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Darwin-L Message Log 2:3 (October 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.


<2:3>From HOLSINGE%UCONNVM.BITNET@KUHUB.CC.UKANS.EDU  Fri Oct  1 06:47:07 1993

Date: Fri, 01 Oct 1993 07:31:34 -0500 (EST)
From: "Kent E. Holsinger" <HOLSINGE%UCONNVM.BITNET@KUHUB.CC.UKANS.EDU>
Subject: A parallel between linguistic and biological evolution?
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7BIT

Sally Thomason made an interesting observation (something I had always
suspected was true, but wasn't sure about):

> If you cut off contact between two halves of one speech community, different
> changes will occur in the two groups' speech.

Almost the same thing can be said in biology:

If you cut off contact between two halves of a species, different changes will
occur in the two groups.

If you subsitute the phrase "gene flow" for "contact," you have (roughly) Ernst
Mayr's classical description of the way in which allopatric differentiation
occurs.  In fact, I wonder whether both of these principles are both instances
of a single more general principle.  Does it seem reasonable to conclude that
the following is true (I'm not entirely sure. I'm just throwing it out for
discussion.):

1) Define a population as a group of interacting entities that
 a) reproduces itself and
 b) has the property that newly arisen entities within the population
  have characteristics that resemble, but do not necessarily duplicate,
  the characteristics of the population.
2) If such a population is divided into two or more groups, so that individuals
 in a group interact only with other individuals in their group and not with
 individuals in other groups, then
 a) the newly produced groups are populations and
 b) the characteristics of these populations will tend to diverge from one
  another through time.

Actually, it occurs to me that I really have *two* questions about the above
scenario.  First, is it true?  (I think I can make a pretty good argument for
its truth in biology, but I'm not so sure about other fields.)  Second, if it
is true, is it interesting?  Does it really tell us something informative, or
is it so broad and general as to be uninformative?

-- Kent

+--------------------------------------------------------------------+
|  Kent E. Holsinger    Internet: Holsinge@UConnVM.UConn.edu |
|  Dept. of Ecology &     BITNET: Holsinge@UConnVM     |
|  Evolutionary Biology, U-43              |
|  University of Connecticut               |
|  Storrs, CT 06269-3043               |
+--------------------------------------------------------------------+

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