Philosophers and Evolution: What's the Problem?


Location: Andrews Auditorium, Geddes Hall

Massimo Pigliucci Department of Philosophy, Lehman College-CUNY

A bit more than half a century ago, C.P. Snow pointed out that there is a large divide between the humanistic and scientific cultures. Snow, who crossed the divide, having started his career as a scientist and having become a writer, was puzzled by the extent of the hostility. As he pointed out, many of his literary colleagues would deride scientists for not knowing much about Shakespeare, at the same time that they were quite proud of knowing nothing about the second principle of thermodynamics. The divide still runs deep today, for example because of mutual mistrust between philosophers and scientists. The latter seem to think of philosophy as a waste of time, or a “pleasing gloss” on the history of science. The former often endorse pseudoscientific notions that are rightly scorned by the scientific community. This talk will examine the divide between the two cultures through specific examples pertaining to philosophical treatments of the theory of evolution. The goal is to diagnose the problem and, hopefully, propose some constructive solution.