Darwin’s revolution

This year is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th of the publication of his seminal ‘On the origin of species by means of natural selection’. Huw Sheridan looks at its importance for communists

Charles Robert Darwin died on April 19 1882. Plans for the funeral in his quiet village were quickly interrupted when influential figures called for him to be buried at Westminster Abbey. A House of Commons petition stated that this “would be acceptable to a very large number of our countrymen of all classes and opinions”. And so it was: Darwin was buried alongside the cream of the British empire; one of less than half a dozen non-royals to be buried in Westminster Abbey in his century.

Today, it is hard to avoid Darwin. Bank notes and coins bear his face, whilst towns, universities and national parks are named after him. The anniversary of his birth has led to a torrent of articles, as well as television and radio programmes.

Evolution of evolution

Let us try and put Darwin in context. As far back as the 5th and 6th centuries BCE Greek philosophers such as Anaximander and Empedocles proposed an evolutionary view of life. Not much later, so did taoist philosopher Zhuangzi in China. In the Roman empire men like Titus Lucretius Carus kept these traditions alive. It was also through Lucretius that much of our modern knowledge of the Greek materialist, Epicurus, survived. Through such people materialism and evolutionism, in large part symbiotically, came down to the modern era.

In medieval Europe the notion of the scala naturae, the ‘great chain of being’, was dominant, and largely stifled evolutionary thought. Species, like the social order of feudalism, were seen as god-given and immutable. In contrast, across the ‘Islamic world’ evolutionary ideas were expressed by a number of people, including Al-Jahiz and Ibn Miskawayh.

The renaissance and the enlightenment paved the way for the development of modern evolutionary theory. Carlos Linneaus’s Systema naturae was the high point of enlightenment natural history. Within a creationist framework – and following the work of John Ray, who first used the terms ‘species’ and ‘genus’ – Linneaus developed ‘taxonomy’: the science of naming and classification of the natural world. We still use his system of binomial nomenclature today (eg, Homo sapiens).

Yet Linneaus showed the limits of a descriptive, as opposed to explanatory, approach. Despite being forced by the weight of anatomical evidence to put human and great apes in the same family (Hominidae), he denied there was an evolutionary relationship between them. Other examples of this core contradiction include his initial classifying of whales with fish.

In the later 18th century the real action was in France, particularly in the Paris Musée National d’Histoire Naturelle. Georges Cuvier (the ‘pope of bones’) held classically Aristotelian views, combined with a propensity to bureaucracy and intrigue. In response to the discovery of dinosaur fossils Cuvier proposed the theory of catastrophism, which was still just about compatible with biblical accounts. Nevertheless, his work in uniting anatomy with palaeontology was of lasting significance.

Others at the museum advocated evolutionary ideas. The intellectual spat between Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire and Cuvier makes modern disagreements, such as that between Steven Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins, look like a picnic on the beach. Saint-Hilaire was influenced by German philosophy and strongly supported the French revolution. He travelled to Egypt with Napoleon. When he returned, he found Cuvier was widely regarded as the most important scientist in France.1

Saint-Hilaire came to support another colleague at the museum, the young professor of invertebrate biology, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. Lamarck is a key figure, in that from 1809 he moved beyond abstract speculation on evolution and proposed a mechanism by which it occurred. The ‘inheritance of acquired characteristics’ was in many ways an application to biology of John Locke’s philosophical ideas, as filtered through the French ideologues.

The clichéd example of Lamarckism is that of the giraffe, which by stretching up for leaves during its lifetime supposedly passes on a longer neck to its offspring. Yet only the genetic information in sperm or eggs can be passed on, and these are not affected by stretching the neck – but it was at least a serious attempt to explain it. Lamarckism later disastrously reappeared as ‘Stalinist-Marxist’, or Lysenkoist, biological theory in the Soviet Union.

Lamarck also broke the legs of the scala naturae; he proposed two chains, with side branches and the ability of species to move along them. It undermined the entire idea of the chain and prepared the way for Darwin.

In Britain geologist James Hutton developed the theory of uniformitarianism. This held that the key to understanding the past was the present; the same forces such as erosion and deposition had always taken place. Hutton impotently tried to combine his geology with theology, yet he was to inspire a generation of geologists.

Charles Lyell was one of them. He was another creationist, yet in his Principles of geology Lyell accumulated considerable evidence for uniformitarianism; in no small part a polemical response to Lamarck. Lyell was a key figure in pushing the age of the earth back, which was crucial in that it allowed for the time Darwin’s mechanism would require.

A final character deserves a mention. William Buckland, professor of geology at Oxford, was another scientist pushing creationist ideas against a wall. An advocate of ‘old earth creationism’, he rejected simplistic ‘flood geology’, which linked sedimentary deposits and what was later shown to be the evidence of glaciation to Noah’s flood.

In 1823 he discovered the famous ‘red lady’ of Paviland, in south Wales. This was actually a 30,000-year-old man, associated with the remains of a mammoth. Buckland claimed the individual was from Roman times, and the mammoth dug from older deposits by those who buried him. Likewise, the association of long extinct species with ancient human tools at Kent’s Cavern in Dorset must have been the work of Celts digging pits into the floor.

In spite of his flaws, Buckland made important advances. To his credit he accepted the idea of Louis Agassiz, a former student of Cuvier, that there had been past glaciation. This helped others to suggest there had been two glaciations. Then three were proposed … and so on. The Earth was getting older; the Bible an ever more inadequate account of history.

Space prevents a thorough discussion of another important field. It may have been idealist and overly speculative, but romantic biology – inspired by philosophers such as Kant and Hegel – was crucial in developing the idea of nature as a dynamic system. It led to advances in fields from neurology to embryology, many of which would have been unlikely if a purely empirical method had been used. The philosophical winds coming out of Germany were thus a vital catalyst for the development of modern evolutionary theory.

Life and times

In many senses Darwin was a synthesis of his two grandfathers. Erasmus Darwin was a personification of the enlightenment in Britain. In Zoönomia and the epic poem Temple of nature he advocated a loosely defined evolutionism, reflecting his belief in reason and progress. Darwin’s maternal grandfather, Josiah Wedgewood, was a rich Unitarian pottery industrialist.

Four first-cousin marriages connected the Darwins and the Wedgewoods. They personified the increasingly influential Unitarian Whig bourgeoisie – although wealth would push them towards Anglican respectability.

Darwin’s father complained of him as a young man: “You care for nothing but shooting, dogs, and rat-catching, and you will be a disgrace to yourself and your family.”2 Indeed at the University of Edinburgh Darwin quickly became averse to his course in medicine. Instead he enjoyed attending debates and collecting marine invertebrates on the shore of the Firth of Forth with Robert Edmond Grant, a follower of Lamarck and Saint-Hilaire.

Darwin left Edinburgh, and moved to Cambridge University as a step towards a career with the Church of England – a ‘calling’ with more than enough free time to pursue his interest in nature. 1820s Cambridge was a strange place, deeply religious and conservative. Darwin spent much of his time collecting beetles, and on Friday evenings would attend Reverend John Stevens Henslow’s dinner parties for discussions on natural history.

In 1830 the monarchy of the reactionary Charles X was overthrown in France. In Britain the working class was beginning to assert itself. In Merthyr Tydfil in south Wales the zenith of a period of radicalisation saw thousands of people take to the streets and hills in the summer of 1831, raising both ‘economic’ and political-democratic demands. The red flag was raised in Britain for the first time and workers forced soldiers out of the town.

However, the rising remained, essentially, socialism in a single town. Reinforcements were sent in; the revolt was isolated and crushed. Yet within weeks trade union lodges started appearing and a new chapter in the history of the working class had opened. The population of Britain had doubled in the previous 30 years, and with the Tories for now frustrating attempts at a Reform Bill, things were in a fluid state.

In 1831, the year Hegel died, the 22-year-old Darwin set off on a five-year voyage around the world. HMS Beagle, bristling with the latest technology, and a not insignificant amount of firepower, was to survey the South American coast. Considerable British capital was invested in the area.

Darwin hit foxes on the head with his geological hammer, knocked hawks off branches with the barrel of his gun, tormented lizards and shot anything which was too slow to get away. One time he was looking for a rare species of bird, only to discover that he had just almost finished cooking and eating one! Despite the ‘savages’, he was pleased to note that “little embryo Englands are springing into life”.3


When he returned in 1836, much had changed. The Reform Bill had finally been passed in 1832. The 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act introduced the dreaded workhouses.

A growing chorus of voices called for professional scientists, not the traditional gentlemen-amateurs. The British Association for the Advancement of Science was founded in these years, in opposition to the conservative Royal Society. Darwin and many others came to embrace Auguste Comte’s positivism.

Positivism was a particular manifestation of another, wider trend. No longer would nature be explained by god’s random interventions, but rather by fundamental laws. Maybe god had initiated the laws of nature, but for increasingly secular science that was a secondary, philosophical question. From one perspective, it was capitalist ‘rule of law’ constitutionalism applied to science.

These were the conditions under which Darwin began to condense his thoughts and observations on ‘transmutation’ (evolution) in secret notebooks in 1837.

These were also the years of Chartism. Darwin’s cousin, Emma Wedgewood, whom he married in 1838, presumably summed up their shared feelings when on reading Thomas Carlyle’s Chartism pamphlet she declared it “full of compassion and good feeling, but utterly unreasonable”.5

A variety of factors held Darwin back from publishing his ideas. Not least the family and friends who would be shocked. The Malthusian bourgeoisie wanted theories to justify and expand their position, yet Darwin was also concerned that his ideas would be appropriated from below.

Darwin’s fears were understandable. The people were skilled at plagiarising the work of the bourgeoisie for progressive ends. Aside from the Chartists, there were illegal newspapers such as the Oracle of reason. This sold well and expounded atheist and evolutionary ideas. Editor after editor was jailed for blasphemy.

In August 1838 the latest editor of the Oracle (and the man who coined the phrase ‘secularism’), George Holyoake, was put on trial. He turned the trial into a propaganda epic. From the dock he spoke for eight hours on atheism and socialism. He was sentenced to six months in prison.

That summer saw a huge and prolonged Chartist-inspired general strike. But the popular enthusiasm from below was let down by poor leadership, insufficient organisation and an altogether wrong strategy. Troops marching from London to put down disorder in Manchester passed Darwin’s street. They were followed by screaming crowds, who shouted at the soldiers, “Remember, you are brothers” and “Don’t go and slaughter your starving fellow countrymen.” For a respectable Whig like Darwin it must have been terrifying.5


By 1842 Darwin had a basic sketch of what would become On the origin of species. Yet he compared discussing his ideas to “confessing a murder”.6

But by the mid-1840s evolutionary ideas were beginning to gain respectability in ‘polite society’. The anonymous publication in 1844 of Vestiges of the natural history of creation by Robert Chambers is a crucial event preparing the way for the later publication of Darwin’s ideas. Written for a popular audience, it led many to accept that species could change.

In 1845 Tory prime minister Robert Peel embraced ‘free trade’. The following year the hated Corn Laws were repealed. Peel’s Tamworth Manifesto crystallised the modern Conservative Party, favouring modest reforms. Whig politics had ‘won’, but in the process heralded their negation.

Darwin turned his attention to that most pressing of subjects, barnacles! It showed that the man who largely lived on his father’s money could do ‘proper science’, and not merely abstract theorisation.

Then 1848 happened. The French workers showed more of a passion for barricades than barnacles, and the king fled to Britain. Europe exploded in revolution. Thousands of Chartists were expected to meet on Kennington Common in April. The upper class engaged in an extensive programme of arming and fortifying buildings. Even the geologist, Reverend Buckland, now Dean of Westminster, wielded a crowbar, ready to bludgeon any undesirables in the Abbey.7 As it turned out, the Chartist demonstrations were peaceful, a period of reaction was ushered in and the economy boomed in the 1850s.

On June 18 1857 a long letter that landed on Darwin’s doormat was like a cruise missile. It was from Alfred Russel Wallace, a working class socialist born near Abergavenny in south Wales. He had some ideas for the respected English naturalist to look over. Little did he know they closely paralleled what Darwin had been working on in secret. Darwin panicked, and rushed to publish his ideas.

On the origin of species

On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life was finally published on November 24 1859.

It was a surprise bestseller alongside Charles Dickens’ A tale of two cities, a novel set in the context of the French revolution, and Alfred Tennyson’s Idylls of the king (superficially a retelling of the Arthurian legend, this was widely interpreted as an allegory of the class struggle). The popularity of such works tells us much about the attitudes of Victorian Britain.

Origin begins by discussing artificial selection. It was clear that selective breeding had strongly changed many species. Thus from the humble wild cabbage came Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower. From the wolf we bred the diminutive chihuahua and the mighty Irish wolfhound. Darwin argued, by drowning the reader in examples, that nature worked in the same way. Clearly all species were varied, and most have the ability in theory to rapidly increase in numbers. Yet this does not happen. There is therefore a “struggle for existence”.

Natural selection was, however, considerably slower than artificial selection because nature was blind and change was not teleological. Over time varieties became species. It was a remarkable book, although genetics was perhaps the invisible ‘elephant in the room’ within it.

darwin-ape1One notable omission was human evolution. This is what people largely talked about, and Darwin was quite clear in private on the implications of his work. He was not keen on a fight, and he merely comments that “light will be cast on the origin of man and his history”. Even so, the true significance of the book was clear. A number of reviews of Origin and books such as the Duke of Argyll, George Campbell’s Reign of law (1867) attacked Darwin for undermining the natural basis of class society.

It was Darwin’s ‘bulldog’, Thomas Huxley, who took on the topic of human evolution most directly with his Evidence as to man’s place in nature (1863). Darwin later showed the diversity of his thought in The descent of man and selection in relation to sex (1871). As this was being published, the Parisian working class were ‘storming the heavens’. The Paris Commune was to be the most significant action of the proletariat until 1917. The Times criticised Darwin’s application of evolutionary ideas to humans, which it claimed would lead to “the most murderous revolution”.8


Behind all this lay the struggle between idealism and materialism. Philosophy had become mired in the scepticism of Kant and Hume. A key role played by Hegel was in transcending Kant’s ‘thing-in-itself’, but Hegel remained an idealist, chasing the Geist through history. Materialism was also troubled, being largely mechanical and contemplative. Darwin’s ideas were powerful ammunition for materialist dialectics.

This explains the reaction of the Marx-Engels team to Darwin’s ideas. To fast-forward somewhat, at Marx’s graveside Engels declared: “Just as Darwin discovered the law of development of organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history.”

Marx’s initial reaction to Origin, in a letter to Engels on December 19 1860, was that, although “developed in the crude English style”, Darwin’s argument “contains the basis in natural history for our point of view”. He made similar comments to Lassalle.

A relatively little known affair occurred some time later. Marx greeted the publication of the now largely forgotten Origine et transformations de l’homme et des autres êtres (1865) by Pierre Trémaux with considerable excitement. Trémaux argued that changes in soil chemistry were the primary factor in driving evolution. Marx declared this “a very significant advance over Darwin” and that “for certain questions, such as nationality, etc, only here has a basis in nature been found”.9 Engels bluntly criticised Marx for warming to this crap, and Darwin was re-embraced. Marx was certainly not infallible.

A widespread myth is that Marx asked Darwin if he could dedicate Das Kapital to him. Yet, as has been comprehensively shown, this is false. The letter from Darwin on which it is founded, addressed simply “Dear Sir”, was actually sent to Marx’s soon to be son-in-law, Edward Aveling, who had sent Darwin proof sheets of his The student’s Darwin (1881).

Engels addressed the relationship of Darwinism to the communist project at length in his Anti-Dühring.10 Here we find a defence of the core of Darwinism. To Dühring Darwin had done little more than crudely paste Malthusian political economy onto nature. With the exception of the villain – in this case the megalomaniac professor Dühring rather than the modern creationists – Engels’ exposition of Darwin reads like a contemporary textbook.

Dühring’s words find a modern echo with, for example, ex-Workers Revolutionary Party member Cyril Smith.11 The irony is that, in the end, both Smith and Dühring actually do accept evolution by natural selection, but both complain that it is not the only mechanism by which evolution occurs. Darwin agreed!

Marxists have adopted a plethora of positions on Darwinism. For Dutch council communist Anton Pannekoek the essence of Darwinism was valid, but he advocated a somewhat mechanical division whereby Darwinism applies until man appears, and then Marxism takes over. He has a point, but goes too far. While he criticises “bourgeois Darwinists”, his proletarian Darwinism was just as unscientific.12

Trotsky argued that Darwinism was “the highest triumph of the dialectic in the whole field of organic matter”.13 Kautsky, on the other hand, moved away from his initial keenness for Darwin and later advocated a “materialist neo-Lamarckism”.14

Today the Socialist Workers Party has an uncomfortable relationship with Darwin. For instance, in former Socialist Worker editor Chris Harman’s A people’s history of the world (1999) we find only fleeting reference to him. A recent article by SWP intellectual Alex Callinicos rightly criticises those on the left who are suspicious of Darwin’s ideas.15

But Callinicos implies that anything progressive about Darwinism had been elucidated 150 years ago. The spectacular advances of the 20th century are brushed aside, as crude defences of capitalism. His GCSE level analysis would, in many regards, be better replaced by a few minutes on Wikipedia. The same goes for the 2005 Socialist Worker series by Viren Swami, who chucks in some basic factual errors for good measure.16

Malthus, gradualism and fitness

Thomas Malthus’s Essay on the principle of population went through six editions, and must be seen in its polemical context.17 The anonymously published first edition was a frontal assault on the enlightenment. In later editions the focus was on the Poor Laws and anything else which helped the workers to survive and multiply. Malthus’s ideas boiled down to ‘do nothing’; help for the impoverished workers now would only make things worse later.

Malthus famously claimed that, whilst population increased geometrically (eg, 1, 2, 4, 8 …), resources – primarily food – could only increase arithmetically (eg, 1, 2, 3, 4 …). Both of these assumptions are flawed; contraception and artificial fertilisers, to name just two things, upset his neat schema. In reality his Essay was, as Engels argued in his The condition of the working class in England (1845), the “most open declaration of war of the bourgeoisie upon the proletariat”.18

Yet how much did Darwin’s theory really owe to Malthus? Darwin had already started work on evolution, and Malthus’s views on humans inspired his views on nature, where the logic of Malthusianism may actually have some bearing. However, as Engels put it in Anti-Dühring, “No Malthusian spectacles are required in order to perceive the struggle for existence in nature”.19

The essence of Darwin’s Origin was the claim that gradual natural selection was the primary mechanism by which evolution occurred. In many cases this is true: for instance, with the detailed mimicry of many butterflies – an example August Weismann used in his defence of Darwinism from attack by the Dutch botanist, Hugo de Vries.

But what about something like a change in the number of chromosomes? This is a ‘digital’ change, a qualitative transition. The same goes for the origin of life from inanimate material. Periodic ‘extinction events’ also scupper the idea of the universality of gradualism; the last one, the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event, wiped out some 75% of extant species.

The idea of gradualism was thick in the air Darwin breathed. The bourgeoisie wanted ‘progress’ (eg, industrialisation), but it did not want the proletariat to overstep its mark. Archaeologist August Pitt Rivers put things somewhat more honestly than many of his contemporaries when he said the law that nature “makes no jumps” can be taught to the people “in such a way as at least to make men cautious how they listen to scatterbrained revolutionary suggestions”.20

But gradual change is not necessary for Darwinism. Even Huxley – among many others – was critical of Darwin’s repeated use of the phrase Natura non facit saltum (‘Nature makes no leaps’) in Origin. As Huxley quite rightly suggested, “We believe that nature does make jumps now and then, and a recognition of the fact is of no small importance.”21

This debate has continued in recent years. Those who consider themselves orthodox Darwinists (gradualists), including Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, have opposed more dialectical suggestions. This primarily takes the form of the idea of ‘punctuated equilibrium’, initially proposed by Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould.

Yet even in Darwin’s lifetime he moved away from the focus on natural selection in Origin. The nature of the fossil record – also the prominent in Gould’s arguments – was an important factor. As was the claim by creationist geologist William Thomson, seemingly supported by ‘scientific evidence’, that the Earth was far too young for natural selection to have taken place.

In response, in the later editions of Origin and in The variation of animals and plants under domestication (1868), Darwin sought to speed up evolution by a variety of mechanisms (some of which look suspiciously close to being Lamarckian) and advocated an increasingly multi-causal view of evolution.

The most controversial element of Darwinism for progressively minded people has been the idea of the ‘struggle for existence’, or ‘survival of the fittest’.

Darwin states in the Origin that he uses the expression ‘struggle for existence’ in a “large and metaphorical sense”. There can be no simplistic moral application to human society of descriptions of natural processes; we need to remove our anthropomorphic spectacles when looking at nature.

When old oak trees compete for light they are engaged in a struggle for existence. The male peacock, with his cumbersome tail, shows that for this species the struggle largely takes the form of sexual selection. Altruism in no sense contradicts the struggle for existence.

The phrase ‘survival of the fittest’ originated with Herbert Spencer, and Darwin used it in later editions of Origin (as a less anthropomorphic alternative to ‘natural selection’). Here we need to understand what the biological term ‘fitness’ means, because it does not refer to one’s capacity for distance running or weightlifting.

Fitness refers to the overall suitability of an organism for survival and, crucially, for passing on its genes. The fitness of an organism reflects its phenotype – the way the genotype is expressed in combination with environmental factors. Fitness is about adaptation to the changing local environment, not some supra-historical schema.

With the rise of the ‘gene-centred view of evolution’, provocatively labelled ‘selfish gene theory’ by Dawkins, the way we understand fitness has changed considerably. What matters is that genes are passed on – an organism can therefore be ‘fit’ either by passing on these genes itself, or by helping another who shares the genes.

Many comrades, not least those in the SWP, have a major problem with the idea of the ‘selfish gene’. Yet their view is based on a crass simplification and an inability to get beyond moral outrage at the name. The ‘selfish gene’ can be taken as support for capitalism, but, on the other hand, by undermining the idea that selection takes place at the level of the individual or social group, it can equally support a progressive world view. Richard Dawkins described himself as “mortified” to discover that The selfish gene was Enron CEO Jeff Skilling’s favourite book and that he took it in a social Darwinist way.22 Dawkins repeats this message in the introduction to the latest edition of The selfish gene.

Social Darwinism

What came to be labelled social Darwinism stems from Herbert Spencer, particularly in his Progress: its law and cause (1857), published two years before Darwin’s Origin. Spencer took little from Darwin; instead his views were more a foul cocktail of the worst of Comte, Lamarck and Malthus; he took the bourgeois yearning for all-embracing natural laws to its logical conclusion.

The idea that the working class was ‘unfit’ was palpable nonsense and owed little to biology. The combining of social Darwinism with the modern idea of ‘races’, as advocated by people such as Ernst Haeckel, was equally unscientific. At heart the ideas of Spencer and Haeckel were largely about attacking the working class and socialism, as well as advocating imperialism, and they are to Darwinism as Stalinism is to Marxism.

The eugenics movement, which sought to ‘improve the human gene pool’, may have reached its zenith in Nazi Germany, but it was heavily influential elsewhere. Supporters ranged from HG Wells to John Maynard Keynes and to the highest echelons of American society. Indeed the second largest eugenics programme was directed by the Swedish social democrats.

The post-war consensus extended into the realms of biology. The ‘modern synthesis’ united Darwinism and genetics, and in its wake Theodosius Dobzhansky, Ernst Mayr and George Simpson largely defined modern biology. As I have briefly discussed, the primary change has been the idea of the gene as the unit of selection. This was initially developed by Bill Hamilton to explain altruistic behaviour, and thus as a minimum communists need to constructively engage with it. Evolution is about changing gene frequencies, not necessarily Hobbes’s bellum omnium contra omnes. This means Darwinism offers, even more than in Marx’s day, “the basis in natural history for our point of view”.

To simplify a huge field considerably, it is reasonable to argue that much of what passed for Marxism in the 20th century, as articulated by Lukács, Gramsci and others, fundamentally downplayed the role of dialectics in relation to nature. The materialist dialectic was reinvigorated by people like Richard Lewontin, Richard Levins and Steven Jay Gould.23

Clearly ideas on evolution have reflected what is going on in society as well as ‘scientific evidence’. This is certainly the case with things like the ‘worship of the gradual’, which was in many senses a key element of Darwin’s ideas. It is not, however, essential to them.

The role of communists is to disentangle the science from the reactionary politics. We must take scientific questions seriously – not merely because they are ‘interesting’, but because to change the world we need to understand them. As Engels put it, “The more ruthlessly and disinterestedly science proceeds, the more it finds itself in harmony with the interests and aspirations of the workers”24


1. See K Malik Man, beast and zombie London 2000, p55.
2. C Darwin The autobiography of Charles Darwin London 1887.
3. C Darwin Voyage of the Beagle London 1989, pp173, 358.
4. There are a number of biographies of Darwin. The principal one here is A Desmond, J Moore Darwin London 1991, p288.
5. Ibid p297.
6. Ibid p314.
7. Ibid p354.
8. See J Moore, A Desmond, introduction to C Darwin The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex London 2004.
9. F Wheen Karl Marx London 1999, pp 364-65.
10. www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/anti-duhring/ch05.htm
11. C Smith Marx at the millennium London 1996, pp118-22.
12. www.marxists.org/archive/pannekoe/1912/marxism-darwinism.htm
13. www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1939/12/abc.htm
14. For example, compare www.marxists.org/archive/kautsky/1906/ethics/ch04.htm; and www.marxists.org/archive/kautsky/1929/12/naturesoc.htm
15. Socialist Worker February 14.
16. See, for example, Socialist Worker October 29 2005.
17. See JB Foster Marx’s ecology; materialism and nature New York 2000, pp 87-102.
18. www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/condition-working-class/ch13.htm
19. www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/anti-duhring/ch05.htm
20. See R Dennell (1990), ‘Progressive gradualism, imperialism and academic fashion: lower Palaeolithic archaeology in the 20th century’ Antiquity 64: 549-558.
21. Quoted in JB Foster Marx’s ecology, materialism and nature New York 2000, p192.
22. R Dawkins The god delusion London 2006, p246n.
23. For example, R Levins, R Lewontin The dialectical biologist Harvard 1985.
24. www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1886/ludwig-feuerbach/ch04.htm

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