Darwin and essentialism in biology

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Chapter 8 endnote 8, from How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context is:

Darwin’s most famous book, On the Origin of Species, triggered a paradigm shift that transformed biology into a modern science. His greatest scientific achievement, so nicely summed up by the evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr, was freeing biology from “the paralyzing grip of essentialism.”

Darwin did not vanquish essentialism from biology on his own, as exemplified by the raging debates over whether genes are a sufficient explanation for everything important about behavior or whether the environment matters too.[1][2] Nevertheless, Darwin’s masterwork set biology on a path to the kinds of questions, arguments, and research needed to topple essentialism.


Notes on the Notes

  1. For example, Lewontin, Richard C. 2001. The Triple Helix: Gene, Organism, and Environment. Harvard University Press.
  2. Gould, Stephen Jay, and Richard C. Lewontin. 1979. "The spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian paradigm: a critique of the adaptationist programme." Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 205 (1161): 581-598.