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Darwin-L Message Log 2:28 (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.


<2:28>From @SIVM.SI.EDU:IRMSS668@SIVM.SI.EDU  Wed Oct  6 06:33:28 1993

Date: Wed, 06 Oct 1993 07:34:15 -0400 (EDT)
From: Jim Felley <IRMSS668%SIVM.BITNET@KUHUB.CC.UKANS.EDU>
Subject: Re: Ease of articulation
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

  On Fri, 1 Oct 1993, Jeffrey Wills asked about analogies in genetics
to people who can speak several languages (following the thread of
analogies between organic evolution and linguistic evolution.
  Gregory C. Mayer offered the analogy of extra-nuclear and nuclear
DNA, as separate genomes which can interact.  I feel that this
analogy has several strengths, well presented by Myers.  However,
focusing on the situational use of different languages (you speak
French in France, and when you cross the channel, you switch to
English), I found this analogy to be missing something.  In particular,
the different cellular genomes are active simultaneously, whereas
people tend to use different languages in particular contexts.
 Thus, I present the analogy between use of different languages, and
portions of the genome that are inducible.  Organisms have some genes
whose products are created only in certain circumstances.  Under
certain environmental conditions, the gene is "turned on", and creates
products that are appropriate to that environment.  Thus, the
genes in _E. coli_ bacteria that produce enzymes for metabolizing
lactose do not produce these products until lactose is present in the
environment.
 This seems to me to approach the condition with multiple languages--
that the individual senses cues in the environment that induce him to
use certain sets of words and grammatical rules, and not others.
 Pushing this analogy further will likely result in questions such as
"is a word analogous to a gene?".  So I'll probably bow out of this
discussion now!

            Jim

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