Science is not fun

Opinions personals de membres del CEHIC i alumnes de postgrau

des. 13 2012

Carbonell and the history of science (I)

Posted in General |

In his epistemological writings Eudald Carbonell frequently mobilizes the history of science. Yet by the standards of our discipline his notion of the history of science seems entirely outdated. It is whiggish in the extreme painting a flawless picture of science as progress and rationality advancing through the ages. He resorts to a sequence of big names – Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Einstein – lacking any kind of historical contextualization. Carbonell deploys on several occasions the famous encounter between Thomas Huxley and Samuel Wilberforce in Oxford in 1860. He strictly follows the «standard account» of a brave scientist defending Darwin’s new theory and defeating haughty bishop by the force of reason alone. This account has long been falsified – the case is much less straightforward. Yet without room for nuances and in a highly stereotypical manner Carbonell consistently opposes science and religion. One may call it a blind spot that he hardly ever questions science and does not reflect his own position as an individual with a personal agenda. Part of this agenda is the promotion of science and his in particular his own discipline. He is speaking pro domo.


[1] For a demystification of the encounter see: Lucas, J.R. Wilberforce and Huxley: A legendary encounter. The Historical Journal. 1979; 22 (2): 313-330. .

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