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Rhetorical Darwinism

Religion, Evolution, and the Scientific Identity

Thomas M. Lessl

Publication Year: 2012

The origins, progress, and power of scientific rhetoric

Published by: Baylor University Press

Series: Studies in Rhetoric and Religion

Half Title Page, About the Series, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii

List of Figures

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xxvi

It would be hard to miss the fact that the concept of evolution lives a double life, that it references a body of technical knowledge developed through careful scientific study but also evokes a cluster of more intangible meanings at once emotive, ideological, perhaps even religious, that move in orbit...

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1. The Social Meaning of Evolutionary Science

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pp. 1-43

Museum exhibits on human evolution are a familiar sight. They typically include some version of what Stephen Jay Gould once called the “march of progress,” hominids in procession leading from the most ancient up to some representation (usually male and weapon-bearing) of the modern human...

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2. Francis Bacon and the Scientific Identity

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pp. 45-70

If it may be supposed that the pervasive evolutionism now so recognizable in our scientific culture is a function of identity needs that have remained constant during the past four centuries, then we might fairly ask what a reasonable baseline would be from which to begin to examine its origins...

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3. Science in God’s Bosom

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pp. 71-102

In the previous chapter, I proposed that the two books argument, by identifying science’s empiricist ethic with the hermeneutic idealism of the reformers, established a rhetorical formula for public patronage that has had enduring qualities. Once such a vital link was found that was capable of...

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4. From Two Books to One

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pp. 103-138

Bacon’s religious conceptualization of the scientific role will surprise readers not directly acquainted with his writing. Perhaps more surprising is my own claim that his efforts to visualize a scientific civilization are the antecedents to evolutionism. How could a radically materialistic ideology rooted in...

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5. The New Christianity

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pp. 139-163

Commissioned for the November 1793 “Festival of Reason and Liberty” orchestrated by various members of the Convention, this hymn was chanted as a Paris actress, playing the part of the goddess Reason who was serving, for the moment at least, as the new sacred emblem of the French Republic...

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6. Positivism in the World of Thomas Huxley

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pp. 165-197

What Lenzer offers here is a summation of the general pattern I have been trying to outline in my discussion of positivism. But my own interpretation of her observation that philosophy and the social sciences have tended to cut themselves off from history is somewhat different. I would characterize...

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7. Scientism Scientized

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pp. 199-237

In the previous chapter I looked at Huxley’s ongoing chess match with positivism in an effort to illustrate the features that distinguish it from the alternative ideology of evolutionism. This contrast also illuminates the political circumstances of the emerging professional culture that made Continental...

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8. The Continuing Evolution of Evolutionism and Science’s Battle for the Public Mind

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pp. 239-268

Perhaps we should not begrudge Mr. Huxley the expression of such hopes— his vision of science rising to approach the “infinite source of truth.” In arguing that his religiosity functioned to sustain the campaign to overhaul English science, I am certainly not saying that it was insincerely professed...


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pp. 269-296


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pp. 297-311


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pp. 313-322

Back cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781602584051
E-ISBN-10: 1602584052
Print-ISBN-13: 9781602584037
Print-ISBN-10: 1602584036

Page Count: 348
Illustrations: 6
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1st
Series Title: Studies in Rhetoric and Religion