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Victorian Scientific NaturalismCommunity, Identity, Continuity$
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Bernard Lightman and Gowan Dawson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226109503

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226109640.001.0001

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From Agnosticism to Rationalism: Evolutionary Biologists, the Rationalist Press Association, and Early Twentieth-Century Scientific Naturalism

From Agnosticism to Rationalism: Evolutionary Biologists, the Rationalist Press Association, and Early Twentieth-Century Scientific Naturalism

Chapter:
(p.309) 12 From Agnosticism to Rationalism: Evolutionary Biologists, the Rationalist Press Association, and Early Twentieth-Century Scientific Naturalism
Source:
Victorian Scientific Naturalism
Author(s):

Peter J. Bowler

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226109640.003.0013

This article extends the study of scientific naturalism into the twentieth century, focusing on the Rationalist Press Association as an expression of the ideas and values originally promoted by T. H. Huxley. The careers of four prominent members of the RPA, the biologists E. Ray Lankester, Arthur Keith, Julian Huxley and J. B. S. Haldane, are used to show how the movement gained respectability. All were agnostics and all promoted evolutionism, Huxley and Haldane being key advocates of the synthesis of Darwinism and genetics. All engaged in popular writing to promote their views. But they disagreed on the extent of materialism implied by the rationalist position and on social issues such as eugenics and race science. Huxley promoted a philosophy of humanism compatible with liberal religion, while Haldane became a Marxist, their divergence illustrating how rationalism ceased to be a coherent ideology in this period.

Keywords:   agnosticism, eugenics, evolution, J. B. S. Haldane, Humanism, Julian Huxley, Arthur Keith, E. Ray Lankester, Marxism, rationalism

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