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Saturday, April 27 • 9:00am - 10:00am
3. The Limits of Knowledge: Responses to Darwinism among German Scientists

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The Limits of Knowledge: Responses to Darwinism among German Scientists
Robert Powers
Faculty mentor: Mark Clark
University of Virginia’s College at Wise

This presentation focuses on responses to Darwinism among German scientists and religious thinkers. The scientists foregrounded in this study are the Jesuit entomologist Erich Wasmann and the botanists Johannes Reinke and Eberhard Dennert, who critically examined Darwin's theory of natural selection. In doing so, they did not resort to what we would now label “fundamentalist tropes.” Rather, they were willing to accept empirical evidence and thought in broad religious and philosophical terms about evolution’s mechanisms and the associated implications. This research also represents an attempt to contextualize Darwinism. In Germany, his ideas were quickly appropriated by materialists and largely popularized by the monist Ernst Haeckel, who put his own philosophical “spin” on Darwin’s conclusions. German scientists’ arguments against materialists’ employment of Darwin’s ideas fit with other comments on the limits of knowledge, so I attempt to situate them within the broader intellectual history of the nineteenth century.

Robert Powers is a history and German major from Dungannon, Virginia. He plans to pursue graduate study in history this coming fall. 


Saturday April 27, 2019 9:00am - 10:00am EDT
HSB 207