2017 CSHPS Drake Lecture – Gordon McOuat

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Gordon McOuat, University of King’s College, presented the 2017 Drake Lecture May 28th at the conference for the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science, held in Toronto, Ontario.  The abstract of his lecture is below.


J.B.S Haldane’s Passage to India: Cosmopolitanism and the Reconfiguration of Knowledge

Recent developments in the history and philosophy of science have come to question received “centre-periphery” models of scientific structure, development, and dissemination. We can now speak of “circulations”, “confluences”, and “silk roads”. Down these roads we are also coming to re-examine the meanings of local knowledge, knowledge in transit, while revisiting the contentious issues of cosmopolitanism and universalism.

In 1957, smack in the middle of the Suez Crisis, the world’s leading population biologist, co-discover of the “Neo- Darwinian Modern Synthesis” in population biology, and noted political radical, J.B.S. Haldane, renounced his British Citizenship and moved to India, taking up a leading part in the development of the science, statistics, and biopolitics, of the newly independent nation. This lecture will examine Haldane’s passage to post-colonial India as a specific and challenging example of cosmopolitan knowledge circulation, by looking closely his encounter with local science and knowledge, and the effects this interaction with Indian styles science, logic, and philosophy, had on ways of re- conceiving science, statistics, and evolution. Here knowledge translation and exchange travelled both ways. In this examination of cosmopolitan exchange, we might garner a few general lessons about objectivity and modern views of evolution and science. 

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