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Darwin-L Message Log 1:247 (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.


<1:247>From TREMONT%UCSFVM.BITNET@KUHUB.CC.UKANS.EDU  Tue Sep 28 22:34:15 1993

Date: Tue, 28 Sep 1993 20:11:25 -0700 (PDT)
From: "Elihu M. Gerson" <TREMONT%UCSFVM.BITNET@KUHUB.CC.UKANS.EDU>
Subject: Re: Evolutionary/cultural theory vs. evolutionary/cultural history
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

Bob O'Hara is (of course) perfectly correct when he takes me to task for
speaking as if species, languages, societies, etc were not individuals.
Of course they are-- my usage of "individual" to mean "instance of the
species H. sapiens" was very sloppy.

His comments also gracefully return us to our subject-matter, and away
from the issue(s) of reductionism in various forms, for which I am
profoundly grateful.

Certainly, many scholars are interested in how particular individuals
evolve or change, and there's certainly no "failure" when their research
doesn't produce general laws of nature.  But natural history (whether
conducted on animals, plants, rocks, or social organizations) also
seeks to generalize as well-- it may be that horses and tigers and
things like that are out of the model, but we can still say something
about horses-and-tigers without referencing particular instances of
the species. They're warm-blooded, for example, suckle their young, and are
hairy.

Elihu M. Gerson
Tremont Research Institute
458 29 Street
San Francisco, CA 94131
415-285-7837  tremont@ucsfvm.ucsf.edu

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