In Defense of the Two Cultures

HIMMELFARB, GERTRUDE. "In Defense of the Two Cultures." The American Scholar50, no. 4. 1981.


Next year will be the centenary of Charles Darwin’s death, and the occasion will, no doubt, be properly memorialized. But it will be a very different kind of occasion from that celebrated twenty-two years ago on the anniversary of the Origin of Species. In these two decades the advances in genetics, paleontology, embryology, molecular biology, and all the other sciences that are now thought to have a bearing on evolution – many of which did not even exist in Darwin’s time – have made the theory of Darwinism ever more remote from anything Darwin would have recognized by that name. And if Darwinism, as we know it, has come a long way from its origins, the social theories derived from Darwinism have had an even more curious evolution. It is a situation an- other eminent Victorian, Lord Acton, would have appreciated. “Ideas,” Acton wrote, “have a radiation and development, an ancestry and posterity of their own, in which men play the part of godfathers and god- mothers more than that of legitimate parents.

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