The relationship between modern (natural) sciences and the traditional world view has been tense and at variance form the very beginning, in particular as regards the established Christian religion. In the 19th century these tensions came to a head in several ways. On the one hand, scientific knowledge surged forward to a hitherto unknown extent beyond the narrow circles of the academically informed towards the general public and began to influence the world view of the masses. On the other hand intellectual movements in the form of positivism and scientific materialism appeared, which directly attacked and basically rejected time-honoured religious and philosophical thinking. The way of thinking and findings of the natural sciences were ever increasingly laid claim to as a comprehensive world view and as an intellectual vehicle for social change.
After the "Materialism Dispute" of the 1850s had planted this tension in the general consciousness, the arguments again came to a head in the 1860s, as Darwin's theory became known in Germany. In no other country has the "Darwinism Dispute" been thrashed out so extensively and passionately: On one hand as a dispute about the scientific validity of Darwin's theory, and on the other (and most of all) as a dispute about its philosophical and political implications.
The study group will deal with both aspects, but lay special emphasis on the second point, whereby it will take into consideration the fact that there is still fighting on some of those former "fronts".