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Essay about The Evolution of Anthropocentrism

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The Evolution of Anthropocentrism


Evolutionary theory throws humans into a tizzy. Driven by the need to amass knowledge, we find ourselves surging forward into the exploration of a story where the more we know, the less we can feature ourselves. Eminent evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr contends that anthropocentrism and belief in evolution by natural selection are mutually exclusive (Mayr 1972). In other words, the Darwinian story of biological evolution rejects the notion of progress and replaces it with directionless change, thereby subverting the conception of human superiority on a biological scale toward perfection. Evolution by natural selection undermines the idea that humans are the culmination and ultimate beneficiaries of all nature. However, to say that anthropocentrism necessarily dissolves in the rising tide of evolutionary theory is to ignore the ways in which human centered humanness plays an intriguing role in evolution.

In his article, "Anthropocentrism: A Modern Version," W.H. Murdy integrates these two conflicting phenomena by tracking the evolution of anthropocentrism itself and proposing that Darwinian theory marks the shift from an old version of anthropocentrism to a new, modern version. This modern reconceptualization is able to situate human centered thinking within the story of evolution, but it also elucidates a complex and uniquely human crisis in which anthropocentrism becomes self-destructive.

The biological species concept is crucial to understanding both the reason why outmoded anthropocentrism is completely invalidated by Darwinian evolution and why Murdy's modern version is not only compatible with evolutionary theory but is an inevitable evolutionary phenomenon. It is important to no...


... middle of paper ...


...x implications for one another. Given their drastically different time scales, we must be careful not to conflate cultural evolution with biological evolution, but a brand of anthropocentrism that will not backfire must negotiate a careful course through both biology and culture.


Works Cited

Dennet, Daniel
1995 Darwin's Dangerous Idea. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Mayr, Ernst
1972 "The Nature of the Darwinian Revolution." Science, New Series,
Vol. 176, no. 4038: 981-989.

1996 "What Is a Species, and What Is Not?" Philosophy of Science, Vol. 63, No. 2: 262-277.

Murdy, W.H.
1975 "Anthropocentrism: A Modern Version." Science, New Series, Vol.
187, no. 4182: 1168-1172.

Additional Sources

Dare, Ron J., J.S. Rowe, Robert L. Olson, W.H. Murdy
1975 "Anthropocentrism and Evolution" (in Letters) Science, New Series,
Vol. 189, no. 4203: 593-96.


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