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Darwin-L Message Log 4:80 (December 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.


<4:80>From ARKEO4@FENNEL.WT.UWA.EDU.AU  Sun Dec 19 17:14:08 1993

Date: Mon, 20 Dec 1993 7:18:53 +0800 (SST)
From: ARKEO4@FENNEL.WT.UWA.EDU.AU
Subject: Re: Greenberg, Renfrew, Ruhlen, proto-World
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

Sally Thomason noted:

>    Greenberg's major successes have been among nonlinguists --
> anthropologists and biologists.  His Amerind family is beginning to
> turn up, for instance, in standard anthropological textbooks.  It's
> hard to tell how this will turn out in the end: if linguists continue
> to reject Greenberg's findings, it seems at least possible that,
> eventually, anthropologists and others will also become skeptical.
> But maybe not, and then we could have a situation where a set of
> proposals that are rejected by specialists are accepted uncritically
> by all nonspecialists.

Reading this I was struck by the resemblance of the second alternative to
what actually *occurred* in fields such as anthropology during the late
19th and early 20th Centuries.  The transformational and orthogentic
evolutionisms of the non-Darwinians seemed to have "migrated and colonised"
disciplines other than biology and since then have remained pretty much
alive and well despite an "extinction" in biology itself.

It's a rather interesting process with clear biogeographical parallels. I'm
curious about the way in which it occurred.  I assume that intellectual
sources were originally shared, with the biologists leaving this shared
intellectual tradition as neo-Darwinism came to hold exclusive domination
of theorising in their field.  But there may be more to it.  Is anybody
aware of cases where individual biologists switched their area of
publication so that they could maintain their theoretical perspective as a
result of the paradigm shift?

Of course, the neatest part of what happened in the social sciences was
their success in selling the old theory back to the biologists themselves
as "appropriate and correct" when it comes to understanding and explaining
human behavior!

Dave Rindos

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