“The Dialectical Biologist: A Discussion w/ Dr. Richard Levins“
Richard Levins studied agriculture and mathematics at Cornell. He was a tropical farmer in Puerto Rico before getting his PhD at Columbia University. He later moved to Harvard with the sponsorship of E. O. Wilson, with whom they had later disputes over sociobiology. Levins was elected member of the US National Academy of Sciences but resigned because of the Academy’s role in advising the US military.
Levins is John Rock Professor of Population Sciences at the Harvard School of Public Health. During the last two decades Levins has concentrated on application of ecology to agriculture, particularly in the less developed nations. He has also written on philosophical issues in biology and modelling.
An influential article of his is “The Strategy of Model Building in Population Biology”. He has influenced a number of contemporary philosophers of biology. With the evolutionary geneticist Richard Lewontin, Levins has written a number of articles on methodology, philosophy, and social implications of biology.
This interview, conducted by Professor of Philosophy Paul Eckstein (Bergen Community College, NJ), focuses mainly on Levins’ contribution to the text, Biology Under the Influence: Dialectical Essays on Ecology, Agriculture, and Health (w/ Lewontin).