The Cultural Significance of Physics and Evolution in Francoist Spain: Continuity and Development in the Autarchic Period

Clara Florensa, Xavier Roqué

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Science took on several distinct uses and meanings under Francoism. It was exhibited as a token of intellectual prowess, deployed as a mighty diplomatic tool, applied as a resource for industry, and invoked in support of National Catholicism. However, in order to successfully fulfill all these roles, science had first to be cleansed and purified, for it was historically bound to materialism, atheism, and positivism. Physics had developed a mechanical worldview that precluded spiritual agency, and the theory of evolution had deprived man of his privileged place in nature. Could these developments be reversed? Classical physics would not easily serve the needs of the new National Catholic state, but modern physics might do, acting as a model and a tool for biological reasoning. In this paper we describe the various attempts by Spanish scientists, philosophers, and intellectuals to enlist modern physics and a revised version of evolution in the construction of the new regime. They strove to show their spiritual value, to sever them from a soul-less modernity, and to reinstate them within a grand universal Catholic tradition. We discuss the import of their arguments for the simultaneous debates about time, space, matter, life, and evolution, exploring the affinities and tensions between the inert and the living world.

Translated title of the contributionEl significado cultural de la física y la evolución en la España franquista: Continuidad y desarrollo en el periodo autárquico
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere003
JournalCulture and History Digital Journal
Volume10
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021

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