There were hagiographers at work in the heyday of whiggish history of science, but for decades that breed has been nearly extinct. Nevertheless at least one of their saints remains exalted. Only the most flamboyant postmodernists and feminist epistemologists still try to topple Charles Darwin from his eminence. Those efforts are aimed, moreover, not so much at Darwin himself or his scientific results as at the social context of his achievements: Victorian society, capitalism, empire, the idea that there is something biological (rather than purely social) about differences between the sexes. Yet the tide of trendy iconoclasm, too, is receding. Historians of science are again engaging with the science.

To be sure, denunciation of Darwin by creationists continues unabated, no less today than in the 1860s. But it is of far less intellectual consequence now, evolutionary biology having in the meantime grown...


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