After Lewontin: Dr. Pangloss and His Imagined CommunityDamla Karagöl
Two influential papers of Richard Lewontin “The Apportionment of Human Diversity” (1971) and “The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme” (1979) co-authored with Stephen Jay Gould have a profound effect on post-Darwinian evolutionary biology discourse. In his 1971 paper, he is credited for causing a major paradigm shift in scientific thought on race by demonstrating that there was more variation within human populations than between them. He also shares Gould’s joy in triggering another one by laying out the case of the adaptation in their 1979 paper. Lewontin’s contributions to the discussions on the relationship between race and genetics, as well as his adaptationist approach, had a tremendous political impact, which is consistent with his ideals as a “good scientist” since his definition of science entails producing politically useful knowledge. This paper assesses the two papers comprehensively , in terms of their scientific reliability and relevance to current political discussions. It also aims to discuss the concepts introduced by Lewontin such as “good science” and “politically responsible scientist”. It can be recommended that these ideas should be reconsidered and that their value as a legacy needs to be discussed again.