Tuesday, August 01, 2006

This is interesting ...

... as far as it goes: It's like this, you see. I've raised the question of science and metaphor here a number of times and have made this precise point: "Analogies, whether in science or poetry ... are not arbitrary and meaningless, not merely 'airy nothings, loose types of things, fond and idle names.' "
My point has been that a lot of "scientific" debate has been based on poor analogies. The world is a machine - but there's no mechanic and it's not an artifact, etc. In short, not like any machine we've ever heard of. Or the world looks like it's designed - only there's nothing in it that's ever been designed by anybody. Bridges are built according to design. Flowers and birds are not, so far as I can tell. God is not some everlasting Edsion tinkering away in his celestial lab.
"Charles Darwin formed his evolutionary theory of natural selection by drawing a parallel to the artificial selection performed by breeders, an analogy he cited in his 1859 classic The Origin of Species." But that parallel proved false. Natural species change, unlike, say, dog breeding, does not have the problem of in-breeding. This is further proof that the great 19th-century biologist was Mendel, not Darwin. Mendel performed actual experiments, gathered data, quantified his material.


  1. Sorry,Frank, have to disagree with you here. Not about Mendel, who I agree was the great biologist of his time. But this is not to negate Darwin, the father of modern biology and whom few practicing biologists can match today. Darwin was the epitome of the person who would not speculate beyond his evidence, which is why he only got as far as "gemules" and did not quite get to genes (or a discrete unit of inheritance). Which, incidentally, Mendel did not articulate either : the person who seems to have been first to have done that is Fisher. Mendel's papers are now all online, and I recently had cause to read them to find out tihs fact. A fascinating experience, it was wonderful to read Mendel's work, but it does seem to be that Fischer, not either Darwin (who nobody least of all him claimed to have done it) nor Mendel (whom many, least of all him, have claimed it), was the first to articulate the "unit of inheritance". Mendel and Darwin both seem to have been modest men happy in the pursuit of ideas--- I wish more could be like them.

  2. Points well taken, Maxine. I don't mean to denigrate Darwin, really. It just seems that Mendel did a lot of the heavy lifting. Darwin, it seems to me, came up with an idea that has a certain utility. I also agree that he was an outstanding naturalist. Too bad he never cut the pages on the copy of Mendel's paper that was sent to him. And his preoccupation with animal breeding did lead him down a blind alley. And I think you're fine as you are.