The Use and Abuse of Darwinism in the Humanities and the Social Sciences: Past, Present and Future

November 28, 2014, Ghent University

Ever since Charles Darwin introduced the theory of evolution by natural selection, the theory has grabbed the attention of minds interested in explaining human behavior and culture. Unfortunately, some appropriated the theory, not to explain but to justify immoral social and cultural conditions and ideologies. After the Second World War, evolutionary approaches within the social sciences and the humanities became all but taboo. However, with the advent of sociobiology and evolutionary psychology, evolution has gradually come in vogue again. Supported by theoretical biology and evidence from the cognitive sciences, sociology and anthropology, evolutionary approaches are once again starting to make modest inroads into the social sciences and the humanities. Eventually, this process may lead to a consilience of the (evolutionary) science of life with the sciences that study man and his cultures, i.e. the social sciences and humanities, and thus contribute to the age-old ideal of the unity of knowledge. However, the resistance remains formidable.

By this one-day workshop at Ghent University, organized jointly by people from the universities of Lille and Ghent, we intend to contribute to a better understanding of the ways in which evolutionary approaches can, or cannot, enrich the social sciences and humanities. Focusing on the historical and contemporary, and anticipating the future debates, we welcome both historical and philosophical-theoretical contributions. Possible topics include, but are not limited to, Darwinian approaches of the human sphere in the 19th, 20th and/or 21th century, social Darwinism, the (ab)use of Darwinism in political ideologies, conceptions and misconceptions of evolutionary psychology, cultural evolution and consilience. Note, however, that this workshop is not intended for presenting experimental studies. Keynote speakers will be Christophe Heintz (CEU, Budapest) and Bert Theunissen (Utrecht University).

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Call for papers

If you would like to present, send an abstract of max. 300 words to Stefaan Blancke ( by October 15.

Deadline: October 15, 2014

Posted: October 05, 2014