By Nafis Hasan
Lewontin Memorial Collection
“[What] is amazing is the similarity in the thinking of naturalists and dialectical materialists. The so-called dialectical world view is by and large also the world view of the naturalists, as opposed to that of the physicalists.”
—Ernst Mayr, Roots of Dialectical Materialism (1997)
Richard Levins and Richard Lewontin’s publication of The Dialectical Biologist in 1985 provided a gestalt moment which remains just as valid and applicable decades after the book’s publication, if not even more so. Despite such relevance, it would appear that the ideas presented have remained sidelined in mainstream philosophy of biology, thanks to decades of genetic determinism and the continued neoliberalization of science. But a survey of nascent ideas across different fields in biology negates such an assumption, and reinforces the importance of a dialectical framework for biological research—the legacy of Richard Lewontin.
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