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The Dialectical Biologist

The Dialectical Biologist

Richard Levins, Richard Lewontin

ISBN 9780674202832

Publication date: 03/15/1987

Scientists act within a social context and from a philosophical perspective that is inherently political. Whether they realize it or not, scientists always choose sides. The Dialectical Biologist explores this political nature of scientific inquiry, advancing its argument within the framework of Marxist dialectic. These essays stress the concepts of continual change and codetermination between organism and environment, part and whole, structure and process, science and politics. Throughout, this book questions our accepted definitions and biases, showing the self-reflective nature of scientific activity within society.


  • The book successfully achieves the authors’ goal of demonstrating by example the power and nature of the dialectical method. Its usefulness, however, extends well beyond this. The articles are intellectually challenging in content as well as method. And by collecting in one place articles on evolution, scientific analysis and the social dimensions of science—the book’s three major divisions—the authors have provided a valuable tool for exploring the complexity and richness of biology… The Dialectical Biologist is certain to be controversial… This book is a rich source of understanding, and it will undoubtedly stimulate important discussion.

    —New York Times Book Review


  • Richard Levins was John Rock Professor of Population Sciences at the Harvard School of Public Health.
  • Richard Lewontin was Alexander Agassiz Research Professor of Zoology, Emeritus, at the Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology. His many books include Biology and Ideology, Not in Our Genes, and Human Diversity.

Book Details

  • 336 pages
  • 5-3/8 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press