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Darwin-L Message Log 3:24 (November 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.


<3:24>From princeh@husc.harvard.edu  Wed Nov  3 13:19:30 1993

Date: Wed, 3 Nov 1993 14:01:38 -0500 (EST)
From: Patricia Princehouse <princeh@husc9.harvard.edu>
Subject: Re: Desmond & Moore Darwin Bio
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

On Tue, 2 Nov 1993, Elihu M. Gerson wrote:

> On Tue, 02 Nov 1993 13:42:59 -0600 Patricia Princehouse said:
> >Myself, I found the book very compelling reading. But I don't know that I
> >would recommend it to a person unfamiliar with natural selection and other
> >aspects of evolutionary theory lest they misunderstand the more subtle
> >points & think politics is the only major force in Biology.
>
> Which subtle points in Darwin's theory aren't political? Presumably,
> they are the ones nobody has ever bothered to contest. Which are those?

Dear Mr. Gerson,
	I apologize for having been somewhat opaque in my comment. I was
referring to the subtle aspects of the biography DARWIN (subtitled in the
States "The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist") written by Adrian Desmond
and Jim Moore; not any or all of Charles Darwin's publications. Certainly
politics and social dynamics are important in all human endeavors,
including all levels of interaction in science. However, by politics, I
meant what tend to be referred to as external elements. D & M emphasize
these aspects in explaining why, for example, Darwin waited so long to
publish some of the ideas he outlines in the Origin.
	I think these external elements are illuminating in numerous ways
and D & M put them together to make very worthwhile reading. However, I
don't think that these externalities are all there is to understanding
evolutionary biology -not the subject nor why the discipline exists. The D
& M bio does not give much fanfare, for eg, to variation under
domestication in & of itself as interesting stuff. It does talk about
Darwin running off to see pigeon shows & dog breeders. That's what I meant
by more subtle points. If the reader doesn't already understand the
extreme importance of variation to Darwin's mechanism of evolution, then
the reader might interpret this as very eccentric behavior indeed.

I hope this makes my view a bit clearer.
	-Patricia Princehouse   Princeh@husc.Harvard.edu

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