Communicating science is a complex issue and historical examples can help us analyze, with perspective, how it takes place: the roles of communicators and receptors and their epistemological activity, the directionality of the circulation of knowledge and the reception or appropriation of this knowledge are key concepts in science communication that emerge in every case study of new knowledge being “imported” from center (where the knowledge is “created”) to periphery. The reception of Darwinism in Spain is a good example: far from being a simple transmission of a scientific aseptic knowledge, evolutionary theory is adopted by some segments of the society and used both as a symbol for their own ideals and as instrument to back a host of often very different arguments. Such a process of communication is ongoing and hardly ever “finished”: the theory in question can be used for different propagandistic purposes when the political and social environment changes. This paper analyses the treatment in the communication of evolutionary theory in La Vanguardia, one of the oldest and most widely read newspapers in Spain, from 1939 to 1978, period (that corresponds exactly with Franco’s regime and the political transition thereafter) when the paper changed its name into La Vanguardia Española. Darwinism was seen as a dangerous knowledge that should be managed carefully while Neo-Darwinism, characterized by a genetic “more scientific” jargon, might have benefitted from a phase of openness of the dictatorship, eager to develop a discourse of modernity and opening to outside, using the press and science communication in a propagandistic effort.

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Communicating evolutionary theory in francoist spain
The case of la vanguardia española (1939-1978)

Clara Florensa   CEHIC (Centre d’História de la Ciéncia - UAB) and UABDivulga

Communicating science is a complex issue and historical examples can help us analyze, with perspective, how it takes place: the roles of communicators and receptors and their epistemological activity, the directionality of the circulation of knowledge and the reception or appropriation of this knowledge are key concepts in science communication that emerge in every case study of new knowledge being “imported” from center (where the knowledge is “created”) to periphery. The reception of Darwinism in Spain is a good example: far from being a simple transmission of a scientific aseptic knowledge, evolutionary theory is adopted by some segments of the society and used both as a symbol for their own ideals and as instrument to back a host of often very different arguments. Such a process of communication is ongoing and hardly ever “finished”: the theory in question can be used for different propagandistic purposes when the political and social environment changes. This paper analyses the treatment in the communication of evolutionary theory in La Vanguardia, one of the oldest and most widely read newspapers in Spain, from 1939 to 1978, period (that corresponds exactly with Franco’s regime and the political transition thereafter) when the paper changed its name into La Vanguardia Española. Darwinism was seen as a dangerous knowledge that should be managed carefully while Neo-Darwinism, characterized by a genetic “more scientific” jargon, might have benefitted from a phase of openness of the dictatorship, eager to develop a discourse of modernity and opening to outside, using the press and science communication in a propagandistic effort.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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