Ingrid Dunér

Ingrid Dunér

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The subject of my thesis is the evolutionary biologist Julian Huxley (1887-1975), brother of author Aldous Huxley and grandson of Thomas Henry Huxley. Julian Huxley studied in Oxford and later became a professor of biology at Rice Institute, Houston, Texas, as well as the first director-general of UNESCO, 1945.

My aim is to explore Julian Huxley's ideas on conscious evolution, evolutionary humanism and his belief that humanity could - and should - enhance itself, genetically or by other means. Julian Huxley coined the term "transhumanism" and tried to build and promote an ideology for the future. My intention is to examine what he himself meant by this term, what ideas he emphasized and what this tells us about his outlook on humanity. Especially interesting is the notion of human control of life in relation to Huxley's creed. 

Julian Huxley and his peers put their trust in endocrinology, contraceptives and eugenics. Science and technology have since evolved, expanded and changed. Modern transhumanists might instead turn their hopes towards artificial intelligence and molecular nanotechnology. But although the methods and techniques discussed might have changed, the questions asked by Huxley and others in the early 20th century remain actively debated today.

Contemporary biomedical and technical research stirrs a biopolitical debate often ripe with exitential and ethical questions. These are questions of mankind's ability to control and affect its environment and its own very nature, but also questions of whether we should although we could. Examining the historical roots of such a debate could help further our understanding of continuities and discontinuities in a long twentieth century history of science concerning eugenics, human control of life, and utopian visions of enhancing mankind. 

UKÄ subject classification

  • History of Ideas
  • History
  • History of Technology
  • Evolutionary Biology


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