Pete Wearden

Wallace and Darwin

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In an excellent article on the development of the theory of natural selection and its social and political context, it was very welcome to see Alfred Russel Wallace given his due place (Socialist Review, February 2009).

John Parrington points to the key area of dispute: human evolution. Darwin begins The Descent of Man by saying that "races or species of men…replace one another, so that some finally become extinct". John correctly suggests that this is a dangerous concession to the imperialism, and sometimes genocide, of the late 19th century. In reaction to this, Wallace points out that human ability in music, mathematics, and so on, is far too great to be explained by natural selection. Darwin opens the door to biological reductionism and socio-biology.

Anthropology: The Pitter-Patter of Tiny Feet

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The discovery of a new hominid species is a major blow to those trying to reduce human beings to a set of genes. Some 'scientists' were reported to be looking for a gene for homelessness!

How can a species half our size, with a proportionately smaller brain have been a skilled tool-maker with apparently human, cultural behaviour?

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