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Darwin-L Message Log 1:87 (September 1993)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.


<1:87>From LANGDON@GANDLF.UINDY.EDU  Fri Sep 10 09:07:31 1993

Date: Fri, 10 Sep 1993 09:07:31 -0500
From: "JOHN LANGDON"  <LANGDON@GANDLF.UINDY.EDU>
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Subject: Re: Introduction

Allow me to introduce myself. I am a paleoanthropologist with broad but
selective interests in  the natural sciences, history, genealogy, and the
history of science. I have been reading this list for a few days and I am
intrigued by what I see.

In message <Pine.3.07.9309100738.A11550-c100000@cs.uwp.edu>  writes:

> Within evolutionary biology, I have
> been struck by the distinction between reconstructing evolutionary history
> (what our list owner, Bob O'Hara, has called "the ideal evolutionary
> chronicle" in his 1988 paper in _Syst. Zool._), which is the primary goal
> of systematics, and the study of evolutionary mechanisms.  This
> distinction is _not_ the same as the facile and, I believe, largely
> misguided, "pattern-process" dichotomy about which some authors have
> commented; rather it is the distinction between the historical and
> mechanistic aspects of a science.

I would simply like to add my agreement to this statement. We can define a
scientific methodology of thought that is used in common by many disciplines;
but the subject and goals distinguish natural, historical, and behavioral
sciences (at least). Historical sciences, including evolutionary history,
clearly may use a scientific method, but for the purpose of reconstructing and
generating explanatory hypotheses for unobservable and unrepeatable events. The
natural sciences, including evolutionary theory, use the methodology to
generate and test timeless principles of the natural world in order to explain
observable and repeatable (in theory, anyway) events.

JOHN H. LANGDON         email  langdon@gandlf.uindy.edu
DEPARTMENT OF BIOLOGY       phone (317) 788-3447
UNIVERSITY OF INDIANAPOLIS      FAX   (317) 788-3569
1400 EAST HANNA AVENUE
INDIANAPOLIS, IN 46227

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