Friday, August 13, 2010

The Scientist and the Anarchist - Part II

The latest stop in the #PDEx tour is being hosted by Dr. SkySkull at his Scientopia blog Skulls in the Stars.

Peter Kropotkin's notoriety as a political radical was equaled only by the high esteem held for his scientific and scholarly achievements. The discoveries he had made of glacial formations during the Quaternary Period in Russia were received with international acclaim and earned him invitations to join the Imperial Russian Geographical Society, the British Association for the Advancement of Science, as well as a Cambridge University endowed chair in geology (which he turned down because it came with the stipulation that he give up his political work). Kropotkin gave lectures on biology and geology throughout Europe, England, and North America and was an outspoken proponent of an ecosystems worldview in which nature was never static but remained constantly in flux. He was a devoted Darwinian from the first publication of On the Origin of Species, and it was this scientific background that he held as the basis for a politics of individual liberty and the necessity of social change.

As he wrote in his essay "Revolutionary Studies":

Everything changes in nature, everything is incessantly modified: systems, wages, planets, climates, varieties of plants and animals, the human species -- Why should human institutions perpetuate themselves! ... What we see around us is only a passing phenomenon which ought to modify itself, because immobility would be death. These are the conceptions to which modern science accustoms us.

Read the rest of the post here. The Scientist and the Anarchist - Part III will conclude next week at Deborah Blum's Speakeasy Science following a stop at Carin

Daniel P. Todes (1989). Darwin Without Malthus: The Struggle for Existence in Russian Evolutionary Thought, London: Oxford University Press.