Darwin-L Message Log 41: 1–25 — January 1997
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 January 1997. 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 41: 1-25 -- JANUARY 1997 --------------------------------------------- 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 January 1997. 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. _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:1>From DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Wed Jan 1 00:21:44 1997 Date: Wed, 01 Jan 1997 01:21:38 -0500 (EST) From: DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Subject: List owner's monthly greeting To: firstname.lastname@example.org Organization: University of NC at Greensboro Greetings and happy new year to all Darwin-L subscribers. On the first of every month I send out a short note on the status of our group, along with a reminder of basic commands. For additional information about the group please visit the Darwin-L Web Server (http://rjohara.uncg.edu). Darwin-L is an international discussion group for professionals in the historical sciences. The group is not devoted to any particular discipline, such as evolutionary biology, but rather seeks to promote interdisciplinary comparisons across the entire range of fields concerned with historical reconstruction, including evolution, historical linguistics, archeology, geology, cosmology, historical geography, textual transmission, and history proper. Darwin-L currently has about 700 members from more than 35 countries. Because Darwin-L does have a large membership and is sometimes a high-volume discussion group it is important for all participants to try to keep their postings as substantive as possible so that we can maintain a favorable "signal-to-noise" ratio. Darwin-L is not a chat-oriented group, and personal messages should be sent by private e-mail rather than to the group as a whole. The list owner does lightly moderate the group in order to filter out error messages, commercial advertising, and occasional off-topic postings. Subscribers who feel burdened from time to time by the volume of their Darwin-L mail may wish to take advantage of the "digest" option described below. Because different mail systems work differently, not all subscribers see the e-mail address of the original sender of each message in the message header (some people only see "Darwin-L" as the source). It is therefore very important to include your name and e-mail address at the end of every message you post so that everyone can identify you and reply privately if appropriate. Remember also that in most cases when you type "reply" in response to a message from Darwin-L your reply is sent to the group as a whole, rather than to the original sender. The following are the most frequently used listserv commands that Darwin-L members may wish to know. All of these commands should be sent as regular e-mail messages to the listserv address (email@example.com), not to the address of the group as a whole (Darwin-L@raven.cc.ukans.edu). In each case leave the subject line of the message blank and include no extraneous text, as the command will be read and processed by the listserv program rather than by a person. To join the group send the message: SUBSCRIBE DARWIN-L Your Name For example: SUBSCRIBE DARWIN-L John Smith To cancel your subscription send the message: UNSUBSCRIBE DARWIN-L If you feel burdened by the volume of mail you receive from Darwin-L you may instruct the listserv program to deliver mail to you in digest format (one message per day consisting of the whole day's posts bundled together). To receive your mail in digest format send the message: SET DARWIN-L MAIL DIGEST To change your subscription from digest format back to one-at-a-time delivery send the message: SET DARWIN-L MAIL ACK To temporarily suspend mail delivery (when you go on vacation, for example) send the message: SET DARWIN-L MAIL POSTPONE To resume regular delivery send either the DIGEST or ACK messages above. For a comprehensive introduction to Darwin-L with notes on our scope and on network etiquette, and a summary of all available commands, send the message: INFO DARWIN-L To post a public message to the group as a whole simply send it as regular e-mail to the group's address (Darwin-L@raven.cc.ukans.edu). I thank you all for your continuing interest in Darwin-L and in the interdisciplinary study of the historical sciences. Bob O'Hara, Darwin-L list owner Dr. Robert J. O'Hara (firstname.lastname@example.org) | Darwin-L Server Cornelia Strong College, 100 Foust Building | http://rjohara.uncg.edu University of North Carolina at Greensboro | Strong College Server Greensboro, North Carolina 27412 U.S.A. | http://strong.uncg.edu _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:2>From DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Wed Jan 1 00:24:35 1997 Date: Wed, 01 Jan 1997 01:24:29 -0500 (EST) From: DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Subject: January 1 -- Today in the Historical Sciences To: email@example.com Organization: University of NC at Greensboro JANUARY 1 -- TODAY IN THE HISTORICAL SCIENCES 1737: PIER ANTONIO MICHELI dies at Florence, Italy. Born into poverty, Micheli's interest in and knowledge of plants won him patronage from the Medici family and widespread recognition from the professional botanists of his day. He collected widely throughout Italy and central Europe, and in his _Nova Plantarum Genera_ (Florence, 1729) he described more than 1400 new species of plants, many of them mosses, liverworts, and lichens, in which he had a special interest. Micheli's extensive travel allowed him to contribute to historical geology as well as botany, and the geological similarities he observed between many of the quiet hills of his native Italy and the active Vesuvius led him to infer correctly that the Italian landscape was in fact dotted with ancient volcanos. 1778: CHARLES-ALEXANDRE LESUEUR is born at Le Havre, France. As a young man Lesueur will sail aboard the _Geographe_ and the _Naturaliste_ to Australia, where, in the company of Francois Peron, he will collect tens of thousands of zoological specimens. Lesueur's considerable skill as an artist will enable him to illustrate many of the expedition's finer specimens, but the early death of Peron will delay the completion of the expedition's report, and most of Lesueur's illustrations will never be published. In 1815 Leuseur will sail for North America, and will spend the next twenty-two years travelling in the interior of the United States collecting and illustrating mollusks, insects, fishes, and fossils. Upon his return to France in 1837 he will be appointed curator of the new Museum d'Histoire Naturelle du Havre, and he will die there in December of 1846. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or connect to the Darwin-L Web Server <http://rjohara.uncg.edu> for more information. _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:3>From WirtAtmar@aol.com Mon Dec 30 10:41:20 1996 Date: Mon, 30 Dec 1996 11:41:17 -0500 From: WirtAtmar@aol.com To: email@example.com Subject: Re: THE CRITICISM OF THE FUTURE Dr. Witkowsi writes: > I can't help but wonder... is this a parody in the style of Alan Sokal? Dr. Witkowski is not the first to have such thoughts. Ludwig Boltzmann wrote almost precisely the same thing a century ago: "To go straight to the deepest depth, I went for Hegel; what unclear thoughtless flow of words I was to find there! My unlucky star led me from Hegel to Schopenhauer ... Even in Kant there were many things that I could grasp so little that given his general acuity of mind I almost suspected that he was pulling the reader's leg or was even an imposter" [cited in D. Flamm, Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 14: 257 (1983)]. Indeed, Boltzmann's ultimate conclusion about the value of philosophies grounded in nothing more than words (presuming that the various authors were not intent on pulling the readers' legs) was a paragraph in Populaere Schriften that seems unusually prescient in regards to the text quoted above: "The most ordinary things are to philosophy a source of insoluble puzzles. With infinite ingenuity it constructs a concept of space or time and then finds it absolutely impossible that there be objects in this space or that processes occur during this time... the source of this kind of logic lies in excessive confidence in the so-called laws of thought" (L. Boltzmann. Populaere Schriften Essay 19, Ludwig Boltzmann, Theoretical Physics and Philosophical Problems, B. McGuinness (ed) Reidel, Dordrecht, 1974, p 64). Wirt Atmar _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:4>From John@attach.edu.ar Mon Dec 30 17:15:47 1996 From: John C Garelli <John@attach.edu.ar> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Date: Mon, 30 Dec 1996 18:48:14 -0300 Subject: Re: Follow-up to electronic publication announcement Cc: email@example.com Organization: Attachment Research Center I agree with your stance on electronic and paper publications. I find it a matter of common sense. Those who oppose them may either bear vested interests, such as those who idealize "virtual" technology, or be so stunned that cannot access to actual communication, anyway. In a message dated 28 Dec 96 at 7:49, a propos of: Re: Follow-up to electronic publication announcement, firstname.lastname@example.org says: [rest of mail deleted] > If I may cite a personal example, my wife and I have > posted a paper on our personal home page, asking for comments. The > paper was delivered at a small conference and will be part of a > larger report that will be seen by perhaps 500 subscribers Would you kindly forward your homepage's URL as well as the paper you have posted. Thanks in advance, John C. Garelli, M.D., Ph.D. University of Buenos Aires Department of Early Development http://www.caen.it/psicologia/spa_emjc.htm http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/2476 _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:5>From YTL@vms.huji.ac.il Thu Jan 2 00:58:00 1997 Date: Thu, 2 Jan 97 8:50 +0200 From: <YTL@vms.huji.ac.il> To: email@example.com Subject: influence/impact Hello Everyone, I have been reading Janet Browne's *Charles Darwin: Voyaging* and enjoying it thoroughly. It seems to me that Browne has come very close to the ideal of a work in history that answers to the highest standards of scholarship and literary style. It is perhaps for this reason that I would like some help in the *explication du texte* of a passage (p. 186) which states what reading Lyell did to Darwin: *His [Lyell's] influence--and his impact--on the young traveler [Darwin] can hardly be overextimated.* Now as an historian I have been troubled for some time by the word, or concept, *influence*. One often hears that *a influences b*, where a and b can each be either a person, book, historical episode, and so on. Yet *influence* remains a very fuzzy term, and the meaning of *a influences b* is unclear to me. Morevover, I have been under the impression that impact is simply a word used to avoid speaking of influence, for the reasons just stated; repercussion is another helpful synonym. However, from the wording--and punctuation--of the sentence I have quoted, it seems that influence and impact are two distinct, and, therefore, relatively lucid terms. Any comments on this matter would be greatly appreciated. I wish everyone all the best for '97. Tzvi Langermann firstname.lastname@example.org _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:6>From email@example.com Thu Jan 2 06:53:42 1997 From: Mark Hineline <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Re: influence/impact To: email@example.com Date: Thu, 2 Jan 1997 04:53:31 -0800 (PST) Tzvi Langermann asks whether Janet Browne's sentence, "His [Lyell's] influence--and his impact--on the young traveler [Darwin] can hardly be overestimated," has any historical meaning. Though equally wary of the notion of "influence" in historical explanation, I think Browne gets this one right. The question of course is one of agency. When we say that A influences B, to pick up on Langermann's construction of the problem, what seems to be implied is that A intended to have an effect on B and took steps to cause B to do something different from what B might otherwise have done -- but in a milder form from, say, "coercion." It is fair to say, based on the analyses of Lyell by Martin Rudwick and Mott Greene, that Lyell (A) intended to have an effect on all possible Bs -- to cause all possible Bs to think about geological processes in a particular way. Darwin was a possible B when he began reading the Principles, and was explicitly a B thereafter. Does Darwin not say so in the Journal or the autobigraphy, or both? As for whether "influence" and "impact" are redundant, I suspect that Browne is making a distinction between the effect Lyell's work had on Darwin's thinking, on the one hand, and the abundant evidence of Lyellian thought in Darwin's published work, on the other. But Langemann is right to point out the vagueness of the distinction. Mark Hineline Department of History UCSD La Jolla, CA firstname.lastname@example.org _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:7>From email@example.com Thu Jan 2 09:58:40 1997 To: firstname.lastname@example.org (HAZuckerman) Cc: Tzvi Langermann <YTL@vms.huji.ac.il> To: email@example.com Subject: influence/impact Date: Thu, 02 Jan 1997 10:58:12 EST From: Joshua Lederberg <firstname.lastname@example.org> <<<< I have been reading Janet Browne's *Charles Darwin: Voyaging* ... *His [Lyell's] influence--and his impact--on the young traveler [Darwin] can hardly be overextimated.* ... Now as an historian I have been troubled for some time by the word, or concept, *influence*. >>>> You might enjoy reading: Zuckerman, H.A. (1987) Citation analysis and the complex problem of intellectual infleunce. Scientometrics 12 : 329-338. Reply-to: (J. Lederberg)email@example.com -------- Prof. Joshua Lederberg Raymond and Beverly Sackler Foundation Scholar The Rockefeller University New York, NY 10021-6399 _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:8>From GRANSOM@ucrac1.ucr.edu Thu Jan 2 15:52:41 1997 Date: Thu, 2 Jan 1997 13:52:44 -0800 (PST) From: GREG RANSOM <GRANSOM@ucrac1.ucr.edu> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: THE CRITICISM OF THE FUTURE It should be stated flattly for Wirt's benefit that Kant was tackling difficulties and confusions found in Newton's physics and mathematics, and that Kant himself established his reputation as first as a scientist, working in astronomy and cosmology, and offering seminal contributions in those fields. Using language and formal constructions 'on holiday' is a failing we all are subject to -- and all of us must work to overcome this problem we so easily fall into when working in highly abstract and conceptually novel areas far from our well- mastered dealings in daily life. Quantum mechanics and even population biologist are easily sited recent victims of the problem of stubbling into constructions and language uses 'on holiday' (e.g. the 'subjective' account of QM and the scientistic use of bean-bag mathematical population biology models, and the tautological definition of 'fitness', e.g.). All of this is everyones responsibility -- and the responsibility of all to find our way 'out of the fly bottle'. And, as many of the best contemporary biologists continually report, philosophers today have played a central role in helping to work out the conceptual 'bugs' and 'language on holiday' in contemporary Darwinian biology. Many of these conceptual problems and misuses of language go back many years. The confusion over the role of the 'philosopher' is that when we have finally identified the problem, and removed the confusion, and but ourselves back on track, we inevitable name the confusion 'philosophy' or 'metaphysics' and the good stuff 'science' -- while at the time in the case at hand you just hade a unitary thing, e.g. in Newton, Aristotle, Mach, or even Boltzmann. It should not be forgotten that Einstein got started in large part working on the 'philosophical' problem of Newton's notion of 'Absolute' space and time, which Mach criticized for 'philosophical' reasons -- or was that for scientific reasons? (the language fails here -- until we lay down a new rule/convention/practice for use. Greg Ransom Dept. of Philosophy UC-Riverside email@example.com http://members.aol.com/gregransom/hayekpage.htm _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:9>From firstname.lastname@example.org Fri Jan 3 11:06:01 1997 From: Mary P Winsor <email@example.com> Subject: "influence" To: firstname.lastname@example.org (bulletin board) Date: Fri, 3 Jan 1997 12:05:12 -0500 (EST) The late Stillman Drake, eminent scholar of Galileo, used to say that like historians' other obfuscating metaphors such as "crucial" or "shed light on," the word "influence" was also a figure of speech, its literal meaning being astrological, when stars and planets shape human destiny! He was being facetious, but the point is, exactly what does one claim really went on. Just like Darwin's metaphor of nature selecting, it is o.k. when we know the literal actions the term summarizes. When it covers up ignorance, it is not o.k. Clearly we have plenty of information as to how Darwin was affected both by reading Lyell and by interacting with him in person, so this is a good example of a valid use of the image. However, I never imagined that the intentions of the influencer A were necessary, or even relevant, to measuring A's effects on B, the influencee. Even if we reject astrology, we admit that Darwin was influenced by his experiences of nature during the Beagle voyage. Indeed Bruno Latour and his followers are arguing we should learn to trace networks of cause and effect consisting of historical "actors" who may be people but some of whom will be other organisms (scallops, or bacteria) or inanimate things. I guess I go this far with him, that I don't count Lyell's intentions when evaluating his influence on Darwin (at least I don't think I do). Polly Winsor email@example.com _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:10>From firstname.lastname@example.org Sat Jan 4 15:17:24 1997 Date: Sat, 04 Jan 97 15:18:26 -600 From: email@example.com (Virginia Allen) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: influence/impact If I can put my oar into the influence/impact discussion: *His [Lyell's] influence--and his impact--on the young traveler [Darwin] can hardly be overestimated.* I don't think the distinction has to do with agency. Today's musician may be influenced by Bach, although Bach himself is long dead and buried. I think the distinction has to do with intensity. There's been a lot of ineffectual fuss about using "impact" as a verb in a metaphorical sense: to hit hard. An influence can be subtle; an impact is direct and intense. MY paraphrase of Brown's sentence: Not only did Lyell INFLUENCE Darwin, as he did pretty much every intellectual in the pre-Origin world; more than that Lyell had an IMPACT on him that can't be overestimated. Virginia Allen email@example.com _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:11>From firstname.lastname@example.org Wed Jan 1 18:04:25 1997 From: Peter Buck <email@example.com> To: "'firstname.lastname@example.org'" <email@example.com> Subject: RE: Follow-up to electronic publication announcement Date: Wed, 1 Jan 1997 18:13:03 -0800 John - Maybe (coming in at the middle) I have misunderstood. It appears that you are pro-paper and anti-electronic. If so, I am stunned, indeed. You Ph.D's out there--how many people read your dissertations? How many on average read a thesis? How easy is it to discover if anyone else has written on an intended topic? Can paper really be serving the desired purpose? ....I agree with your stance on electronic and paper publications. I find it a matter of common sense. Those who oppose them may either bear vested interests, such as those who idealize "virtual" technology, or be so stunned that cannot access to actual communication, anyway..... The Virginia Polythechnic Institute (Virginia Tech) has been working for the last two years to produce a database of dissertations and theses (http://etd.vt.edu/etd/). It's obviously still in its formative years, but I propose that in a few years there will have been a quantum increase in the dissemination of this information. The same will be true for journal articles, of course. - Peter Buck _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:12>From Agner@login.dknet.dk Fri Jan 3 08:19:57 1997 From: Agner@login.dknet.dk (Agner Fog) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: Follow-up to electronic publication announcement Date: Fri, 03 Jan 1997 13:10:55 +0100 >Our electronic world of global developing ideas can't tolerate the years of >delay inherent in traditional scholarly publication, which is >technologically obsolescent. We need a coherent, reliable, and archival >medium for circulating ephemera. We need a medium that allows us to throw >ideas out for peer review, even if the finished paper isn't ready for peer >review. >Until our final report is published, our colleagues may cite the posted >version of the paper, and it can be useful during a period when it would >normally have been unavailable to the profession. >The problem, as I see it, is the need for a permanent copy, or an audit >trail of ideas. Mayer is correct in this respect, but for my part, I am >willing to accept electronic "publication" on exactly the same footing as >an oral presentation at a conference. I can't accept an electronic >publication as a substitute for a book from a university press. Herein lies >the difference. I agree. I have published a novel theory of cultural evolution as an electronic book (see URL below), so maybe I should tell about my experiences with this form of publishing: People are used to _surfing_ at high speed at the World Wide Web. They are not used to dwelling at the same page for hours or printing out hundreds of pages for offline reading. A lot of people have seen my online book, but few people have read it thoroughly. Advantages for the author: - cheap - fast - can be revised any time - easy way to get in contact with others interested in the same subject Advantages for the reader: - easy to find via internet search engines - easy to access (you don't have to go to the library or bookstore) - cheap Disadvantages for the reader: - quality is unknown - it is a problem to refer to a document which isn't guaranteed to be permanent - it is inconvenient to read large documents on the screen or print them out on your printer. Due to these disadvantages I am publishing the same book in print. Electronic journals may be the best compromise. They are peer-reviewed and they are supposed to be stored permanently. They still have the advantages of fast publication, low price, and easy access. In the last couple of years, several electronic journals have emerged, and we will certainly see many more in the future. I don't know if any journals are published both in print and electronically. =============================================================================== Agner Fog, Ph.D. See my electronic book: 'Cultural Selection' email@example.com at: http://announce.com/agner/cultsel _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:13>From firstname.lastname@example.org Wed Jan 1 18:05:04 1997 Date: Wed, 1 Jan 1997 16:02:27 -0800 From: Phillip E Johnson <email@example.com> To: Darwin-L@raven.cc.ukans.edu Subject: Lewontin in NY Review of Books Richard Lewontin on Science and Materialism Richard Lewontin's review of Carl Sagan's last book appears in the January 9 issue of the New York Review of Books (p. 28), with the title "Billions and billions of Demons." It provides much good material for reflection on the relationship of mainstream science to pseudo-science, and on the culture war surrounding Darwinism. I'll provide a few highlights in the form of indented quotations, interspersed with my comments [in brackets]. Lewontin begins by describing an occasion in 1964, when he and Carl Sagan went to Arkansas to debate the positive side of this proposition: "RESOLVED, That the Theory of Evolution is as proved as is the fact that the Earth goes around the sun." Their opponent was a biology professor from a fundamentalist college, with a Ph.D from the University of Texas in Zoology. Lewontin reports that "despite our absolutely compelling arguments, the audience unaccountably voted for the opposition." Lewontin himself saw the creation-evolution battle as a social conflict that could only be understood in the context of American history; Sagan saw it as a battle between ignorance and knowledge. Hence Sagan became dedicated to bringing scientific knowledge to the public. Lewontin thinks Sagan missed the main point]: "The primary problem is not to provide the public with the knowledge of how far it is to the nearest star and what genes are made of.... Rather, the problem is to get them to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth.... The case for the scientific method should itself be scientific' and not merely rhetorical. Unfortunately, the argument may not look as good to the unconvinced as it does to the believer. ... Scientists and their professional institutions, partly intoxicated with examples of past successes, partly in order to assure public financial support, make grandiose promises that cannot be kept. Sagan writes with justified scorn that We're regularly bombarded with extravagant UFO claims vended in bite-sized packages, but only rarely do we hear of their comeuppance.' He cannot have forgotten the well-publicized War on Cancer...." [Lewontin describes how the much-hyped and very expensive hunt for a viral cause of cancer was quietly abandoned for a genetic strategy, which has also provided no tangible benefits.] "The concentration on the genes implicated in cancer is only a "special case of a general genomania that surfaces in the form of weekly announcements in The New York Times of the location of yet another gene for another disease.... Scientists apparently do not realize that the repeated promises of benefits yet to come, with no likelihood that those promises will be fulfilled, can only produce a widespread cynicism about the claims for the scientific method..." [Lewontin cites as another example of science-hype the immense fuss that budget-promoting NASA scientists and the President made over the discovery of organic molecules in a Mars rock. He then goes on to comment on three of the most prominent science popularizers: E.O. Wilson, Lewis Thomas, and Richard Dawkins], "each of whom has put unsubstantiated assertions or counter- factual claims at the very center of the stories they have retailed in the market. Wilson's *Sociobiology* and *On Human Nature* rest on the surface of a quaking marsh of unsupported claims about the genetic determination of everything from altruism to xenophobia. Dawkins's vulgarizations of Darwinism speak of nothing in evolution but an inexorable ascendancy of genes that are selectively superior, while the entire body of technical advance in experimental and theoretical evolutionary genetics of the last fifty years has moved in the direction of emphasizing non-selective forces in evolution. Thomas, in various essays, propagandized for the success of modern scientific medicine in eliminating death from disease...." [Lewontin laments that even scientists have to rely on authority for matters beyond their personal knowledge]" "Who am I to believe about quantum physics if not Steven Weinberg, or about the solar system if not Carl Sagan? What worries me is that they may believe what Dawkins and Wilson tell them about evolution." [Why, then, should we trust science? Here comes the main point of the essay]: "We take the side of science *in spite of* the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, *in spite of* its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, *in spite of* the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our *a priori* adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.... To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen." [Lewontin goes on to give a sympathetic account of the cultural background of creationism.] "Sentiment was extremely strong against the banks and corporations that held the mortgages and sweated the labor of the rural poor, who felt their lives to be in the power of a distant eastern elite. The only spheres of control that seemed to remain to them were family life, a fundamentalist religion, and local education.... Then, in the late 1950s, a group of biologists from the elite universities together with science teachers from urban schools produced a new uniform set of biology textbooks, whose publication and dissemination were underwritten by the National Science Foundation. An extensive and successful public relations campaign was undertaken to have these books adopted, and suddenly Darwinian evolution was being taught to children everywhere. The elite culture was now extending its dominance by attacking the control that families had maintained over the ideological formation of their children." [That makes me wonder if Lewontin regrets the support that he has given to that campaign for elite cultural dominance. Anyway, he concludes his fascinating essay with this thought]: "What is at stake here is a deep problem in democratic self-governance.... Conscientious and wholly admirable popularizers of science like Carl Sagan use both rhetoric and expertise to form the mind of masses because they believe, like the Evangelist John, that the truth shall make you free. But they are wrong. It is not the truth that makes you free. It is your possession of the power to discover the truth. Our dilemma is that we do not know how to provide that power. [In conclusion, I'll try to help with that dilemma: To provide the masses with the power to discover truth, we have to start by teaching them to ask the right questions. Instead of the naive Baconian proposition that Lewontin and Sagan argued in 1964, let's put the issue the way the elites at Harvard and the New York Review of books understand it: RESOLVED, that we should accept scientific materialism as the only begetter of truth, and hence reject as irrational all explanations for our existence that invoke a supernatural cause. It is not that we know that materialism is true because of any facts that science has discovered. Rather, our *a priori* adherence to materialism requires us to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations -- no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. We cannot countenance the existence of an omnipotent deity, because that would imply that miracles may happen." Professor Lewontin will argue the affirmative position. I'd volunteer to argue the negative, but I don't think it will be necessary.] Phillip E. Johnson Professor of Law University of California, Berkeley _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:14>From DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Mon Jan 6 00:44:46 1997 Date: Mon, 06 Jan 1997 01:44:32 -0500 (EST) From: DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Subject: January 6 -- Today in the Historical Sciences To: firstname.lastname@example.org Organization: University of NC at Greensboro JANUARY 6 -- TODAY IN THE HISTORICAL SCIENCES 1736: FRIEDRICH CASIMIR MEDICUS is born at Grumbach, Rhineland, Germany. Following study in Tubingen, Strasbourg, and Heidelberg, Medicus will work as a physician at Mannheim and oversee the creation of a botanical garden there in 1766. Turning from medicine to botany, he will become a bitter enemy of Linnaeus, and will attack the work of the Swedish botanist at every turn, supporting instead the botanical systems of Tournefort, Linnaeus's principal opponent. Medicus's botanical garden will be heavily damaged during the bombardments of Mannheim in 1795 and 1799, and it will be dissolved shortly after his death in 1808. 1912: ALFRED WEGENER (1880-1930) reads his paper "Die Herausbildung der Grossformen der Erdrinde (Kontinente und Ozeane) auf geophysikalischer Grundlage" ("The geophysical basis of the evolution of large-scale features of the earth's crust") before the Geological Association of Frankfurt am Main. It will appear in expanded form in 1915 as _Die Entstehung der Kontinente und Ozeane_, the first modern exposition of the theory of continental drift. 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. _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:15>From firstname.lastname@example.org Sun Jan 5 20:28:13 1997 From: Mark Hineline <email@example.com> Subject: Re: influence/impact To: firstname.lastname@example.org Date: Sun, 5 Jan 1997 18:28:01 -0800 (PST) Virginia Allen answers Tzvi Langerman's question about "influence" by refering to the way one says a modern musician is "influenced" by Bach. Alas, this calls for some historians' hair-splitting, which survived like ammonoids this time last year ... "Influence" has been commonly used to suggest some causal relationship in historical explanation, and Tzvi is right to question its use in the quoted passage. Virginia Allen's example is a case in point. To say, for instance, that Haydn influenced Beethoven is one thing: the two men worked together as student and mentor. Perhaps Haydn made Beethoven's life miserable, as mentors are wont to do, when the younger musician displeased the older in some way. In response, Beethoven changed his behavior in some way. Stravinsky was also "influenced" by Haydn, in his neoclassicist period. But the causal relationship is very different. Here, one turns to a musicologist who might point to the precision of Haydn's rhythms and their replication in Stravinsky's work. We still call that "influence," but in an entirely different causal relation. And whatever Stravinsky "got" from Haydn would have been filtered through Rimsky-Korsakov, three very successful ballets, etc., etc. The Zuckerman piece, recommended by Joshua Lederberg, probably does not engage this historical hair-splitting. Mark Hineline Department of History UCSD La Jolla, CA 92093 email@example.com _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:16>From firstname.lastname@example.org Mon Jan 6 01:26:22 1997 Date: Sun, 05 Jan 1997 23:28:15 -0800 To: email@example.com From: John Schooley <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Archeological find? Dear Darwin-l list members I am trying to get some helpful information on something I found. Perhaps someone in the group can shed some light. I was recently hiking in a remote area of Southern China (near Hong Kong) when I got quite lost and ended up in a quite overgrown ruined village up in the mountains. The village looked to have been abandoned 100-200 yrs to my uneducated eye. The walls were brick and plaster over cut stone foundations and were generally decayed down to a couple of feet from the ground to about 7 ft high. There were no remaining roofs although some wood beams were still in evidence here and there. There were some pits attached to the one room huts that were not yet filled in by debris. There was a small mountain stream next to the village and since the whole place was too overgrown to get through I traveled a little ways up the stream. On the way back down and above the village I noticed I was standing on a circular granite stone. It was about 2 ft Diameter and had a eight sided hole through the center. I dug it up enough to note that it was about 8" which disk and it had a series of hollows carved into the circumference. The carved rock struck me as unusual as I couldn't comprehend what it could be for. Certainly it was part of some machine. I thought perhaps a water scope but the indentations in the wheel seemed too small for this. Looking around I noted a flat surface on a nearby stone bolder (permanently in place) with a square hole about 4" square and about 6" deep. The edge of the flat stone had also been carved into a semicircular shape with an arc radius of about 2 feet but only about 30 degrees of arc present. I then thought of some sort of waterwheel. I later drew the stone from memory and came to the realization that it was a stone gear. The shelf in the indents would seem to serve the purpose of strengthening the gear spokes in the stone material. I visited the Hong Kong History museum and looked through local archeological books but found nothing remotely similar. I visited a display of a copy of an ancient waterwheel used for husking rice but these were usually made with wood gears with the gear teeth being male in all cases rather than female was in my rock. Certainly the center of the stone is for a wooden shaft. The location of the stone suggests that the wooden shaft was supported in the stream bed. What I can't figure is what the turning stone "did". I don't think that it was a milling stone as the rather elaborate internal and deep carvings would not have been needed and indeed they would have been hard to make and seemed very uniform in size. I would much appreciate any help I could get on the matter. My questions are: What is the stone? What is the probable age? Rare or common? I plan to turn the find location over to the local authorities but if the find by some chance turns out to be very interesting I may try to trade the location for a promise to restore the very interesting village site. I may have good enough connections to accomplish this but need to know where I stand before pursuing. I attach a crude sketch from memory of the stone within attached tiff drawing (gear.tif). Any help you can give me would be appreciated. I did a world web search and archeological sites and groups seem to be rare. I could find no such group associated with Asian interests. thanks, John Schooley email@example.com [large image file edited out --RJO] _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:17>From wilkins@wehi.EDU.AU Mon Jan 6 05:16:11 1997 Date: Mon, 06 Jan 1997 22:21:14 +1100 From: John Wilkins <wilkins@wehi.EDU.AU> Subject: Re: influence/impact To: firstname.lastname@example.org On Mon, 6 Jan 1997 03:00:22 CST email@example.com wrote: >Subject: influence/impact >Message-ID: <199701042117.PAA19930@mailhub.iastate.edu> > >If I can put my oar into the influence/impact discussion: > >*His [Lyell's] influence--and his impact--on the young traveler >[Darwin] can hardly be overestimated.* > >I don't think the distinction has to do with agency. Today's musician >may be influenced by Bach, although Bach himself is long dead and >buried. I think the distinction has to do with intensity. There's >been a lot of ineffectual fuss about using "impact" as a verb in a >metaphorical sense: to hit hard. An influence can be subtle; an >impact is direct and intense. MY paraphrase of Brown's sentence: Not >only did Lyell INFLUENCE Darwin, as he did pretty much every >intellectual in the pre-Origin world; more than that Lyell had an >IMPACT on him that can't be overestimated. > >Virginia Allen >firstname.lastname@example.org Somewhere David Hull has a discussion of the relational predicates "is cited by" and "corresponded/discussed with" as indicators of conceptual inheritance. It seems to me that direct conceptual ancestry is pretty much like direct genetic inheritance - one makes a hypothesis of historical influence and then goes looking for processes of actual (recorded) influence, i.e., agency. Most will remain as much a phylogenetic reconstruction as any reconstruction of lineages in biology, on the balance of probabilities and plausibility, unless we have notebooks like Darwin's giving reading and correspondence dates, but I do not think that the predicate "is influenced by" is either otiose, obfuscatory or metaphorical. I also agree with Ms Allen that influence can be more indirect, in that raising questions in the public domain that have not previously been raised opens degrees of theoretical freedom that were not before available, as in Lamarck's theory of transmutation which Lyell was attacking. In his _Growth of Biological Thought_, Mayr asked of Lyell what the appropriate term was for someone who was not a forerunner but raised the right questions; I think Lyell was a precursor of Darwin. John Wilkins from home <mailto:email@example.com> Not at all. I delight in all manifestations of the terpsichorean Muse. _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:18>From firstname.lastname@example.org Tue Jan 7 00:51:32 1997 From: Joe Felsenstein <email@example.com> Subject: Re: THE CRITICISM OF THE FUTURE To: firstname.lastname@example.org Date: Mon, 6 Jan 1997 22:51:18 -0800 (PST) Greg Ransom wrote: > ... Quantum mechanics and even population > biologist are easily sited recent victims of the problem of stubbling into > constructions and language uses 'on holiday' (e.g. the 'subjective' account > of QM and the scientistic use of bean-bag mathematical population biology > models, and the tautological definition of 'fitness', e.g.). Fitness is not tautological when defined in the context of a functional model of the organism. Bean bag population genetics is not a delusion but is fundamental to modelling evolutionary genetics. Ransom has in effect declared the great bulk of work in contemporary evolutionary genetics to be a misapplication of language from other fields. > ...ourselves back on track, we inevitable name the confusion 'philosophy' > or 'metaphysics' and the good stuff 'science' -- while at the time in the > case at hand you just hade a unitary thing Seems to me Ransom has done the reverse. -- Joe Felsenstein email@example.com (IP No. 188.8.131.52) Dept. of Genetics, Univ. of Washington, Box 357360, Seattle, WA 98195-7360 USA _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:19>From Anders.Nilsson@big.umu.se Wed Jan 8 02:59:41 1997 Date: Wed, 08 Jan 1997 11:19:20 +0000 To: firstname.lastname@example.org From: Anders.Nilsson@big.umu.se (Anders Nilsson) Subject: The general - comparative dichotomy Dear Darwin readers! I am teaching zoology at the University of Umeaa in north Sweden. This is a young university from the late 60ies and at this time the museum biology was not ranked very high, so we have no systematical departments. In this situation I am trying to give systematics a voice, as representing the core of comparative biology. I was very influenced by the discussion in Nelson & Platnick's 1981 book (Systematics and biogeography) where they view the general/comparative dichotomy as the basal divide in biology. When using their definitions it seems that a lot of people are confused as especially the term "general" normally has another meaning, being more like the counterpart of specialized. I have for example an old textbook in General Zoology that evidently is more comparative when adopting the Nelson & Platnick view. I would be pleased if someone could help me get the grips of the different meanings of the terms general and comparative as used in biology. One of my ideas is that if we accept Nelson & PLatnick's definitions as correct, these two terms could be used for a basal division for basal training in biology, and then replace the normally used 3 hierarchic levels: (1) molecular and cell, (2) organisms, and (3) populations & communities. These 3 levels more hide the central theoretic structure of the biology subject than they help the students to get a grips of evolutionary theory. Please, let me know how you define general biology and if you know of any good published discussion of the subject. Best wishes: Anders Nilsson Anders N. Nilsson Dept. of Biology, BIG S-901 87 Umee, Sweden tel. +46 90 165184 fax +46 90 167664 Email: Anders.Nilsson@BIG.UMU.SE _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:20>From 071CUM@cosmos.wits.ac.za Wed Jan 8 07:51:01 1997 From: "JOHNATHAN : CUMMING" <071CUM@cosmos.wits.ac.za> Organization: University of the Witwatersrand To: email@example.com Date: Wed, 8 Jan 1997 15:54:07 GMT + 2:00 Subject: Richard Owen I am struggling to find material on the life and character of Richard Owen. Was Owen really as unpleasant as he's generally made out to be? I'd be very grateful for any references or suggestions. Jon Cumming, Dept. of English, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 071CUM@COSMOS.WITS.AC.ZA _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:21>From YTL@vms.huji.ac.il Thu Jan 9 02:45:11 1997 Date: Wed, 8 Jan 97 13:15 +0200 From: <YTL@vms.huji.ac.il> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: influence... A hearty thank you to all people who replied to my inquiry concerning influence and impact, both on and off the list. I believe that there exists a consensus, which I may summarize as follows: (1) Influence and cognate terms such as impact are indeed fuzzy and imprecise. (2) Nonetheless, historical statments such as *Lyell influenced Darwin* may be judged to be correct, and, further, they are meaningful and non-trivial. I ask your collective indulgence to carry this idea just one step further. Despite using imprecise terms, historians are able to convey ideas; moreover, adjectives vary the impact the of the terms, even though the terms are imprecise, e.g. if one were to say *Lyell influenced Darwin greatly*. ALthough history must answer to all sorts of scientific criteria--documents are cited and can be checked, some quantification is used, facts can be verified in various ways--ultimately the goal is to convey a certain impression through the skillfull and artistic use of the written language. In this way history differs considerably from say, linguistics or biology. What I'm getting at can be summarized in the following question: Is *history* one of the *historical sciences*? Thanks again. Tzvi Langermann email@example.com _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:22>From DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Thu Jan 9 13:00:52 1997 Date: Thu, 09 Jan 1997 14:00:43 -0500 (EST) From: DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Subject: Materialism, faith, theology, etc. (from the list owner) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Organization: University of NC at Greensboro Experience has taught that discussions of theology, faith, religion, etc., cannot be successfully carried out in this medium, and in any event religious discussions were not what Darwin-L was established for. I have received a number of replies to Philip Johnson's original message on materialism and science. I am going to post them as a group tomorrow, and then allow Johnson to reply if he wishes. After that I will ask that all further messages be sent through private e-mail rather than to the list as a whole. This may not satisfy all participants, but I believe it is in the best interests of the group as a whole. Bob O'Hara, Darwin-L list owner Robert J. O'Hara (email@example.com) Cornelia Strong College, 100 Foust Building The University of North Carolina at Greensboro Greensboro, North Carolina 27412 U.S.A. _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:23>From firstname.lastname@example.org Thu Jan 9 13:05:25 1997 Date: Thu, 9 Jan 1997 09:04:04 -1000 From: Ron Amundson <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: Richard Owen On Tue, 31 Dec 1996, JOHNATHAN : CUMMING wrote: > I am struggling to find material on the life and character of Richard > Owen. Was Owen really as unpleasant as he's generally made out to > be? I'd be very grateful for any references or suggestions. > > Jon Cumming, Dept. of English, University of the Witwatersrand, > Johannesburg, 071CUM@COSMOS.WITS.AC.ZA Get Nikolaas Rupke's terrific book _Richard Owen, Victorian Naturalist_ (Yale 1994). Owen seems to have been pretty unpleasant. But a lot of the stories about him are strongly biased by the fact that only Darwinians have "survived" to write the histories. Owen did publish works which referred (admittedly obscurely) to species change prior to 1859 (contra most modern histories) and he never did claim priority on the principle of natural selection (again contra). He did claim priority on a lot of other stuff, though, like von Baer's laws of embryological differentiation. Email me if you'd like to see a draft of a somewhat cranky paper on the topic and era called "Typology Reconsidered." But don't tell the biologists I wrote it. Cheers, Ron -- Ron Amundson University of Hawaii at Hilo Hilo, HI 96720 email@example.com _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:24>From DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Fri Jan 10 12:50:45 1997 Date: Fri, 10 Jan 1997 13:50:34 -0500 (EST) From: DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Subject: Materialism follow-ups (from the list owner) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Organization: University of NC at Greensboro Following this message will be the set of replies that have come to the list in response to Philip Johnson's original message about materialism. Johnson is welcome to reply to these messages if he wishes, and then after that I ask that all further messages on the topic be sent by private email to the parties concerned rather than to the list as a whole. Bob O'Hara, Darwin-L list owner Robert J. O'Hara (email@example.com) Cornelia Strong College, 100 Foust Building The University of North Carolina at Greensboro Greensboro, North Carolina 27412 U.S.A. _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:25>From JHOFMANN@ccvax.fullerton.edu Sun Jan 5 23:16:15 1997 Date: Sun, 05 Jan 1997 21:18:21 -0800 (PST) From: JHOFMANN@ccvax.fullerton.edu Subject: Re: Lewontin in NY Review of Books To: firstname.lastname@example.org Greetings: Phillip Johnson concludes his recent comment on Lewontin's review of Sagan as follows: "Instead of the naive Baconian proposition that Lewontin and Sagan argued in 1964, let's put the issue the way the elites at Harvard and the New York Review of books understand it: RESOLVED, that we should accept scientific materialism as the only begetter of truth, and hence reject as irrational all explanations for our existence that invoke a supernatural cause. It is not that we know that materialism is true because of any facts that science has discovered. Rather, our *a priori* adherence to materialism requires us to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations -- no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. We cannot countenance the existence of an omnipotent deity, because that would imply that miracles may happen." As usual, Johnson misrepresents the position at stake. More accurately, the position of most practicing scientists and their observers is that: "methodological materialism is the only begetter of scientific truth as presently understood; we thus should reject as non-scientific any explanations that invoke a supernatural cause. No empirical facts determined by scientific research can establish or refute metaphysical materialism. The more humble task of science is to rely upon methodological materialism to search for material explanations, complicated and incomplete as they often are. An omnipotent deity and related miracles may well exist but they are not within the domain of scientific investigation. Details can of course be nuanced, but the contrast should be clear. Jim Hofmann Cal State Fullerton email@example.com _______________________________________________________________________________ Darwin-L Message Log 41: 1-25 -- January 1997 End
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