Epistasis Blog

From the Artificial Intelligence Innovation Lab at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (www.epistasis.org)

Monday, March 19, 2007

Fisher, Faith, and Eugenics

As you know, Sir Ronald Fisher had a huge impact on both statistics and genetics. A new paper by James Moore (no relation) at The Open University in the UK in the journal Studies in History and Philosophy of Science explores Fisher’s simultaneous commitment to Darwinism, Anglican Christianity and eugenics. This is an interesting paper for those interested in Fisher and how faith impacts the professional lives of scientists. There are several other interesting papers in the same issue on gene expression and heritability.

R. A. Fisher: a faith fit for eugenics

James Moore, Department of History of Science, Technology and Medicine, The Open University, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, UK

Stud Hist Philos Biol Biomed Sci. 2007 Mar;38(1):110-35. [PubMed]

In discussions of ‘religion-and-science’, faith is usually emphasized more than works, scientists’ beliefs more than their deeds. By reversing the priority, a lingering puzzle in the life of Ronald Aylmer Fisher (1890–1962), statistician, eugenicist and founder of the neo-Darwinian synthesis, can be solved. Scholars have struggled to find coherence in Fisher’s simultaneous commitment to Darwinism, Anglican Christianity and eugenics. The problem is addressed by asking what practical mode of faith or faithful mode of practice lent unity to his life? Families, it is argued, with their myriad practical, emotional and intellectual challenges, rendered a mathematically-based eugenic Darwinian Christianity not just possible for Fisher, but vital.


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