31 de agosto de 2009

Impacto de Darwin

Publico a seguir o resumo da comunicação que apresentarei no Congresso Internacional sobre o Impacto de Darwin na ciência, na sociedade e na cultura, que terá lugar na Faculdade de Filosofia de Braga, de 10 a 12 de Setembro.

Darwin’s impact on science, society and culture. A XXI th century reassessment

“Was Darwin wrong?” This is a rather strange question to be asked on the cover page of one of the National Geographic magazine issues of 2004. The inside articles strongly supported Darwin and his legacy, but the question expresses some anxiety that seems to be permanently in the air, especially among those who crusade against creationism. We can imagine how some of these crusaders were dismayed when they put their hands on a January issue of this year of the New Scientist magazine and read on its cover page what might be considered the answer to the National Geographic question: “Darwin was wrong”. Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne wrote an angry letter to the New Scientist editor protesting against the opportunity he had given to creationists to promote their cause. Why then was Darwin wrong according to the New Scientist? Just because the tree of life is very different from the one he draw in his notebook. This is indeed one of the main points of the reassessment that is being made of Darwin over the last decades. Another one is the crucial concept of natural selection, which, even after the inclusion of genetics in the Modern Synthesis, is still being considered in need of a serious revision. This is what researchers working patiently and peacefully in their laboratories throughout the world are discovering. Not only is the interaction between individuals and their environment more complex than it was though by Darwin, but what happens at the genetic level is being known as much more complex than previously thought by the supporters of the Modern Synthesis. A New Synthesis may be needed, taking into account genomics, bioinformatics, evolutionary genetics, among other domains.

As we know, evolution is not a purely scientific matter. It touches philosophy, ethics, theology, sociology, psychology, aesthetics, linguistics, etc. – practically every domain of human society and culture. I am persuaded that the spirit of crusade of some evolutionists who seems to put everything upside down may be a part of the problem of why Darwin is still arising controversy, rather than being a part of the solution.

The main conflict that exists today in the public domain seems to be the one between evolutionists and creationists. This is really what we read every day in the news. But there seems to be another sort of opposition within the scientific domain: the one between the defensive and, somehow, conservative evolutionists, from the one hand, and, from the other hand, the creative scientists who are less worried about being Darwin’s bodyguards and more interested in uncovering new and unexpected features of the biological world, regardless of whether they agree or disagree with Darwin’s original Origin.


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