R. A. Fisher: A Faith Fit for Eugenics

Moore, James (2007). R. A. Fisher: A Faith Fit for Eugenics. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 38(1) pp. 110–135.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.shpsc.2006.12.007

Abstract

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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