The origin and selection of evolutionary knowledge: the descent and ascent of ideas

Carrington-Smith, Denise (2013) The origin and selection of evolutionary knowledge: the descent and ascent of ideas. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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This thesis investigated the influence exerted by dominant philosophical and scientific paradigms on the interpretation of evidence relating to theories of evolution in general and of human evolution in particular. Several theories of evolution were considered, including that jointly put forward by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace which suggested that evolution had taken place gradually by a process of natural selection.

The methodology of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) was used to follow three dichotomous discourses as they either rose to dominance or were relegated to a subordinate (subversive) position over a period of 250 years. The first dichotomy was that of evolution v. stability of species, the dispute as to whether evolution had taken place at all. The second dichotomy, that of continuity v. discontinuity, concentrated on the claim that all evolution took place gradually, which was opposed by those who held that this was process was sufficient to account for micro evolution but insufficient to account for perceived instances of macro evolution. The third dichotomy was that of the religious belief that creation was purposeful and had taken place under Divine guidance, resisted by the secular belief that all creation had occurred by chance, without plan or purpose.

This thesis considered the validity of some earlier conclusions in the light of emerging scientific knowledge and questioned the degree to which science fell short of the high standards normally required in reporting its investigations by allowing the intrusion of philosophical speculation.

Relevant literature from the past 250 years was studied. The conclusions drawn from the data available to the various authors at the time of their writing were reviewed. It was found that, not only did dominant paradigms influence the interpretation of data, but that, in some instances, data were presented in a manner intended to uphold a prevailing paradigm, or to bring about a paradigm change, to support the political or philosophical preferences of the author or his colleagues.

This thesis calls for a complete re-evaluation of the evidence upon which the dominant theory of evolution has been based, concluding that its promotion and perpetuation, at least as far as human evolution is concerned, has been based more upon the requirements of the prevailing philosophical paradigm than upon scientific facts.

Item ID: 38286
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Alfred Wallace; CDA; Charles Darwin; Critical Discourse Analysis; dichotomy; evolutionary theory; God; human evolution; natural selection; philosophical speculation; philosophy; religion; science; scientific knowledge; theory of evolution
Date Deposited: 15 Apr 2015 00:06
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies > 210399 Historical Studies not elsewhere classified @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970121 Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology @ 100%
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