February 12, 2009

The St. Paul of Darwinism

Since Richard already put up a post about Darwin Day, I thought I would recommend that readers also explore the works of R. A. Fisher, the St. Paul of evolutionary biology.  You likely know Fisher from the fact that he helped define the field of modern statistics, but Richard Dawkins has referred to him as “the greatest of Darwin’s successors.”  No wonder, Fisher singlehandedly fused the quantitative discipline of Galtonian biometry with theory of Mendelism.  The definitive exposition of his thought, The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection, ushered in the discipline of population genetics, translating the insights of Darwin into the language of mathematics.  Unlike modern works of theoretical evolutionary biology The Genetical Theory does not neglect humanity, the second half is devoted to eugenical implications of natural selection.  Finally, for traditionalists who are skeptical of the non-scientific commitments of the modern acolytes of Darwin’s message, it must be note that R. A. Fisher was an Anglican and a Tory.

You can read Fisher’s collected papers online.  I also recommend R.A. Fisher: The Life of a Scientist, written by one of daughters.

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