Greg Radick, Disputed Inheritance: The Battle over Mendel and the Future of Biology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2023)

Disputed Inheritance: The Battle over Mendel and the Future of Biology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2023)

Around the world, students learn that present-day understanding of how biological inheritance really works traces to an intellectual inheritance rooted in Mendel’s garden.  But as Gregory Radick shows, Mendelian ideas became foundational not because they match reality—little in nature behaves like Mendel’s peas—but because, in England in the early years of the twentieth century, a ferocious debate ended as it did. On one side was the Cambridge biologist William Bateson, who, in Mendel’s name, wanted biology and society reorganized around the recognition that heredity is destiny. On the other side was the Oxford biologist W. F. R. Weldon, who, admiring Mendel’s discoveries in a limited way, thought Bateson’s “Mendelism” represented a backward step, since it pushed growing knowledge of the modifying role of environments, internal and external, to the margins.  Bringing together extensive archival research with searching analyses of the nature of science and history, Disputed Inheritance challenges the way we think about genetics and its possibilities, past, present and future.

“A magnificent book. . . . Radick deserves praise for an intellectual achievement that will change not only our understanding of history but also our approach to its study.”—Kostas Kampourakis, author of Understanding Genes

“There are few ideas in biology as powerful—and dangerous—as the notion that genes determine who we are and what we can become. . . . Disputed Inheritance rewrites the story of genetics with care and verve, in the hopes that future students will learn to see both history and biology differently.”— Helen Anne Curry, author of Evolution Made to Order

“Radick’s magisterial study scrutinizes common understandings – the ‘folk wisdom’ – of the history of genetics.  Informed by unusual historical depth and philosophical sophistication, Radick offers a compelling rival view, one that reinterprets both the history and the science itself…  [A]s important as it is fascinating.”  Philip Kitcher, author of In Mendel’s Mirror

Greg Radick, Darwin’s Argument by Analogy: From Artificial to Natural Selection, with Roger M. White and M. J. S. Hodge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021)

Darwin’s Argument by Analogy: From Artificial to Natural Selection, with Roger M. White and M. J. S. Hodge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021)

In On the Origin of Species (1859), Charles Darwin put forward his theory of natural selection. Conventionally, Darwin’s argument for this theory has been understood as based on an analogy with artificial selection. But there has been no consensus on how, exactly, this analogical argument is supposed to work – and some suspicion too that analogical arguments on the whole are embarrassingly weak. Drawing on new insights into the history of analogical argumentation from the ancient Greeks onward, as well as on in-depth studies of Darwin’s public and private writings, this book offers an original perspective on Darwin’s argument, restoring to view the intellectual traditions which Darwin took for granted in arguing as he did. From this perspective come new appreciations not only of Darwin’s argument but of the metaphors based on it, the range of wider traditions the argument touched upon, and its legacies for science after the Origin.

From the reviews:
“This original, thoughtful, and thought-provoking book . . . . persuasively argues for a new take on the Origin’s arguments, and in doing so, provides a novel defence of argument by analogy.  Furthermore, the book is an exemplary work of history and philosophy of science.”  S. Andrew Inkpen, Metascience (part of a review symposium on the book in the July 2022 issue)

Anyone curious to know more about the book can listen to a short podcast by me or read a short blogpost by the three of us.

Greg Radick & Jonathan Hodge, The Cambridge Companion to Darwin, 2nd edition, coedited with Jonathan Hodge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009; 1st edition in 2003)

The Cambridge Companion to Darwin, 2nd edition, coedited with Jonathan Hodge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009; 1st edition in 2003)

Now in an expanded second edition, The Cambridge Companion to Darwin has established itself as an indispensable resource for anyone teaching or researching Charles Darwin’s theories and their historical and philosophical interpretations.  Its distinguished team of contributors examines Darwin’s main scientific ideas and their development; Darwin’s science in the context of its times; the influence of Darwinian thought in recent philosophical, social and religious debate; and the importance of Darwinian thought for the future of naturalist philosophy. Contributors include Simon Blackburn, John Hedley Brooke, Daniel C. Dennett, Jean Gayon, David L. Hull, Philip Kitcher, Diane B. Paul, Robert J. Richards, Elliott Sober and Kim Sterelny.

From the reviews:
“[A]n ideal companion, ushering the reader into conversations already underway….  The revisions to Hodge and Radick’s excellent introduction emphasize their aim of extracting philosophical themes from Darwin’s own projects as well as from his legacy….  The second section – ‘Historical Contexts’ – kicks off with Radick’s stimulating contribution, which asks whether the theory of evolution by natural selection could have come into being independently of Darwin’s milieu.  By dint of Radick’s virtuosity as a historian, what might seem a banal counterfactual exercise becomes an illuminating provocation.” 
Kathryn Tabb, HOPOS

Here you can read the chapter “Is the Theory of Natural Selection Independent of its History?” as well as the volume’s Introduction.  Further reviews can be sampled here

Darwin in Ilkley, with Mike Dixon (Stroud: The History Press, 2009)

When the Origin of Species was published on 24 November 1859, its author, Charles Darwin, was near the end of a nine-week stay in the remote Yorkshire village of Ilkley.  In Darwin in Ilkley, Mike Dixon and Gregory Radick bring to life Victorian Ilkley and the dramas of body and mind that marked Darwin’s visit, from his battles with his enigmatic illness to his disagreements with scientific critics. While undergoing a regime of cold baths and wet sheets, Darwin took part in one of the most challenging debates that he would ever enter into over the Origin, touching on everything from whether he had relegated God to an implausibly small role in the making of new species to whether domesticated dogs have more than one wild ancestor (a politically charged question at that moment).

From the reviews:
“Darwin was in Ilkley [in 1859] because of the local water-based health cure, and he was in search of relief from his mysterious debilitating illness, which dogged Darwin throughout his life. Radick and Dixon noticed that when Darwin was in Ilkley, eating a reduced dairy diet in the hotel where he was taking the ‘hydropathic cure’, his symptoms abated. When he returned to Down House, his malaise returned. There’s a lot more to their story than a simple correlation, and if true, it would not only settle an issue that has concerned Darwin’s biographers down the decades – was his disease ‘real’ or psychosomatic, and if it had a recognisable cause, what was it? – it would also add an intriguing coda to the interaction between the man and his science.”  
Matthew Cobb, Why Evolution is True blog.

Bonus online recipe (and additional evidence for the lactose-intolerance diagnosis): Emma Darwin’s “Ilkley pudding” (a milky rice pudding)

Greg Radick, The Simian Tongue: The Long Debate About Animal Language (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007)

The Simian Tongue: The Long Debate About Animal Language (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007)

Drawing on newly discovered archival sources and interviews with key scientists, Gregory Radick here reconstructs the remarkable trajectory of a technique invented and reinvented to listen in on primate communication. Richly documented and powerfully argued, The Simian Tongue charts the scientific controversies over the evolution of language from Darwin’s day to our own, resurrecting the forgotten debts of psychology, anthropology, and other behavioral sciences to the Victorian debate about the animal roots of human language.

Awarded the 2010 Suzanne J. Levinson Prize from the History of Science Society for best book in the history of the life sciences and natural history.

From the reviews:
“[A] masterwork in the history of science….  In parts,
The Simian Tongue reaches the status of a page-turner….  crackshot-accurate and absorbing…. It reminds us with stunning clarity that science is a spiral staircase: new techniques and theories emerge, not always in linear fashion, from the old.  It shows, too, science’s power to shape ways we humans think of, and act towards, our fellow creatures.” Barbara J. King, Times Literary Supplement (lead review)

Further reviews can be sampled here.  You can read the Levinson Prize citation here. A selected preview can be found on Google Books

Space: In Science, Art and Society, coedited with François Penz and Robert Howell (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004)

An interdisciplinary space odyssey that takes the intellectual traveller of broad tastes on a journey from inner to outer space, from consciousness to the Cosmos.  The ports of call visited along way are space and language, architectural space, the spaces of immersive virtual reality, maps as projections of power, international space as gap-riddled, and interplanetary exploration. Contributors include the neuroscientist Susan Greenfield, the architect Daniel Libeskind, the political journalist Neal Ascherson, the historian Lisa Jardine, the astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman, and the cosmologist John Barrow.  As their distinctive perspectives on space accumulate, the overall effect is, as with the Eames’ famous film Powers of Ten, to make what is familiar about space newly surprising and what is unfamiliar newly relevant.

From the reviews:
“This volume is an excellent collection of eight invited lectures held at Darwin College that discuss the topic of space.  The lectures approach the subject from widely diverse fields, including brain and consciousness, neurolinguistics, architecture, physics, astronomy, outer space, explorations, cartography, visual art, politics, and digital art.  The authors delve deeply into their chosen topic and offer some pretty fascinating insights. The opening chapter is an indispensable introduction by the editors; it provides definitions and a clear overview of how each of the contributors treated the subject.”
Dahlia W. Zaidel, Quarterly Review of Biology

Here you can read the volume’s Introduction.