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That there was great resistance to Darwinism in France during the 1860s and 1870s is unsurprising. Opposition to Darwinism at that time was widespread, not to say strident. Ian Hesketh has written about debates around Darwin’s work in Britain, showing that opposition to his theory was based on a range of scientific and theological positions. The British controversy tended to be seen more simply by scientists on the other side of the Channel as concerned with matters of theology, and improperly so. French scientists usually supposed that Christian views of any kind were incompatible with a general commitment to positive science. The intellectual leader of French physical anthropology and Perpetual Secretary of the Société d’Anthropologie de Paris, Paul Broca, did in fact resist Darwinism, but he did so in resolutely scientific terms. Broca argued that the theory of transformation of species was as yet entirely unproven. He could not fail to acknowledge the theoretical tension between Darwinist “transformism” and his own anthropological-zoological theory of race as a normal set of hereditary characters.
Peter Cryle is an Emeritus Professor in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Queensland. He is the author of a number of books on the history of sexuality, including (with Alison Moore) Frigidity: An Intellectual History, published by Palgrave Macmillan. He is currently completing (with Elizabeth Stephens) a critical genealogy of normality. That work contains a number of chapters on the history of anthropology.
4.00pm Thursday 28 April 2016
Seminar Room, Level 4 Forgan Smith Tower,
University of Queensland, St Lucia
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