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Darwin-L Message Log 2:81 (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.


<2:81>From farrar@mistral.noo.navy.mil  Thu Oct 14 08:05:26 1993

Date: Thu, 14 Oct 93 08:10:51 CDT
From: farrar@mistral.noo.navy.mil (Paul Farrar)
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Subject: Manuscript unploidy

I must say that I don't see the notion of ploidy being aplicable to
document transmission.  Sometimes the importation of a concept from
a different field has a useful function, either directly or as a
metaphor or trope.  Sometimes it causes endless confusion (Shannon's
use of the word "entropy" in information theory, in my opinion).
When we have to work so hard at finding "ploidness" in manuscript
transmission, maybe the analogy is getting too forced.

One of the things that gives genetics it special character is the
phenotype - genotype dichotomy, but in manuscripts this does not exist.
The genotype is the phenotype.

Genetic systems have specific ploidy (sometimes two though: ants, bees)
and reshuffling rules for each transmission (except for cloning).
For instance humans have two of everything (except men on their X and Y)
and throw away own of each, then obtain one of each from another
individual's genotype.  The result is then expressed phenotypically in a
new individual with genes conataining two of everything (except..).

Manuscript transmission is altered by external agents who make mistakes
or alterations according to their own rules, ie characteristic scribal
error types, or deliberate modifications.  (Encyclopedia Britannica's
"Biblical Literature" has a discussion of scribal errors for beginners.)

Paul Farrar
Just an oceanographer's opinion.

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