do accept Huxley’s view as Darwinian – surely the idea that human civilisation struggles to suppress its animal nature is a lot older than Darwin? It only becomes distinctively Darwinian if you see that animal nature as the product of natural selection and there is nothing in Freud that I am aware of that discusses how those animal instincts arose.

  24. #21

    There is no alternate materialistic explanation to evolution. It is either Darwinism or nothing.

    Depends how you define evolution and Darwinism. There are plenty of alternatives to RM+NS, some of which have been accepted by biologists, others rejected, and some still under debate. E.g genetic drift, epigenetics, Larmarckism, endosymbiosis.

  25. Dr Fuller,

    You don’t see things that way unless you already accept Darwinian naturalism as the baseline view.

    I think many traditional religions would disagree.

    I’m going to take it as read that the “largely” in Mr Coppedge’s original OP was unjustified.

  26. Mark Frank and Nakashima,

    It’s fascinating to watch you try to save Darwin’s honour, even though I’m not exactly sure why it would be so bad to admit that Freud was influenced by Darwin — however much or little.

    And yes, Huxley and Darwin did not see eye to eye on what makes us human. Huxley always had an eye on reasserting the distinctiveness of the human within naturalism, whereas Darwin was much less bothered by the problem.

    And of course, the great world religions discuss, to varying degrees, the repression of our animal nature. But Freud was not one of their believers.

    As for Freud not being a Darwinian because he doesn’t cite natural selection, well, even if that were true, it’s not clear that ‘natural selection’ in 1900 meant anything very clear beyond a certain pattern of species survival over geological time. Darwinism back then was just as much associated with the ‘struggle for survival’ and ‘survival of the fittest’. Yes, I know this is really Spencer, not Darwin, but the difference between the two only becomes clear once modern genetics kicks in.

    The same exercise can be run on someone like Nietzsche, who thought he was influenced by Darwin but then on closer inspection what he claims to have derived from Darwin isn’t very Darwinian by our lights.

    Here’s an interesting tidbit: Carl Woese, the microbiologist who has made a big deal about horizontal gene transfer, also wants to call himself as ‘Darwinian’ and so he writes papers pointing out that Darwin himself regarded common descent as merely a hypothesis. This is an insurance policy for the time when biologists come to believe that the transfer of genes between generations of members of the same species is not as significant as it has been traditionally held to be. Yet, we can still all be ‘Darwinians’ because common descent will by then no longer be seen as a necessary condition for being Darwinian. Ain’t the rewriting of history grand!

  27. #26

    It’s fascinating to watch you try to save Darwin’s honour, even though I’m not exactly sure why it would be so bad to admit that Freud was influenced by Darwin — however much or little.

    I wasn’t thinking about Darwin’s honour. Just querying some facts – queries which I think you have accepted.

  28. Dr Fuller,

    I’ve already agreed (in a response to Mr DATCG) that Freud was influenced by Darwin. My complete interest in this conversation has been whether Mr Coppedge’s term “largely” was justified, or not. We seem to have arrived at – not.

    I don’t think Woese needs to write himself insurance policies against the day his own ideas are successful. Beside, for those who care, he has a prooftext, the phrase ‘one or a few’ in the famous ‘endless forms most beautiful’ sentence. HGT doesn’t threaten common descent. it just makes it harder to trace back into an age of genetic promiscuity. Given the number of retroviruses cluttering our genome, we have obviously inherited from virii as well as our larger, more visible parents.

  29. Nakashima,

    Right you are! But once the general intellectual public (including non-biologist academics) get wind of the prevalence of HGT, the dogma of common descent (and I say ‘dogma’ because of the rhetorical role this played in the Dover ID trial) will force a respecification of Darwin’s contribution to biology. Again, there is nothing especially wrong with this. My point is that one should always consider what is ‘Darwinian’ in light of not only what the man actually said but also the interests who would use him to underwrite their science.

  30. Nice to read that someone misses me! (is there an online equivalent to having your ears itch when someone is talking about you?) I’ve been incredibly busy this semester, teaching three courses at Cornell (including an honors section in our evolution course on “design” in nature), plus writing an introductory evolution text for Wiley, plus putting the finishing touches on a series of videos on the history of evolutionary biology since Darwin (coming soon as “The Darwinian Revolutions” at http://cybertower.cornell.edu/), plus being a good husband and a father to my four kids (one of whom — Draco — is deep into his “terrible twos”).

    That said, I commend Prof. Fuller, Nakashima, and the other commentators on this thread for a thoroughly interesting discussion of the (relatively paltry) influences of Darwin on Freud. I agree with Fuller and Nakashima: while there were influences, they were not unusual (given the time and the Zeitgeist), and not of much interest to either historians of evolutionary biology nor psychology.

    If asked, I would neither designate myself as a “Freudian” nor a “Darwinian”, any more than a modern physicist would willingly take on the mantle of a “Gallilean” or a “Newtonian”. Evolutionary biology, like physics, has come a very long way since the mid 19th century, and while I find the history and philosophy of evolutionary biology fascinating, I would hope that I would never conflate them with current theory. Indeed, current evolutionary biology bears only a passing resemblance to the “modern evolutionary synthesis” (also referred to as “neo-darwinism”) of the mid 20th century, much less the intellectual confusion of the fin de siécle.

    One of the truly fascinating aspects of following most of the discussions on this website is the general lack of understanding of even the most basic concepts of modern evolutionary theory and its history, much less a nuanced understanding of its fine points. For example, I find it quite telling that virtually none of the discussions I have read here have mentioned (much less discussed) Sergei Chetverikov, Ivan Pavlov, R. A. Fisher, J. B. S. Haldane, Sewall Wright, E. B. Ford, Theodosious Dobzhansky, G. Evelyn Hutchinson, George Gaylord Simpson, G. Ledyard Stebbins, Ernst Mayr, William D. Hamilton, Robert L. Trivers, George R. Price, Robert MacArthur, Edward O. Wilson, Lynn Margulis, Robert H. Whitaker, Carl Woese, Konrad Lorenz, Niko Tinbergen, Karl von Frisch, Erenhaus Eibl-Eibesfeld, or the Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium Law, much less Otto Schindewolf, Richard Goldschmidt, or C. H. Waddington. Anyone familiar with the general outlines of evolutionary biology would instantly recognize most or all of these names, and would associate them with various important aspects of evolutionary biology as it has evolved over the past century. Not recognizing them or discussing their contributions to modern evolutionary biology is equivalent to not recognizing or discussing the contributions of Rutherford, Bohr, Schroedinger, Heisenberg, Michaelson & Morley, Einstein, Feinman, Gell-Mann, Weinberg, or Guth to modern physics.

    In other words, with the very rare exception of discussion threads like this one, most of what passes for “discussion” of evolutionary biology on this website is the pummeling of pitiful and ridiculous straw dogs and disputations over the fine points of Christian fundamentalist dogma, sometimes disguised (badly) as “science”.

    But such an assessment on my part might be somewhat uncharitable. Go ahead, prove me wrong: start a rational and nuanced discussion of the relevance of Fisher’s Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection to current ideas of microevolution, or the relevance of Goldschmidt’s “hopeful monster” hypothesis to modern theories of evo-devo. This website might actually become interesting for a change, not as the intellectual equivalent of rubbernecking at a motor vehicle accident, but as a forum for intelligent discussion.

  31. Oops, for some reason the parenthesis got included in the URL for the Cornell CyberTower website in the previous post. Here it is, sans parenthesis:

    http://cybertower.cornell.edu/

    I’ve signed off on the final edit of the video series, and it should be launched very soon. Our intention was to get it up in time for the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Origin of Species (24 November 1859, by John Murray; 1,000 copies sold out in an afternoon – if you have one, it’s now worth a cool quarter $million).

    Perhaps someone (Dr. Fuller?) would like to view the series and fisk it here? I’d be game to defending it (and critiquing it) myself. It’s a lightning survey of the history of evolutionary biology since 1809, and an even more cursory peek into the philosophical and scientific basis for excluding teleology from the mechanisms of evolution (both micro- and macro-). Could be fun, enlightening, and even (dare I say it?) educational…

  32. Allen_MacNeill,

    One of the truly fascinating aspects of following most of the discussions on this website is the general lack of understanding of even the most basic concepts of modern evolutionary theory and its history, much less a nuanced understanding of its fine points.

    Of course, as the moderator of this site (following all threads and all comments), I know that this isn’t at all true. And most if not all of the folks you brought up are discussed regularly. And I have to ask, even based on your anecdotal and partial knowledge of what’s posted here, even if what you said were true, why would you find it truly fascinating? What would be fascinating about it? Did you evolve an odd fascination complex? And did others evolve a perspective to consider it mundane? I really would like to know how you could discern what should or shouldn’t be fascinating given that both reactions are evolved traits, and why you would consider this one to be “truly” fascinating (as if an evolved emotion were “true”)? How could it be true, except as a personal fancy?

  33. Allen,

    Let me know when your video series comes out and I’ll have a look at it and say something about it here.

    Meanwhile I’m soon off to London to teach 650 secondary students about the contemporary relevance of ‘Inherit the Wind’, which Kevin Spacey is currently staging at the Old Vic Theatre. Don’t worry — Darwinists will be plenty in attendance!

  34. Allen_MacNeill,

    This website might actually become interesting for a change, not as the intellectual equivalent of rubbernecking at a motor vehicle accident, but as a forum for intelligent discussion.

    I distinctly remember you turning tail and running from Timaeus.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-309606

    You also avoided discussing the evolution of morality with me. Do you consider that to be an amusing wreck to be observed on this blog? I do. It’s the only sort of thing I can see that is worthy of rubber-necking at this site, folks like you avoiding the argument.

  35. Allen_MacNeill wrote in 31:

    Our intention was to get it up in time for the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Origin of Species (24 November 1859, by John Murray; 1,000 copies sold out in an afternoon – if you have one, it’s now worth a cool quarter $million).

    History tells us that these 1,000 copies were sold in a wholesale fashion to retailers not 1,000 individuals.

    The Origin of Species sold just 39,000 copies from 1859-1890. See The Origin of Species – A Variorum Text, edited by Morse Peckham, p. 24. The population of Great Britain at that time? Around 30,000.000 people. With those numbers in perspective, can we call this a best-seller? A book that revolutionized the world of science?

  36. The current population of the USA is over 300 million (304,059,724 this morning at 09:58 EDT: see http://www.google.com/publicda.....ion+of+usa ). To reach the NYT best seller list (the standard against which all others are judged; see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N.....est_Seller ), a book must sell around 100,000 copies. For example, Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (the most widely reviewed non-fiction book at Amazon.com), sold 697,848 copies in 2006 (the year it was published). In that same year, the population of the USA was approximately 300 million (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D.....ted_States ). This means that the most widely read and reviewed non-fiction book of 2006 had total sales that corresponded to 0.23% of the population of the USA (this percentage does not take into account sales to book clubs, distributors, etc.).

    By contrast (using the numbers provided by Enezio E. De Almeida Filho in post #35), The Origin of Species was bought by 0.13% of the population of Great Britain. In other words, sales of the Origin of Species (widely recognized as the most influential non-fiction book of the 19th century, by both admirers and detractors) were surprisingly similar in order of magnitude to hottest selling non-fiction book of 2006. So, yes, the Origin of Species was (and still is) a “best-seller”. And, judging by the fact that we are still debating a book that is 150 years old next month (24 November, to be exact), the Origin of Species not only revolutionized the world of science, it has probably had more impact on society as a whole than any other book published in the 19th century (and probably the 20th century as well).

    Just what point were you trying to make here, anyway?

  37. Steve Fuller:

    Thank you for your offer; I’ll be looking forward to your analysis!

  38. As to why I “turned tail and ran” from Timaeus, I actually have a life and a career (not to mention a family). If Timaeus would like to restate his query, I would be happy to address it.

    As to Clive Hayden’s question on the subject of the evolution of morality, I have repeatedly stated that I agree with G. E. Moore that questions of morality are not addressable using naturalistic terms. To do so would be to commit what is widely known as the “naturalistic fallacy”. Indeed, I taught an entire course on this subject last summer at Cornell.

    So, who’s avoiding the argument? I have clearly stated my position on the subject of the metaethical justification for moral prescriptions, and did so in response to Clive’s queries in earlier threads. The fact that he and I apparently disagreed does not qualify as evidence that I avoided the issue, whereas the fact that he has chosen to ignore (or to cover up) the fact that I did indeed respond to his query indicates to me that he, not I, is avoiding rational discussion of these issues.

  39. Allen_MacNeill,

    As to why I “turned tail and ran” from Timaeus, I actually have a life and a career (not to mention a family). If Timaeus would like to restate his query, I would be happy to address it.

    That’s very convenient for you now that he’s no longer engaging you in the topic (of which he tried repeatedly to do when you avoided him).

    And as for me, if you believe that humans are a result of evolution, then that includes everything that humans do, including moralizing. You have no qualms of speaking and writing of the evolution of religion, so why not morality? I would love to start this discussion up again if you promise not to run this time.

  40. I haven’t had a chance to read all the fine responses but I get the
    gist from what I have read that Darwin was outmoded and now so should
    Freud be. I think that would be a bad thing. Freud in APHASIE
    describes how he was so non-plussed at the hopelessness of aphasics
    that he resisted and began to work on the problem. Basically a good
    guy and a a good neurologist. But above all he recognized the genuine
    category of the psychogenic. The patient is not a bag of bones-or
    molecules, but an individual with a psyche (the closest science can
    get to a soul I guess). Now Darwin introduced a type of explanation
    which utilized Fundamental ideas of Time and Space. Co-adaptations are
    in space; modifications are in time. He calls for the single clear
    insight of the means of co-adaptation and modification (Origin
    Introduction, 1859) Fundamental Ideas of Space and Time came from
    Whewell the Anglican minister and educator.

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