Scientific Humanisms and the Anthropocene, Or the Dream of Steering the Evolution of the Human and Natural World
Keywords:Humanism, Evolution, Teleology, Anthropocene
This contribution engages with different forms of humanism coming out of the history of science and evolutionary biology, called new, scientific, evolutionary, and ecological, from the interwar years to the post-war period. The focus lies on issues of progress, teleology, universalism, and Eurocentrism in the associated conceptualizations of (evolutionary) history, the present, and the future. According to the grand narrative of Julian Sorell Huxley, transitions took place at the threshold of the inorganic to the biological and from the biological to the human or psychosocial phase of evolution that changed the rules of the game. As a leading figure of the modern synthesis, he strongly opposed notions of teleology. Yet the latter was paramount in maintaining the possibility for consciously steered development in the human phase. Combined with the science of ecology and applied-ecological programs, such humanisms amounted to a prefiguration of what today is called Anthropocene. They, alongside the Anthropocene, stand for the responsibility of universal humankind for the future of the planet. While it seems as if the real stewards of progressive evolution were scientific elites, it is therefore also the notion of anthropos inherent in such concepts that appears problematic.