Marx's and Darwin's accomplishments: Finding the mechanism of evolution and social change?

Here's definitely a podcast worth listening to! Niles Eldredge and Edward J. Larson discuss the upcoming Darwin exhibit and Darwin's legacy. Particularly their discussion of Darwin's contribution of the mechanism of 'natural selection' to an existing idea of 'evolution' is illuminating.

As an essentially social scientist, it reminded me (again) of Engels' words at Marx's grave when he compared his contribution to the study of society to that of Darwin in biology. And truly, both thinkers continue to exercise us greatly to-date.

Here's the quote (which I think bears repeating) in full:

Just as Darwin discovered the law of development or organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history: the simple fact, hitherto concealed by an overgrowth of ideology, that mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion, etc.; that therefore the production of the immediate material means, and consequently the degree of economic development attained by a given people or during a given epoch, form the foundation upon which the state institutions, the legal conceptions, art, and even the ideas on religion, of the people concerned have been evolved, and in the light of which they must, therefore, be explained, instead of vice versa, as had hitherto been the case.

In fact, this is an interesting parallel to work out more fully (although with extreme caution). How would be Marx's Huxley? Probably Engels but how about a Wallace or a Mendel? What are the genes that make it possible? Who would be the creations and who the Lamarckians? It would be too easy to get lost in these analogies but a careful investigation might elucidate the workings of social sciences about which so much less is known and so much more is assumed than the natural sciences.