Richard Levins: Scientist, activist and friend
American scientist Richard Levins, philosopher of science, titan of ecology, forebear of agroecology, renowned authority on the social and ecological dimensions of disease, and friend of Puerto Rico, has passed away.
His scientific and intellectual contributions spanned the most varied fields, from population biology to political theory. Levins led the battle against biological determinism and reductionist conceptions in evolutionary biology. He applied dialectical materialism to the problems of modern biology using Friedrich Engels’ method, he questioned the ideological and conservative bias of Darwinism, and fought against Edward O. Wilson’s sociobiology, which he viewed as a pseudoscience that justified imperialism and class hierarchies.
In the 1950s he was persecuted for his Marxist ideas and went, with his Puerto Rican wife Rosario Morales, to exile in Puerto Rico, where he taught at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) and joined the ranks of the PR Communist Party, integrating himself fully into the Caribbean island-nation’s independence movement. After being sacked from the university for his ideology, Levins went to live in a farm in the rural municipality of Maricao, where he and his wife developed their initial concepts of agroecology.