Darwin-L Message Log 35: 66–83 — July 1996
Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences
Darwin-L was an international discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences, active from 1993–1997. Darwin-L was established to promote the reintegration of a range of fields all of which are concerned with reconstructing the past from evidence in the present, and to encourage communication among scholars, scientists, and researchers in these fields. The group had more than 600 members from 35 countries, and produced a consistently high level of discussion over its several years of operation. Darwin-L was not restricted to evolutionary biology nor to the work of Charles Darwin, but instead addressed the entire range of historical sciences from an explicitly comparative perspective, including evolutionary biology, historical linguistics, textual transmission and stemmatics, historical geology, systematics and phylogeny, archeology, paleontology, cosmology, historical geography, historical anthropology, and related “palaetiological” fields.
This log contains public messages posted to the Darwin-L discussion group during July 1996. It has been lightly edited for format: message numbers have been added for ease of reference, message headers have been trimmed, some irregular lines have been reformatted, and error messages and personal messages accidentally posted to the group as a whole have been deleted. No genuine editorial changes have been made to the content of any of the posts. This log is provided for personal reference and research purposes only, and none of the material contained herein should be published or quoted without the permission of the original poster.
The master copy of this log is maintained in the Darwin-L Archives (rjohara.net/darwin) by Dr. Robert J. O’Hara. The Darwin-L Archives also contain additional information about the Darwin-L discussion group, the complete Today in the Historical Sciences calendar for every month of the year, a collection of recommended readings on the historical sciences, and an account of William Whewell’s concept of “palaetiology.”
------------------------------------------- DARWIN-L MESSAGE LOG 35: 66-83 -- JULY 1996 ------------------------------------------- DARWIN-L A Network Discussion Group on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences Darwin-L@raven.cc.ukans.edu is an international network discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences. Darwin-L was established in September 1993 to promote the reintegration of a range of fields all of which are concerned with reconstructing the past from evidence in the present, and to encourage communication among academic professionals in these fields. Darwin-L is not restricted to evolutionary biology nor to the work of Charles Darwin but instead addresses the entire range of historical sciences from an interdisciplinary perspective, including evolutionary biology, historical linguistics, textual transmission and stemmatics, historical geology, systematics and phylogeny, archeology, paleontology, cosmology, historical anthropology, historical geography, and related "palaetiological" fields. This log contains public messages posted to Darwin-L during July 1996. It has been lightly edited for format: message numbers have been added for ease of reference, message headers have been trimmed, some irregular lines have been reformatted, and some administrative messages and personal messages posted to the group as a whole have been deleted. No genuine editorial changes have been made to the content of any of the posts. This log is provided for personal reference and research purposes only, and none of the material contained herein should be published or quoted without the permission of the original poster. The master copy of this log is maintained on the Darwin-L Web Server at http://rjohara.uncg.edu. For instructions on how to retrieve copies of this and other log files, and for additional information about Darwin-L and the historical sciences, connect to the Darwin-L Web Server or send the e-mail message INFO DARWIN-L to firstname.lastname@example.org. Darwin-L is administered by Robert J. O'Hara (email@example.com), Center for Critical Inquiry in the Liberal Arts and Department of Biology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, North Carolina 27412 U.S.A., and it is supported by the Center for Critical Inquiry, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and the Department of History and the Academic Computing Center, University of Kansas. _______________________________________________________________________________ <35:66>From DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Thu Jul 18 12:00:27 1996 Date: Thu, 18 Jul 1996 13:00:18 -0500 (EST) From: DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Subject: July 18 -- Today in the Historical Sciences To: firstname.lastname@example.org Organization: University of NC at Greensboro JULY 18 -- TODAY IN THE HISTORICAL SCIENCES 1635: ROBERT HOOKE born at Freshwater on the Isle of Wight, England. Though he will be remembered primarily as an experimentalist associated with the Royal Society, Hooke's researches will range widely, covering in addition to mathematics and mechanics, geology and the nature of fossils as well: "My first Proposition then is, That all, or the greatest part of these curiously figured Bodies found up and down in divers Parts of the World, are either those Animal or Vegetable Substances they represent converted into Stone, by having their Pores fill'd up with some petrifying liquid Substance, whereby their Parts are, as it were, lock'd up and cemented together in their Natural Position and Contexture; or else they are the lasting Impressions made on them at first, whilst a yielding Substance by the immediate Application of such Animal or Vegetable body as was so shaped, and that there was nothing else concurring to their Production, save only the yielding of the Matter to receive the Impression, such as heated Wax affords to the Seal; or else a subsiding or hardning of the Matter, after by some kind of Fluidity it had perfectly fill'd or inclosed the figuring Vegetable or Animal Substance, after the manner as a Statue is made of Plaister of Paris, or Alabaster-dust beaten, and boil'd, mixed with Water and poured into a Mould." Today in the Historical Sciences is a feature of Darwin-L, an international network discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences. Send the message INFO DARWIN-L to email@example.com or connect to the Darwin-L Web Server (http://rjohara.uncg.edu) for more information. _______________________________________________________________________________ <35:67>From DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Thu Jul 18 12:03:19 1996 Date: Thu, 18 Jul 1996 13:03:13 -0500 (EST) From: DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Subject: Re: Linguistics and evolution: where do we go from here? (fwd) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Organization: University of NC at Greensboro --begin forwarded message-------------- To: email@example.com Subject: Re: Historical linguistics and evolution: where might we go from here? Date: Wed, 17 Jul 1996 11:47:22 -0400 From: "Peter D. Junger" <junger@pdj2-ra.F-REMOTE.CWRU.Edu> Bob O'Hara writes: : The relations between historical linguistics and evolution are a welcome : and perennial topic of discussion on Darwin-L, and this pleases me very much : because it is just the sort of thing that Darwin-L was created to explore. : I have learned a great deal from these discussions and I hope other people : have as well. I am wondering if what we have learned might at this point be : put into a more conventional form via publication, and my question aloud : to the group is, what form might such a publication take? If one were to : write a paper outlining the parallels (and lack of parallels) that we have : discussed, where would it be best to publish it? If it went into a journal : like _Evolution_ then it would reach a wide audience of evolutionary : biologists, but it is unlikely that many linguists would ever see it. : Likewise if it were to go in a linguistics journal such as _Language_: only : half the intended audience would see it. There are a few interdisciplinary : journals, but they tend not to have very wide readership. Perhaps some kind : of simultaneous publication could be sought in two different journals? This : is rare in scholarly publication, but in this case it might be justified. : Or perhaps a true generalist journal like _Science_ or _Proceedings of the : Royal Society_ would be appropriate; anything in Science has to be very : short, however. The people who really need such an article, though I fear not many of them would read it, are those who are neither biologists or linguists. The evolution of tools (or technologies) and of legal forms (which is my concern) become much more comprehensible when one is exposed to such comparative studies. Perhaps the solution is write the basic article or articles and then the rest of us can write derivative works tying it all together for our discipline (or lack thereof). -- Peter D. Junger--Case Western Reserve University Law School--Cleveland, OH Internet: firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com --end forwarded message---------------- _______________________________________________________________________________ <35:68>From DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Thu Jul 18 16:02:43 1996 Date: Thu, 18 Jul 1996 17:02:33 -0500 (EST) From: DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Subject: New publication on systematics and history To: firstname.lastname@example.org Organization: University of NC at Greensboro A couple of years ago I was fortunate enough to attend a fine symposium organized by Mike Ghiselin and Giovanni Pinna at the Milan Museum of Natural History on systematics as an historical science. The proceedings of that symposium have just appeared, and although they will be widely distributed in the museum community, they may not be noted extensively beyond that group. A number of the papers included may be of interest to members of Darwin-L, including one of mine on "trees of history" in systematics and philology. I attach here a copy of the table of contents; copies of the volume can be ordered (though I don't know the price) from the Museo Civico di Storia Naturale, Corso Venezia 55, 20121 Milano, Italy. Pinna, Giovanni, and Michael Ghiselin, eds. 1996. Systematic biology as an historical science. _Memorie della Societa Italiana di Scienze Naturali e del Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Milano_, v. 27, fasc. 1. Michael Ghiselin - Systematic biology as an historical science: discussion and retrospect. E. Nicholas Arnold - The role of biological process in phylogenetics with examples from the study of lizards. Yves Bouligand - Morphological singularities and macroevolution. Mikhail A. Fedonkin - The Precambrian fossil record: new insight of life. Michael T. Ghiselin - Charles Darwin, Fritz Muller, Anton Dohrn and the origin of evolutionary physiological anatomy. James R. Griesemer - Some concepts of historical science. Alessandro Minelli - Some thought on homology 150 years after Owen's definition. Robert J. O'Hara - Trees of history in systematics and philology. Eugene Presnov and Valeria Isaeva - Topological classification: onto- and phylogenesis. Francesco M. Scudo - Symbiosis, the origins of major life forms and systematics: a review with speculations. Alberto M. Simonetta - Systematics: is historical perspective useful to understand modern debates on systematics and are we really equipped for sound evolutionary systematics? Rene Thom - Qualitative and quantitative in evolutionary theory with some thoughts on Aristotelian biology. Adam Urbanek - The origin and maintenance of diversity: a case study of Upper Silurian graptoloids. David B. Wake - Schmalhausen's evolutionary morphology and its value in formulating research strategies. Bob O'Hara, Darwin-L list owner Robert J. O'Hara (email@example.com) | Cornelia Strong College, 100 Foust Building | http://rjohara.uncg.edu University of North Carolina at Greensboro | http://strong.uncg.edu Greensboro, North Carolina 27412 U.S.A. | _______________________________________________________________________________ <35:69>From firstname.lastname@example.org Thu Jul 18 20:17:15 1996 Date: Thu, 18 Jul 1996 18:14:55 -0700 From: email@example.com Subject: Re: teaching cladistics To: firstname.lastname@example.org One of the best ways to teach practical systematics is to use two programs: Blindwatchmaker (the software comes with the book by Richard Dawkins) and MacClade. Blindwatchmaker allows students to conduct computerized breeding experiments over as many generations as they have patients. While they do this, the "morphs" evolve. Have students save a single "morph" every few generations and then try to "discover" the phylogeny by identifying characters and using MacClade to build the tree. Alternatively, you can have students swap their collection of morphs and again try to reconstruct the phylogeny (this time without knowing the answer). Blindwatchmaker also allows you to vary the rate in which the morphs change, thereby allowing students to assess the effects of evolutionary rates on cladogram reconstruction. We used this method in a first year biology class at the University of Pennsylvania with great success. It teaches the principles of evolution and phylogeny - as well the practical difficulties associated with both. David L. Hauser Dept. of Biology Villanova University _______________________________________________________________________________ <35:70>From email@example.com Sun Jul 21 22:24:30 1996 Subject: Book Review - Darwin's Dangerous Idea To: firstname.lastname@example.org (Darwin List) Date: Mon, 22 Jul 1996 13:23:44 +1000 (EST) From: "Danny Yee" <email@example.com> title: Darwin's Dangerous Idea : Evolution and the Meanings of Life by: Daniel C. Dennett publisher: Simon & Schuster 1995 other: 586 pages; bibliography; index Evolutionary ideas appear in many places in Dennett's earlier writings; he is one of the few philosophers who really seems at home with them. In _Darwin's Dangerous Idea_ he turns his attention directly to the idea of evolution by natural selection, trying to explain why so many of his fellow philosophers (and even some biologists) have shied from accepting its full ramifications. Dennett begins by offering a description of Darwinian theory at an abstract philosophical level. He then looks at how this perspective sheds light on some controversies within evolutionary biology, and finally at its consequences outside biology, for social and moral philosophy. Dennett is insanely difficult to summarise, because he crams so much into his books and presents much of his most interesting material as digressions. Darwinian evolution has a huge range of applications (Dennett calls it a "universal acid") and taking it as his subject gives him the opportunity to range across science and philosophy, introducing bits and pieces of all kinds which he has picked up and thinks are worth sharing. This results in the volume as a whole being a little disconnected, but more locally ideas are logically and clearly presented. -- Dennett begins by explaining why he thinks Darwin deserves the prize for the "single best idea anyone has ever had" and why his idea was (and is) so revolutionary, so dangerous. He illustrates this with a brief account of pre-Darwinian ideas -- with Locke as an exponent of the traditional viewpoint and Hume as someone who came very close to Darwin's insight. The key elements of Darwin's "dangerous idea" are a denial of essentialism and an understanding of natural selection as a substrate neutral, algorithmic process, applicable to an extremely wide range of phenomena and capable of achieving immense feats by slow accumulation over large extents of time and space. Darwin's original application of natural selection was, of course, to the origin of species. Dennett explores different ways of visualising the "tree of life" and explains the problems involved in defining species (decisions about species status are necessarily retrospective). This is illustrated with an explanation of the often misunderstood "Mitochondrial Eve" phenomena. At this point Dennett introduces a metaphor which is used throughout the book: "cranes" are devices or "good tricks" that allow design to proceed faster, but which build on existing foundations; "skyhooks" are entirely mysterious, pre-existing hooks in the sky which enable some problem to be solved or some complexity to be created entirely independently of ordinary processes of design. Dennett argues that there is no place at all for skyhooks and that the only bad reductionism is a "greedy" reductionism that tries to do without cranes. Evolution can be seen as movement within the "Library of Mendel", the set of all possible genomes, of which only a tiny fraction actually exist. The complex constraints imposed on genomes by developmental biology and ecology reflect relative degrees of accessibility within the library -- the accessible is a small subset of the possible, albeit a much bigger one than the actual. Dennnet goes on to argue that this can be extended outside biology, that _all_ design can be seen as movement through a single unified Design Space. Human creativity is no exception, and Paley's "watchmaker" analogy had more truth than it is usually credited with. -- Part two of _Darwin's Dangerous Idea_ looks at attacks on and extensions of Darwinism inside biology. Darwin himself carefully restricted the domain to which he was prepared to apply his theory, but Dennett argues that continuing to do so (at the behest of religion or or otherwise) is no longer a tenable position to take. He briefly discusses two extensions: to the origin of life (focusing on the ideas of Cairns-Smith and Eigen) and to cellular automata (Conway's game of Life). Foreshadowing part three, he also mentions Nietzsche's "eternal recurrence" and the psychological consequences of a world which is self-creating and without foundations. Though there are obvious differences between those things produced by human design and those produced by evolution, biology _is_ engineering at some fundamental level, and "reverse engineering" is a powerful tool for biologists. This creates a connection between two difficult concepts -- "function" in biology and "meaning" in philosophy. Dennett fits work by Kauffman on self-organising systems into this framework, arguing that it is an extension of Darwinism rather than a rebuttal. A whole chapter is devoted to exploring the power of adaptionist thinking and its centrality to understanding evolution. While he rejects Leibizian "panglossianism", Dennett sees adaptionism as a fertile source of explanations; if these are not always correct that does not diminish its general power. (This is illustrated by a brief look at the Aquatic Ape Theory, as an example of an unestablished, controversial, but _interesting_ adaptionist hypothesis.) This is followed by a chapter devoted almost solely to Stephen Jay Gould. Dennett continues his argument for the power of adaptionism with an attack on its most famous critique, Gould and Lewontin's famous "Spandrels of San Marco" paper. Dennett's basic argument is that Gould and Lewontin's arguments are misaimed, that "genuine" Darwinians have always shunned both panadaptionism and preadaptionism and that "good adaptionists are always on the lookout for hidden constraints". Punctuated equilibrium is next against the wall, along with Gould's analysis of the Burgess Shale (in _Wonderful Life_) and his arguments for the contingency of evolution. Dennett's conclusion from all of this is that Gould is "searching for skyhooks to limit the power of Darwin's dangerous idea". This prompted a bit of soul-searching on my part and some rereading of Gould's works, but I think that Dennett is wrong about this. While there are passages in Gould's writings and passages that can be read to support Dennett's view, it seems clear to me that Gould's overriding drive is not a search for skyhooks but rather an insistence on the complexity and diversity of the cranes involved in evolution. All the different forms of heterochrony Gould discusses in _Ontogeny and Phylogeny_, for example, are clearly cranes, and if he is more complimentary than some to historical figures who were clearly looking for skyhooks, that says more about his historiographical sensibilities than his own philosophy. Gould is no closer to any form of vitalism or mysticism than someone like Dawkins is to "greedy reductionism". Perhaps Dennett sees things from too high above the fray of actual biology: while he assents that cranes come in many types and that they interact in complicated ways, his cranes versus skyhooks abstraction subsumes the whole of biology into "cranes", leaving plenty of room for major disagreements which are simply invisible at this level. On a similar note, Dennett rings a wrong note when he claims that only "greedy" reductionism (trying to do without cranes) is bad, and that attacks on reductionism are either vain attempts to find skyhooks or aimed at unrealistic portrayals of reductionism. The most widespread forms of reductionism are those that try to restrict the kinds of cranes used or that place excessive stress on particular cranes (typically privileging genetics above ecology and embryology or physics above everything else). These kinds of reductionism may not be a problem philosophically, but they are definitely a menace elsewhere. Dennett goes on to deal with other more harmless "heresies", though at much less length: Hoyle's idea that the Earth was seeded with life, aliens meddling with evolution, Teilhard de Chardin, and recent Lamarckian revivals. I'm not convinced most of these merited even this much attention. Dennett also offers a very brief look at the debate about the level and units of evolution. He argues that, while this is important, it doesn't impinge on the fundamentals of Darwinism as he has presented them. -- One of the reasons Darwinian heresies are so widespread inside biology is that many people desperately want to stop Darwinism applying to people, and therefore seize any chance they can to undermine it. In part three of _Darwin's Dangerous Idea_ Dennett looks at how the extension of evolutionary ideas outside biology has been resisted in fields like linguistics, philosophy, and ethics. This will be the most interesting material for many, especially those already familiar with the biological theory in parts one and two. The application of Darwinism to culture rests on the concept of memes, concepts or ideas which are propagated from person to person and "compete" with one another. They provide a basis for culture and allow us to transcend our genetics. While Dennett doubts that a science of memetics with the power of genetics is possible, at a basic level genetics and memetics work on the same principles: design by unthinking processes of selection. Human culture is a "crane-making crane", not a set of "skyhooks"; indeed there are no "skyhooks" in culture any more than there are in biology. When it comes to refusing to accept the consequences of evolution by natural selection, the worst offenders outside biology are people like Chomsky, Searle, Penrose, Fodor, and Putnam. Chomsky's long standing opposition to the idea that language could be the result of natural selection is an obvious target for Dennett, who spends a chapter on the origins of language and the relationship between language and intelligence. Searle's espousal of "Original Intentionality" is a perfect example of grasping for skyhooks. (Skinner, on the other hand, was a greedy reductionist, trying to explain everything in one step.) A chapter on meaning and intentionality takes up the link between biological definitions of function and philosophical definitions of meaning introduced in part two. Dennett deploys three complex but compelling (and, as always, entertaining) thought experiments, aimed at demonstrating that there can be no distinction between "real" meaning and "artificial" meaning, that ultimately _all_ meaning emerges from meaningless processes. Drifting a little from evolution, he then devotes a chapter to explaining why "attempts to use Goedel's theorem to prove something important about the nature of the human mind" are inherently flawed and to demolishing Penrose's "refutation of strong AI" (in _The Emperor's New Mind_). Dennett spends two chapters on the origins of morals, arguing, of course, for a naturalist position (if you reject "original intentionality" you can hardly have "original sin"). While the excesses of some sociobiologists ("greedy reductionists") are deplorable, that is no grounds for rejecting an evolutionary origin for morality. Once again Dennett finds time for a quick look at the history of moral philosophy, placing Hobbes and Nietzsche as early sociobiologists. He goes on to address an important practical issue: both utilitarian and Kantian ethical systems tend to be idealised to the point where they are useless; construction of a practical "Moral First Aid Manual" will require taking into account real computational complexities. In a brief final chapter Dennett explains how Darwin's dangerous idea has influenced his political and ethical beliefs. He sees it as a basis for assigning value to diversity, whether artistic, cultural, or biological. While some have seen it as conducive to conservative politics, Dennett thinks otherwise, ending with vision very much in the liberal tradition. -- Like Dennett's earlier books on free will and consciousness, I fear _Darwin's Dangerous Idea_ is too complexly argued to make many converts: some will quibble at minor points and dodge the basic argument; others will become lost in the detail. While it doesn't require a technical background, it is not going to be easy reading for those without a basic sympathy for Dennett's way of looking at the world: I would recommend reading Dawkin's _The Selfish Gene_ before tackling _Darwin's Dangerous Idea_. For many, however, _Darwin's Dangerous Idea_ will a volume to read slowly and to savour. Arguably there are few original ideas in it (at least for someone who has read Dennett's earlier works and has a grounding in evolutionary biology), but few readers will fail to find something new, or perhaps some familiar ideas in new contexts. Many books have been written about natural selection, but few have applied it across such a wide swathe of philosophy. Though I disagree with the odd detail, I think that Dennett's basic argument is inexorable, inescapable, and fully as potent as he claims it is. He has produced a vastly more sophisticated version of the bonfire the positivists wanted to make of the cobwebs of metaphysics and any philosopher who wants to talk sensibly about design or meaning must pass through its flames. -- Acknowledgements: thanks to Cosma Shalizi for comments on a draft of this review. -- Disclaimer: I requested and received a review copy of _Darwin's Dangerous Idea_ from Daniel Dennett, but I have no stake, financial or otherwise, in its success. -- %T Darwin's Dangerous Idea %S Evolution and the Meanings of Life %A Daniel C. Dennett %I Simon & Schuster %C New York %D 1995 %O hardcover, bibliography, index %G ISBN 0-684-80290-2 %P 586pp %K evolution, philosophy 19 July 1996 ------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Danny Yee (firstname.lastname@example.org) http://www.anatomy.su.oz.au/danny/book-reviews/ ------------------------------------------------ _______________________________________________________________________________ <35:71>From DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Mon Jul 22 21:58:47 1996 Date: Mon, 22 Jul 1996 22:58:37 -0500 (EST) From: DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Subject: The space of time, and the geographer Arno Peters To: email@example.com Organization: University of NC at Greensboro I would like to reopen a discussion we were having a few weeks ago about time and the representation of time. My interest in this topic is related to how we speak of time in terms that we also use for space: we speak of a "length" of time and of ancient events being "far away" or "distant", etc. I have for a while been applying some ideas from cartographic theory that address the representation of space, to historical/temporal representations, and I have a paper that will be out soon on this topic. I have just discovered a remarkable essay that I wish I had known about earlier because I surely would have cited it: Peters, Arno. 1985. Space and Time: Their Equal Representation as an Essential Basis for a Scientific View of the World. New York: Friendship Press. This is actually a dual-language edition, with the English text on one page facing a parallel German text on the other (under the title _Raum und Zeit: Ihre paritatische Darstellung als unabdingbare Pramisse eines wissenschaftlichen Weltbildes_.) Though published as a monograph, it is really a small booklet about 40pp long. Peters is a rather well-known geographer who promoted a particular map projection that seeks to represent areas equally. (I don't know if Peters is still alive and working; can anyone tell us?) He also published a _Peters Atlas of the World_ which covers the whole world in a single series of maps, all of equal area. His aim here was to counteract the sense of the world one gets from, say, a standard European or American atlas in which there might be 10 plates of Europe but only one of two of all of Asia. In his _Space and Time_ essay he argues that representations of time should also follow this principle of "equal area." He criticizes, for example, a multi-volume history of the world that devotes two volumes to the first three thousand years, and then eight more to the next one thousand. This, he says, is like making an atlas of the world with 10 plates for Europe (where the cartographer is) but only two for everywhere else. Peters' ideas on historical representation have been put into practice in an historical time-line that has recently been published; I will post a follow-up message about that in a moment. There are a number of very interesting issues here which might be discussed at length. I have been exploring some of them in my own papers without knowing that Peters had also addressed this topic. For the time being let me ask these questions of the group: Can anyone tell us more about Arno Peters and how his work is regarded in the geographical community? Has anyone seen any other references to his work on temporal representation in addition to spatial representation? Does anyone know of any historians or philosophers of history who have commented on this particular problem, or have talked about "the space of time"? My own papers that address these issues, for those who may be interested, are the following: O'Hara, R. J. [In press.] Mapping the space of time: temporal representation in the historical sciences. Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences. O'Hara, R. J. 1993. Systematic generalization, historical fate, and the species problem. Systematic Biology, 42:231-246. O'Hara, R. J. 1992. Telling the tree: narrative representation and the study of evolutioanry history. Biology and Philosophy, 7:135-160. Abstracts of the two earler ones may be found on the Darwin-L Web Server on the page http://rjohara.uncg.edu/rjo.html Bob O'Hara, Darwin-L list owner Robert J. O'Hara (firstname.lastname@example.org) | Cornelia Strong College, 100 Foust Building | http://rjohara.uncg.edu University of North Carolina at Greensboro | http://strong.uncg.edu Greensboro, North Carolina 27412 U.S.A. | _______________________________________________________________________________ <35:72>From DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Mon Jul 22 22:11:40 1996 Date: Mon, 22 Jul 1996 23:11:36 -0500 (EST) From: DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Subject: Peters/Nothiger world history chart To: email@example.com Organization: University of NC at Greensboro Arno Peters ideas about "equal area" representations of history have been put into practice in a very nice historical time-line produced by Andreas Nothiger: Nothiger, Andreas. 1991. World History Chart. Toronto: Penguin Books Canada. This publication contains the large folding chart itself, and an accompanying text describing it. It is a very fine publication, and would be ideal for use in classes of all kinds as well as for personal reference. Fortunately there is a web page available with information on how to order the chart, and with browse-able samples. The address is: http://www.hyperhistory.com/ Nothiger is apparently working on developing this site into an interactive historical time-line. I ordered a copy of the chart myself, and it really is excellent. I expect there are quite a few Darwin-L members who would enjoy it as well. Bob O'Hara (firstname.lastname@example.org) _______________________________________________________________________________ <35:73>From DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Mon Jul 22 22:41:41 1996 Date: Mon, 22 Jul 1996 23:36:53 -0500 (EST) From: DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Subject: Dennett volume (fwd) To: email@example.com Organization: University of NC at Greensboro Much to my frustration the listserv software still seems to be processing some messages incorrectly. This one didn't make it through. Bob O'Hara (firstname.lastname@example.org) --begin forwarded message-------------- Date: Mon, 22 Jul 96 08:52:57 EDT From: email@example.com (John Staddon) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: Book Review - Darwin's Dangerous Idea Congratulations to Danny Yee for a fine review of Dennett's stimulating book, which is everything he sdays it is. I quarrel only with his aside about Skinner: "(Skinner, on the other hand,was a greedy reductionist, trying to explain everything in one step.)" Not really: Skinner was not really a mechanist or reductionist at all -- and in one of his later papers "(Phylogeny and ontogeny of behavior", 1966) espoused an impoverished Darwinism. His views are probably closest to pragmatism or functionalism (see my book "Behaviorism: Mind, Mechanism and Society" -- Duckworth, 1993). He was not reductionist either in the physiological sense (certainly not!) or even the black-box sense. John Staddon (email@example.com) --end forwarded message---------------- _______________________________________________________________________________ <35:74>From firstname.lastname@example.org Mon Jul 22 14:45:18 1996 Date: Mon, 22 Jul 1996 12:42:46 -0700 From: Phillip E Johnson <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Reviews of Dennett Since a review of Daniel Dennett's stimulating book was recently sent out to this list, I'll add this supplement: For those would would like to read a more critical appraisal of _Darwin's Dangerous Idea_, I recommend H. Allen Orr's review in _Evolution_ (50)(1), 1996, pp. 467-472. Orr is a Professor of Biology at the University of Rochester. I think he is very sound on both the biological and philosophical issues, and would be interested in knowing if there is any disagreement about this. There is also my own review, which appeared first in the October, 1995 issue of _The New Criterion_ and was republished in the first issue of _Origins and Design_. For information on _Origins and Design_ see this WWW site: http://www.arn.org/arn My review of Dennett is available at that site (on the Phillip Johnson page) or directly at the following page: http://id-www.ucsb.edu/fscf/LIBRARY/JOHNSON/Dennett.html Letters from Paul Gross and Daniel Dennett with my replies appeared in subsequent issues of _The New Criterion_. I'd be glad to furnish this correspondence upon request. In addition, an important review essay by Alvin Plantinga on the Dennett book appeared in the May/June 1996 issue of _Books and Culture_, but I seem to have given away or loaned out my personal copies of that issue and cannot provide an exact title or page number. Plantinga is Professor of Philosophy at Notre Dame. _Books & Culture_ could be described as a Christian version of the New York Review of Books. I am a regular contributor; my review essays for B&C, most of which deal with issues related to Darwinism, are available at the ARN and USCB web sites, above. Another important reply to Dennett is contained in a book which addresses the broader question of the Darwinian mechanism: Michael Behe's _Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution_. This book, from Free Press, is officially scheduled for publication August 2, but it is already in some book stores. I have heard that it will be reviewed in the Sunday New York Times Book Review in early August. Many other reviews are anticipated. My own review, which also reviews Richard Dawkins's _Climbing Mount Improbable_, will appear in a future issue of _First Things_, probably October. Behe is Associate Professor of Biochemistry at Lehigh University. Phillip Johnson Professor of Law University of California, Berkeley _______________________________________________________________________________ <35:75>From DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Mon Jul 22 23:14:35 1996 Date: Tue, 23 Jul 1996 00:14:29 -0500 (EST) From: DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Subject: Web site on ancient numismatics To: email@example.com Organization: University of NC at Greensboro A very nice introduction to the study of ancient Greek and Roman coins has just been put up on the web at: http://www.math.montana.edu/~umsfwest/numis/ It is well stocked with images of coins from a wide variety of places and eras, and is quite enjoyable to browse. "Just as in civil history," said Buffon, "one refers to titles, looks for medals, or deciphers ancient inscriptions, in order to work out the epochs of human revolutions and establish the dates of intellectual events, so also in natural history it is necessary to rummage through the archives of the world." This web site will help to make Buffon's analogy come alive for modern-day natural historians. Bob O'Hara, Darwin-L list owner Robert J. O'Hara (firstname.lastname@example.org) | Cornelia Strong College, 100 Foust Building | http://rjohara.uncg.edu University of North Carolina at Greensboro | http://strong.uncg.edu Greensboro, North Carolina 27412 U.S.A. | _______________________________________________________________________________ <35:76>From email@example.com Tue Jul 23 06:34:05 1996 From: "Hans-Cees Speel" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Organization: TUDelft To: email@example.com Date: Tue, 23 Jul 1996 13:38:58 +0000 Subject: Re: The space of time, and the geographer Arno Peters > I would like to reopen a discussion we were having a few weeks ago about > time and the representation of time. > > My interest in this topic is related to how we speak of time in terms that > we also use for space: we speak of a "length" of time and of ancient events > being "far away" or "distant", etc. I have for a while been applying some > ideas from cartographic theory that address the representation of space, to > historical/temporal representations, and I have a paper that will be out > soon on this topic. I do not know any philosophers or scientists-sources. I do know however that in books about managerial theories there are comparisons between managers from for instance Japan, the USA and Europe in how they see themselves in time. There were some striking differences, in that USA managers tend to see themselves on a line from past to future, while Japanese had a more complex view, not as sequential. But I would have to look it up to be more precise. The book was called 'the seven cultures of capitalism' or something like that. If it is interesting for you let me know, than I can look it up. greetings, Hans-Cees Speel Theories come and go, the frog stays [F. Jacob] ------------------------------------------------------- |Hans-Cees Speel School of Systems Engineering, Policy Analysis and management |Technical Univ. Delft, Jaffalaan 5 2600 GA Delft PO Box 5015 The Netherlands |telephone +3115785776 telefax +3115783422 E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org www.sepa.tudelft.nl/~afd_ba/hanss.html featuring evolution and memetics! _______________________________________________________________________________ <35:77>From email@example.com Tue Jul 23 07:50:44 1996 Date: Tue, 23 Jul 1996 07:50:41 -0500 To: firstname.lastname@example.org From: email@example.com (Mark D. Johnson) Subject: Re: Peters/Nothiger world history chart As to Peters suggestion that history, too, should be put into equal time blocks, I should add as a geologist, this creates problems. We love to talk about human history happening seconds before midnight on Dec 31st in the earth-history-as-a-year model. I have always disliked the term "prehistory," as if time were different before written records. While on Peters, the Lutheran church in America some years ago copied extensively Peters world projection for its maps covering world relief funds. The caption implied that the Peters projection accurately depicted the world, which it really doesn't, to the lay mind. Rather than understanding the concept of equal area, I feared that many would actually believe Africa to have that slim, drippy shape. Mark D. Johnson Department of Geology, Gustavus Adolphus College 800 W. College, St. Peter, MN 56082 firstname.lastname@example.org (507) 933-7442 _______________________________________________________________________________ <35:78>From email@example.com Tue Jul 23 07:56:28 1996 Date: Tue, 23 Jul 1996 08:57:01 -0400 To: firstname.lastname@example.org (Darwin List) From: email@example.com (Jeremy C. Ahouse) Subject: Kiriakoff (transl.)? Hi List, Willi Hennig (1965) in discussing paraphyly credits Kiriakoff (1960) with the idea of "cryptotypological" systems. Do any of you know if Kiriakoff has been translated? Also while I am asking, is it true that Hennig's book, Phylogenetic Systematics, is out of print? Thank you, - Jeremy Hennig, W. (1965) "Phylogenetic Systematics" Annual Review of Entomology 10:97-116. Hennig, W. (1979) Phylogenetic Systematics. Univ of Illinois Press. ISBN: 025200745X Kiriakoff, S. G. (1960) Les fondaments philosophiques de la systematique biologique. Natuurw. Tijdschr. (Ghent) 42:35-57. _______________________________________________________________________________ <35:79>From Michael_Kenny@sfu.ca Tue Jul 23 09:57:14 1996 Date: Tue, 23 Jul 1996 07:57:09 -0700 (PDT) To: firstname.lastname@example.org From: Michael_Kenny@sfu.ca (Michael Kenny) Subject: space and time Dr. O'Hara asked: > Does anyone know of any historians or philosophers of history who have > commented on this particular problem, or have talked about "the space of > time"? Philosopher Henri Bergson wrote extensively about how our representations of time are infected by our notions of space in the form of spatializing metaphors (e.g. the 'flow' of time; 'points' in time, etc). The argument was an attack on the kind of determinism that stem from applying Newtonian logic to subjective duration through a tendency to spatialize duration - a kind of billiard-ball logic about the causation of psychic events. Bergson was arguing for free-will, hence his title *Time and Free Will*. Spatial/directional metaphors have also received much attention in Lakoff and Johnson's works, e.g. 'Metaphors We Live By.' They attempt to show that some of the basic ways we envision logical operations derive from the phenomenology of bodily experience, the basic directionality we possess by virtue of being embodied beings of a certain type. Michael G. Kenny Dept. of Sociology & Anthropology Simon Fraser University Burnaby, B.C. V5A 1S6; Canada Michael_Kenny@sfu.ca phone: (604) 291-4270 fax: (604) 291-5799 _______________________________________________________________________________ <35:80>From GRANSOM@ucrac1.ucr.edu Tue Jul 23 12:53:58 1996 Date: Tue, 23 Jul 1996 10:53:20 -0700 (PDT) From: GREG RANSOM <GRANSOM@ucrac1.ucr.edu> To: DARWIN-L@RAVEN.CC.UKANS.EDU Subject: papers on limits to reduction, etc. For those on Darwin-L who have requested copies of my papers on the insuperable limits to reduction in biology and on the selective mechanism at work in Thomas Kuhn's evolutionary picture of the advance of science, I have now made these papers available on the World Wide Web. If you can access these papers over the Internet this will help to economize on my own limited resources. My web site is at: http://members.gnn.com/logosapien/ransom.htm My paper "Insuperable Limits to Reduction in Biology" is at: http://members.gnn.com/logosapien/biolimits.htm My paper "Thomas Kuhn and the Differential Selection of Community Members Acting on Alternative Implicit Criteria for Theory Choice" is at: http://members.gnn.com/logosapien/kuhnselection.htm Members of Darwin-L might also find my paper "Science Without Planning: The General Economy of Sciece" of some interest. This paper expands Michael Ghiselin's notion of 'general economy' to incude the the work of Thomas Kuhn, Michael Polanyi, and Friedrich Hayek, who have shown how community level properties and institutions make available resources making possible human activities and structures we otherwise would not be capable of. This paper is at: http://members.gnn.com/logosapien/scienceplan.htm Another related paper, in its second section, links up more directly the explanatory stategies of Darwinian biology and economics as conceived (by Smith, Hayek, and others) as a science of undesigned order. This paper is at: http://members.gnn.com/logosapien/hayekmyth.htm Finally, I have made available a paper on Gerald Edelman, Tyler Burge, and Friedrich Hayek on the nature of the problems of human categorical capacities which supports the 'bottom-up' vs. 'top-down' thesis of Gerald Edelman, Gary Cziko, and Daniel Dennett. Discussions in my 'Hayek Myths' paper referenced just above also develop this thesis. This paper is at: http://members.gnn.com/logosapien/BurgeEdelman.htm Greg Ransom Dept. of Philosophy UC-Riverside email@example.com P.S. Comments and suggestions for improving these working papers is warmly welcomed. _______________________________________________________________________________ <35:81>From GRANSOM@ucrac1.ucr.edu Tue Jul 23 18:34:47 1996 Date: Tue, 23 Jul 1996 16:34:10 -0700 (PDT) From: GREG RANSOM <GRANSOM@ucrac1.ucr.edu> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: RE: space and time Anyone interested in the problem of 'time' should make sure to read Lugwig Wittgenstein on this topic. See especially his _The Blue and Brown Book_ and _Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics_. Look in _Blue Book_ under time. Look in _Remarks_ under 'temporal (non-temporal). Among philosophical works on 'time' see also Bas van Frassen _An introduction to the Philosophy of Time and Space_. Gerald Edelman's work should also be looked at, among other things (!). See G. Edelman, _Neural Darwinism_ and _The Remembered Present_. In some ways, Edelman builds on themes found already in F. Hayek, _The Sensory Order_. A complex and difficult can of worms we have got ourselves into here! Lewis Carroll might alos also be consulted. Greg Ransom Dept. of Philosophy UC-Riverside email@example.com _______________________________________________________________________________ <35:82>From firstname.lastname@example.org Tue Jul 23 19:41:17 1996 Date: Tue, 23 Jul 1996 20:41:32 -0400 (EDT) From: Ellen Shortell <email@example.com> Subject: Re: Peters/Nothiger world history chart To: firstname.lastname@example.org Perhaps it's time for me to emerge briefly from my lurking status. As an art historian, my concerns may seem peripheral to your subject at best. I started listening in because of my interest in theories and systems of classification in the construction of my own academic discipline, and especially for late medieval buildings. That end of the project is on hold for the moment until I finish writing up a few other things, but I've found the discussions here enlightening. In your present discussion, I thought you might be intersted in George Kubler, The Shape of Time: Remarks on the History of Things, Yale, 1962 Kubler was a Precolumbian specialist, and I've heard he wrote this book to distract him during a stay in the hospital; it's a quick read in any case. His main theme involves different long and short cycles in human history, and I'm sure you'll find it quite unscientific, based on several decades of observation, but more intuitive than empirical. In any case, it should perhaps be included in a general bibliography on the topic. Ellen Shortell Assistant Professor of Art History Department of Critical Studies Massachusetts College of Art Boston, MA email@example.com _______________________________________________________________________________ <35:83>From firstname.lastname@example.org Tue Jul 23 09:48:38 1996 Date: Tue, 23 Jul 1996 10:49:10 -0400 To: email@example.com (Darwin List) From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Jeremy C. Ahouse) Subject: analogy, archival thoughts (part 1 of 2) On the way to suggesting deep connections between evolutionary systems (cultural and biological) Martin Sereno (1991) offers the following. Complex generative and explanatory analogy is characterized by four distinct activities: (1) decomposition of the source and target systems (2) establishment of a map between the two systems (3) generation of predictions about the target (4) testing of the predictions. Few of the comments in our discussion so far (or the archived discussion from September and October of 1993 mentioned by Gregory Mayer) address the analogy problem so forthrightly. Do you buy Sereno's taxonomy of criteria for evaluating explanatory analaogies? My recent critique, suggesting that there was plenty of disanalogy when comparing language change and biological evolution amounted to accepting the historical component but suggested that the ability to uncover monophyletic language groups was due to a process of diffusion constrained by monophyletic human lineages. Kent Holsinger used a criterion of mutual understanding to suggest an independent way to make languages cohere. He explicitly analogized this to the interbreeding criterion that attracts some biologists when describing species. Compare the following from Schliecher (found in Sereno's review); "Languages are natural organisms which, outside the human will and subject to fixed laws, are born, grow, develop, age and die; thus they also illustrate the series of phenomena that are usually comprehended under the term life. Consequently, the science of language is a natural science." (1863, quoted in Aarsleff, 1982: 16). Darwin discusses the parallel while he is discussing classification (arguing for classification based on genealogy) and when discussing the use of vestigial organs when inferring genealogy (analogizing unpronounced letters in words with vestigial organs). "It may be worth while to illustrate this view of classification, by taking the case of languages. If we possessed a perfect pedigree of mankind, a genealogical arrangement of the races of man would afford the best classification of the various languages now spoken throughout the world; and if all extinct languages, and all intermediated and slowly changing dialects, had to be included, such an arrangement would, I thinkbe the only possible one. Yet it might be that some very ancient language had altered little, and had given rise to few new languages, whilst others (owing to the spreading and subsequent isolation and states of civilization of the several races, descended from a common race) had altered much, and had given rise to many new lnaguages and dialects. The various degress of difference in the languages from the same stock, would have to be expressed by groups subordinated to groups; but the proper or even only possible arrangement would still be genealogical; and this would be strictly natural, as it would connect together all languages, extinct and modern, by the closest affinities, and would give the filiation and the origin of each tongue." (Darwin 1859: 422-423) "Rudimentary organs may be compared with the letters in a wordm still retained in the spelling, but become useless in the pronunciation, but which serve as a clue in seeking for its derivation." (Darwin 1859: 455) Sereno offers a general interpretation of inspired by Darwin's thoughts on the parallel. The overall scheme is: Species <-> Language community Organism <-> Speaker Cell/genes <-> ? His list of particulars includes: Analogies gene flow <-> intercommunicating group of people embryonic development <-> language ability development heritability <-> language transmitted to offspring mutation <-> sound & meaning changes that generate variation allopatric speciation <-> languages diverge when spatially separated subspecies, clines <-> geographical dialects macroevolution <-> wholesale phonology and syntax changes sympatric speciation <-> sociolinguistic isolation cladistics <-> language relationship inference Disanalogies 1. languages borrow words without regard for phylogenetic distance 2. spoken languages don't become better adapted overtime (technical language may be an exception). I offer these to stimulate discussion and encourage you to read the rest of Sereno's paper. I will leave this now to take you on a tour of quotes from the Sep/Oct 93 discussion of these issues. You should (of course) not accept my selective packaging of that discussion and visit the archive yourself. One of the nicest parts of going back and doing this was seeing the care that went into so many of the comments. These comments should certainly be wrapped into a package for more general consumption. I hope we have more discussion of Elihu Gerson's comments (below) about possible misapplication of causal efficacy (assuming that lower level processes should always be awarded causal priority). - Jeremy ___________ Aarsleff, H. (1982). "From Locke to Saussure: essays on the study of language and intellectual history" University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN. Darwin, C. (1859). "On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favored races in the struggle for life." John Murray, London. Sereno, M. I. (1991). Four Analogies Between Biological and Cultural/Linguistic Evolution. Journal of Theoretical Biology 151, 467-507. ___________ A smattering of thoughts on analogs of biological evolution from the DarwinL archives. O'Hara, Bob (09/05/93) "Geology and Language, and a Darwin-L Update" As a sample of the kind of comparisons these early authors made, consider John William Donaldson in 1850: "The study of language is indeed perfectly analogous to Geology; they both present us with a set of deposits in a present state of amalgamation which however may be easily discriminated, and we may by an allowable chain of reasoning in either case deduce from the _present_ the _former_ condition, and determine by what causes and in what manner the superposition or amalgamation has taken place." (The New Cratylus; or Contributions Toward a More Accurate Knowledge of the Greek Language. London. From the second edition, 1850:14.) Raben, Joseph (09/11/93) "Evolution in linguistics?" The recent mention of similarities between reasoning in science and in linguistics raises the question, Have there been discussions of linguistic evolution as a process closely paralleling biological evolution? Of course, there is always a free and general metaphoric correspondence implied in all talk of language families, but I would like to know whether anyone has attempted a systematic correspondence between the two activities. O'Hara, Bob (09/11/93) "Re: Evolution in linguistics?" First, are there explicit comparisons between the process of language change and the process of evolution (i.e. variation and selection in populations)? That I can't say, although I feel there must be some out there. Second, are there explicit comparisons between language history and evolutionary history (phylogeny)? The answer to this is a decided "yes". Dick Burian correctly remembers one, by Platnick and Cameron in 1977, but these comparisons have been made since the mid-1800s. Darwin uses a couple of linguistic examples in the Origin of Species, for example, to illustrate the difficulties caused by the absence of intermediate forms. This general topic may be called the topic of "trees of history" -- the history of entities like languages, species, and populations that have branching genealogies. I have a pretty good bibliography on "trees of history" and will post it following this message. The first section of the bibliography lists several explicit phylogeny/philology comparisons. (As mentioned before, I plan to mount these bibliographies on the ukanaix computer sometime soon, but am still learning the list management business so it may take a little while.) Perhaps the most comprehensive single volume on the topic, for those who don't want to work through the whole bibliography, is: Hoenigswald, Henry M., & Linda F. Wiener, eds. 1987. Biological Metaphor and Cladistic Comparison: An Interdisciplinary Perspective. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. It contains a variety of historical and theoretical papers by systematists and philologists, including a very good one by Cameron that expands upon his earlier work with Platnick. This is the only volume of its kind to date, though, as far as I am aware. Wilkins, John (09/12/93) "Re: Evolution in linguistic" Two issues concern me: 1. How much is cultural evolution REALLY affected by the so-called intentionality of social agents? Does this really introduce a lamarckian element (I think not) 2. What are the close analogies and the disanalogies between cultural and biological evolution (Gould, eg, thinks that the term "evolution" ought to be restricted to biology -- I think because he thinks cultural change is a directed and staged process). Simon, Morris (09/13/93) "Re: Evolution in linguistic" On Sun, 12 Sep 1993, John Wilkins wrote: > 1. How much is cultural evolution REALLY affected by the so-called > intentionality of social agents? Does this really introduce a lamarckian > element (I think not) The phrasing of your question suggests to me that you regard "cultural evolution" as a "given" process. The monolithic view of social darwinism is now a remote 'racial' memory, having been replaced by its very distant decendants, "universal" and "multilinear" evolutionism. Both are oriented toward the use of energy in food production, and both are mainly applicable to cultural systems which no longer exist. In my view, there are certainly no "Lamarckian" influences underlying more recent theories of cultural evolution. > 2. What are the close analogies and the disanalogies between cultural and > biological evolution (Gould, eg, thinks that the term "evolution" ought to be > restricted to biology -- I think because he thinks cultural change is a > directed and staged process). I share the thought you attribute to Gould. I seldom find theories of cultural evolution to be very useful, either to explain well-documented cases of culture change or to analyze ongoing change processes as they occur in modern cultures. The "multilinear" model of Julian Steward, with its central concept of "cultural ecology," is more interesting to me than the energy-based constructs of the "universalists" after Leslie White, but neither of these modern cultural evolution theories share essential analogies with biolgical evolution to a degree which justifies labelling them as "evolutionary." Dewar, Robert (09/12/93) "Re: Evolution in linguistic" This is a response to Joseph Raben's request about a comparison between lingistic and biological evolutionary processes. The place to start is Edward Sapir's 1921 book entitled "Language". Sapir was quite possibly the smartest anthropologist of the 20th century, and he devotes a couple of chapters to considering the processes of language change, and a full chapter to considering the relatio n of changes in language, culture and race. He describes language change interm s that I at least find difficult to view as metaphoric extensions of evoluton b y natural selection. But no matter if I am right, his ample discussion (aimed not at linguists but at the rest of us) provides food for thought. Griffiths, Paul (09/13/93) "Re: Evolution in linguistic" Joseph Raben asks about linguistics and evolution. The following piece is about to appear. D Penny, E.E. Watson, & M.A. Steel, "Trees from languages and genes are very similar", Systematic Biology, XLII (1993): in press. There is interesting work of this sort going on by a range of New Zealand researchers. Also: L.L Cavalli-Sforza et al, "Reconstruction of Human Evolution: Bringing Together Genetic, Archeological and Linguistic Data" , Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, LXXXV (1988): 6002-6. Mayer, Gregory (09/13/93) "Sewall Wright & linguistics" I've been much interested in the references and discussion on the study of language evolution and the study of biological evolution. It may be of interest to record that Sewall Wright was also interested in language evolution. Wright (1889-1988), for those unfamiliar with him, was (and is) one of the most influential figures in evolutionary biology. Along with Haldane and Fisher, he is one of the triumvirate that reconciled Mendelian genetics with natural selection and thus began the evolutionary synthesis that is the historical progenitor of our present views. Wright's interest in language evolution is described W.B. Provine's magnificent intellectual biography _Sewall Wright and Evolutionary Biology_ (University of Chicago Press, 1986). Wright's interest is worth mentioning here not only for the sake of those who are not evolutionary biologists, but even these biologists, who are quite familiar with Provine's book, may not be aware of it, as there is no entry for "language", "linguistics", "philology", etc. in Provine's index. Provine writes: "Sewall began to use his knowledge of Greek... and other languages [Latin, German]....he read an article On Grimm's law.... He became fascinated by the evolution of the Indo-European languages and began to keep notebooks on cognate words and grammatical forms....He literally filled a number of notebooks with these philological endeavors. This interest in philology indicates an early and deep fascination with the evolution of patterns. How languages become transformed over time, and perhaps branched out to become several languages, was often analogized to processes of evolution in nature by late-nineteenth-century intellectuals." (p.14) Provine quotes Wright as follows: "Father..was sometimes sarcastic about my enthusiasms, especially that for the evolution of the Indo-European languages..." (a recollection by Wright in 1978; p.17) It is important to note that Wright engaged in this activity in high school. Provine records no further references by Wright to language evolution, either published or unpublished, but it might be interesting to reread some of Wright's work with this early interest in mind. Wills, Jeffrey (09/13/93) "Folktales and texts" The interconnections between biological and linguistic history are well known, but it is wonderful to see textual history receiving more attention. In addition to stemmatics (manuscript history), Peter has included the history of writs, and I would like to mention folktales/folkloric narratives. To non-specialists the names of Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm are less associated with Grimm's Law than with Grimm's Fairy Tales. The 19th century burst of work in reconstructing Indo-European linguistics was accompanied by parallel (but less formalized) work in Indo-European story and myth. The age of Victorian collectors led to the age of Scandinavian taxonomists (shades of Linnaeus?) and the Aarne-Thompson Motif-Index we have today. Historical linguistics has been out of fashion for over a generation due to the Chomskian revolution, but efforts at reconstructing folktale "histories" became suspect much earlier (not without reason, considering previous work), but I think the questions are still valid, even the methods are difficult. For the purposes of this list, I am struck by some work of C.W. von Sydow (from his *Selected Papers on Folklore*). He has a 1932 paper "Om traditionsspridning" (="On the Spread of Tradition") following up on the earlier debate between migration and inheritance theories in which he says "scholars have failed to study the biology of tradition" and discusses "active" and "passive" bearers. The title of his 1934 "Geography and Folk-Tale Oicotypes" explicitly uses a botanical term. As he explains: "In the science of botany *oicotype* is a term used to denote a hereditary plant-variety adapted to a certain milieu . . . through natural selection amongst hereditary dissimilar entities of the same species. When then in the field of traditions a widely spread tradition, such as a tale or a legend [i.e. a sagn], forms special types through isolation inside and suitability for certain culture districts, the term oicotype can also be used in the science of ethnology and folklore." In another passages he discusses the introduction of new elements into the sequence of a folktale in a way which might remind some of hybrids and genetic codes (the history of "sequences" themselves in folklore theory is a separate topic): "If we let K signify what is common to both oicotypes, then they have become separate from one another by the Slav adding the motives a, b, c, while the Indo-Iranian has instead added the motives p,q,r. The old Egyptian version has K+abc+pqr+xyz. In the whole of its composition the old Egyptian variant is unlike anything that we know of Egyptian folktale production, and is typically Indo-European . . . . Both oicotypes must have developed before 1300 B.C. Two traditors, one from each direction, met and told one another the tale. One introduced the other oicotype's peculiar features into his own version, and in this enlarged form told the tale to an Egyptian scribe, who wrote it down with his own additions." --as you can see, he pictures this transmission as related to manuscript transmission. Before one can engage in a proper study of folktales, though, von Sydow wants a better taxonomy (fuller than Aarne-Thomson that is). In the 1937 "Popular Prose Traditions and Their Classification" we read: "My demand for a natural scientific system is therefore not a negatively critical demand, but concerns a purely positive study of tales. We must first of all decide what tales are closely related and then place them in natural groups, greater and smaller. It is these groups which ought to be studied, and it is necessary to discover the laws which govern the different groups, their origin and development, their use and distribution. . . . Just as a zoologist cannot without reservation apply the scientific results obtained at from the study of bats to elephants or whales, so the student of tradition . . .etc." And he goes on to discuss the categorization of animal tales as his prime example. Wilkins, John (09/17/93) "Culture, evolution and Lamarck" On 14 Sept, Morris Simon <email@example.com> replied to something I wrote: JW: > Two issues concern me: > 1. How much is cultural evolution REALLY affected by the so-called > intentionality of social agents? Does this really introduce a lamarckian > element (I think not) MS: The phrasing of your question suggests to me that you regard "cultural evolution" as a "given" process. The monolithic view of social darwinism is now a remote 'racial' memory, having been replaced by its very distant decendants, "universal" and "multilinear" evolutionism. Both are oriented toward the use of energy in food production, and both are mainly applicable to cultural systems which no longer exist. In my view, there are certainly no "Lamarckian" influences underlying more recent theories of cultural evolution. JW: > 2. What are the close analogies and the disanalogies between cultural and > biological evolution (Gould, eg, thinks that the term "evolution" ought >to be > restricted to biology -- I think because he thinks cultural change >is a directed and staged process). MS: I share the thought you attribute to Gould. I seldom find theories of cultural evolution to be very useful, either to explain well-documented cases of culture change or to analyze ongoing change processes as they occur in modern cultures. The "multilinear" model of Julian Steward, with its central concept of "cultural ecology," is more interesting to me than the energy-based constructs of the "universalists" after Leslie White, but neither of these modern cultural evolution theories share essential analogies with biolgical evolution to a degree which justifies labelling them as "evolutionary." While Anax wrote: > While the mechanism of Lamarck was the inheritance of aquired > characteristics (and I admit my example on dog breeding was a poor > choice), the overall point that Lamarck tried to make was that 'lower' > forms of life arose from inanimate matter and progressed towards a > level of greater complexity and perfection; that is, that all things > had an inherent drive towards greater complexity. For lamarck, the > environment operated as the guiding force, directing the increase in > complexity towards some end that would create the 'perfect' organism. > While this sounds logical, its a bit different from natural selection > in which the environment just removes those forms which don't work, > allowing a number of possible solutions to and environmental > 'problem'. > Thinking over your message and previous ones, I find it hard to see > how society and culture could be modelled in terms of evolution and > natural selection. While society does change, and it would be > interesting to be able to predict the changes, I don't think evolution > would be quite the right word for it. Half the discussion on this > list seems to deal in one sense or another with clarifying the > definition of the term evolution, as quite a number of people have > been using it in a sloppy sense. Maybe Gould was right - evolution > should be restricted to the life sciences and another term sought for > the mechanisms that guide human culture. I would like to take this up in a bit of detail. Yes, I do take cultural evolution to be a given. That is -- I consider the changes that occur in certain circumstances to be purely darwinian evolutionary processes ["darwinian" means here generalised processes of the sort that in biology are Darwinian evolutionary processes; typically, hereditary variation that is random with respect to economic selection pressures]. The usual disanalogies presented to cultural evolution are that it is intentional (and therefore neo-lamarckian), that not all change is evolutionary, that history is progressive or staged, and that much of culture is inadaptive (the persistence of obviously wrong cosmologies, etc). In response to this, I would answer that all the above objections have been made to biological Darwinism (the neo-Lamarckists, pre-Synthetic geneticists, romantic philosophers such as Shaw or Koestler, and the recent debates on optimality, in order), and that no evidence has come to my attention to establish without question that evolutionary theories in a sense that Gould would be happy with cannot be generalised and applied to culture. There are going to be strong and weak selective processes. A number of cultural institutions will survive and even change simply because they have no adaptive significance. The interesting cases will be those institutions that, like science, have variations that are strongly selected in terms of differential resource acquisition as well as having strong transmission of traits. The gene-equivalents I call 'transmits' following Toulmin, rather than 'memes' following Dawkins, since I do not wish to commit myself to a units-of-selection debate in culture. Culture is going to be at least as complex if not several orders of magnitude greater than biology, since it is at least supervenient upon biological processes. In my view, it is an emergent level on biology, and has several levels within its domain. Why cannot such strong processes be modelled darwinianly? Economics has obvious evolutionary/ecological parallels, and is viewed anything but lamarkian by an increasing number of economists (the "rational-man" theory seems to have had its day, although even here I would argue that the parallel is with game-theoretic analyses of genetic interest -- more a useful calculative fiction than an echt account of how entities "choose" to gamble). The real difficulty in modelling cultural evolution is to (a) determine what counts as a 'transmit' (Dawkins instances a snatch of a tune or a form of lyrics; Hull, a theory or professional citation; Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman use economic examples and linguistic transformations, and so forth), and (b) to establish what the selective advantages are -- ie, what the economic resources the acquisition of which affect differential transmission are. I do not see why we need to posit simple unary explanations for the entire range of cultural process -- an example from science need not work in linguistics. If we can model a restricted domain darwinianly, and rid ourselves of the myth of rational change (where it is a myth), that is in itself useful. Incidentally, there are three senses of Lamarckism -- the inheritance of acquired characteristics (the usual sense applicable to cultural evolutionary theories, which Darwin shared and was not invented by Lamarck); progressivist perfectionism and/or a scale of being from lower to higher forms; and the view that striving affects the evolutionary process in the direction striven. All three senses are applied in criticism of cultural evolution models. It is clear to me, at any rate, that history is *not* a series of predetermined developmental stages, nor is it in the long term progressive. Societies and cultures, schools and institutions, all wax and wane according to how well they do compared with their competitors. They are populational entities, with transmitted structures. There are transformation rules between the developmental and economic spaces (to adapt a model of Lewontin's) in culture as in biology. So, why not? _______________________________________________________________________________ Darwin-L Message Log 35: 66-83 -- July 1996 End
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