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Jesus, Darwin and Ashley Montagu

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Although never especially well known in Britain, the London-born Ashley Montagu (1905-1999) became one of the most publicly visible anthropologists in the United States in the mid-twentieth century, thanks to a succession of popular books and frequent television appearances. In this talk I want to concentrate on his life and work in the early 1950s, near the start of his public career, when he held an academic position (his last) at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and published an extraordinarily leftwing book on Darwin, entitled Darwin: Competition and Cooperation (1952). I’ll aim to recover the largely forgotten research programmes that converged in the making of this book, and more generally led Montagu in this period – the era of McCarthyism in American politics, and the Modern Synthesis in evolutionary biology – to contrast what he saw as an increasingly outmoded Darwinian message of hate and competition with an ever-more scientifically respectable Christian message of love and cooperation.

This talk is part of the The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion series.

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