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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.”


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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 listserv@raven.cc.ukans.edu.

Darwin-L is administered by Robert J. O'Hara (darwin@iris.uncg.edu), 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: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
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 (listserv@raven.cc.ukans.edu),
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

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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 (darwin@iris.uncg.edu)  |  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: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
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 listserv@raven.cc.ukans.edu 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: darwin-l@raven.cc.ukans.edu
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: eheite@dmv.com
Date: 	Mon, 30 Dec 1996 18:48:14 -0300
Subject: Re: Follow-up to electronic publication announcement
Cc: darwin-l@raven.cc.ukans.edu
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, eheite@dmv.com 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: darwin-l@raven.cc.ukans.edu
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
ytl@vms.huji.ac.il

_______________________________________________________________________________

<41:6>From hineline@helix.ucsd.edu Thu Jan  2 06:53:42 1997

From: Mark Hineline <hineline@helix.ucsd.edu>
Subject: Re: influence/impact
To: darwin-l@raven.cc.ukans.edu
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
hineline@helix.ucsd.edu

_______________________________________________________________________________

<41:7>From jsl@rockvax.rockefeller.edu Thu Jan  2 09:58:40 1997

To: hz@mellon.org (HAZuckerman)
Cc: Tzvi Langermann <YTL@vms.huji.ac.il>
To: darwin-l@raven.cc.ukans.edu
Subject: influence/impact
Date: Thu, 02 Jan 1997 10:58:12 EST
From: Joshua Lederberg <jsl@rockvax.rockefeller.edu>

<<<<
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)lederberg@rockvax.rockefeller.edu
--------

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: darwin-l@raven.cc.ukans.edu
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
gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu
http://members.aol.com/gregransom/hayekpage.htm

_______________________________________________________________________________

<41:9>From mwinsor@chass.utoronto.ca Fri Jan  3 11:06:01 1997

From: Mary P Winsor <mwinsor@chass.utoronto.ca>
Subject: "influence"
To: darwin-l@raven.cc.ukans.edu (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  mwinsor@chass.utoronto.ca

_______________________________________________________________________________

<41:10>From vallen@iastate.edu Sat Jan  4 15:17:24 1997

Date: Sat, 04 Jan 97 15:18:26 -600
From: vallen@iastate.edu (Virginia Allen)
To: darwin-l@raven.cc.ukans.edu
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
vallen@iastate.edu

_______________________________________________________________________________

<41:11>From pbuck@his.com Wed Jan  1 18:04:25 1997

From: Peter Buck <pbuck@his.com>
To: "'darwin-l@raven.cc.ukans.edu'" <darwin-l@raven.cc.ukans.edu>
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: darwin-l@raven.cc.ukans.edu
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'
agner@login.dknet.dk             at:   http://announce.com/agner/cultsel

_______________________________________________________________________________

<41:13>From philjohn@uclink.berkeley.edu Wed Jan  1 18:05:04 1997

Date: Wed, 1 Jan 1997 16:02:27 -0800
From: Phillip E Johnson <philjohn@uclink.berkeley.edu>
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: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
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 listserv@raven.cc.ukans.edu or connect to
the Darwin-L Web Server <http://rjohara.uncg.edu> for more information.

_______________________________________________________________________________

<41:15>From hineline@helix.ucsd.edu Sun Jan  5 20:28:13 1997

From: Mark Hineline <hineline@helix.ucsd.edu>
Subject: Re: influence/impact
To: darwin-l@raven.cc.ukans.edu
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
hineline@helix.ucsd.edu

_______________________________________________________________________________

<41:16>From schooley@sfo.com Mon Jan  6 01:26:22 1997

Date: Sun, 05 Jan 1997 23:28:15 -0800
To: darwin-l@raven.cc.ukans.edu
From: John Schooley <schooley@sfo.com>
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
schooley@sfo.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: darwin-l@raven.cc.ukans.edu

On Mon, 6 Jan 1997 03:00:22 CST darwin-l@raven.cc.ukans.edu 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
>vallen@iastate.edu

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:wilkins@wehi.edu.au>
Not at all. I delight in all manifestations of the terpsichorean Muse.

_______________________________________________________________________________

<41:18>From joe@genetics.washington.edu Tue Jan  7 00:51:32 1997

From: Joe Felsenstein <joe@genetics.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: THE CRITICISM OF THE FUTURE
To: darwin-l@raven.cc.ukans.edu
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         joe@genetics.washington.edu     (IP No. 128.95.12.41)
 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: darwin-l@raven.cc.ukans.edu
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: darwin-l@raven.cc.ukans.edu
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: darwin-l@raven.cc.ukans.edu
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
ytl@vms.huji.ac.il

_______________________________________________________________________________

<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: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
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 (darwin@iris.uncg.edu)
Cornelia Strong College, 100 Foust Building
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Greensboro, North Carolina 27412 U.S.A.

_______________________________________________________________________________

<41:23>From ronald@hawaii.edu Thu Jan  9 13:05:25 1997

Date: 	Thu, 9 Jan 1997 09:04:04 -1000
From: Ron Amundson <ronald@hawaii.edu>
To: darwin-l@raven.cc.ukans.edu
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
ronald@hawaii.edu

_______________________________________________________________________________

<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: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
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 (darwin@iris.uncg.edu)
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: darwin-l@raven.cc.ukans.edu

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
jhofmann@fullerton.edu

_______________________________________________________________________________
Darwin-L Message Log 41: 1-25 -- January 1997                               End

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