The History of science (p) (2019/2020)

Course code
Name of lecturer
Luca Ciancio
Luca Ciancio
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Academic sector
Language of instruction
Sem 2A dal Feb 17, 2020 al Mar 28, 2020.

Lesson timetable

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Learning outcomes

1. To clarify the theorical differences between the Eighteenth-century transformism, especially Lamarck's theory of biological change, and Darwinian evolutionism.
2. To emphasize the implications of such debates for modern and contemporary ideas on the place of man in nature.
3. To show the interdisplinary relations with contemporary debates in philosophy and literature.

1. To be able to present and explain coherently some relevant conceptual landscapes of the past
2. To identify the links between theoretical options and interest (political, economic) at stake.
3. To acquire a deeper sensitivity toward the nature of scientific culture as a tool indispensable to solve the collective challenges that humanity is facing.


THE POLITICS OF EVOLUTION: theories of species and their social uses

Preface: Scientific ideologies and biopolitics

Variation and stability of the living beings in the Seventeenth century
1. John Ray and the idea of perfect adaptation
2. Robert Hooke and the revolutions of the globe

Variation of the species in the Eighteenth century
3. De Maillet, libertinism, eternalism
4. Linnaeus and the economy of nature
5. Bonnet and the Palingenesis

Pre-darwininian transformism
6. Lamarck, Erasmus Darwin
7. Cuvier and biological fixism

Charles Darwin
8. The crisis of Natural Theology
9. Human evolution: emotions and intelligence
10. Social darwinism and Marx's reaction

The evolution in the Twenteeth century
11. The New Synthesis
12. Steven J. Gould

Anti-darwinian and anti-evolutionary positions
13. The Intelligent design hypothesis

The lecture consists of two parts. During the first part, the general topic is introduced by the Professor using slides of texts and relevant images. In the second, students are requested to analyse and discuss together a series of materials - historical sources and essays - provided in advance in Pdf format.

Working on Barsanti's textbook, students should devote particolar attention to distinguishing between Lamarcks' and Darwin's views of the evolutionary mechanism. With regard to materials provide in PDF format, students ae requested to choose and study one author per each of the six sections of the programme.

Reference books
Author Title Publisher Year ISBN Note
Barsanti, G. Una lunga pazienza cieca. Storia dell'evoluzionismo Einaudi 2005

Assessment methods and criteria

During the traditional oral interview the Professor will ask the student to discuss verbally two or more topics of the programme. He will assess the quality of the acquired information, the logic of the argumentation, the originality and autonomy of thought reached by the student.
International students are kindly requested to get in contact with the Professor as soon as possible.