Authors
Ariew Andre
University of Missouri, Columbia
Abstract
In the epigraph, Fisher is blaming two generations of theoretical biologists, from Darwin on, for ignoring Quetelet's statistical techniques and hence harboring confusions about evolution and natural selection. He is right to imply that Darwin and his contemporaries were aware of the core of Quetelet's work. Quetelet's seminal monograph, Sur L'homme, was widely discussed in Darwin's academic circles. We know that Darwin owned a copy (Schweber 1977). More importantly, we have in Darwin's notebooks two entries referring to Quetelet's work on the cause of a large-scale global phenomenon where each year more boys were born than girls. The first entry is written sometime between April and July 1838. Darwin writes "Find out from the Statistical Society—where M. Quetelet has published his laws about sexes relative to age of Marriages" (C 268, Barrett et al., 1987, p. 324). The second is written sometime after October 16, 1838: "In the Atheneum Numbers 406, 407, 409, Quetelet papers are given, & I think facts there mentioned about proportion of sexes, at birth & causes" (Ibid, p. 379). So, even if Darwin did not read Sur L'homme directly it is likely (though not certain) that he read its review in the Atheneum. There is no doubt that Darwin eventually became familiar with Quetelet's work in statistics. The smoking gun is an essay that Darwin writes in 1874, entitled, "On the Males and Complemental Males of Certain Cirripedes, and on Rudimentary Structures" where he discusses Quetelet's laws of variation.
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DOI 10.1016/j.shpsc.2006.12.002
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References found in this work BETA

The Origin of theOrigin Revisited.Silvan S. Schweber - 1977 - Journal of the History of Biology 10 (2):229-316.
Is the Theory of Natural Selection Independent of its History.Gregory Radick - 2003 - In J. Hodges & Gregory Radick (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Darwin. Cambridge University Press. pp. 143--167.
8 Darwin and Victorian Christianity.John Hedley Brooke - 2003 - In J. Hodges & Gregory Radick (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Darwin. Cambridge University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

Autonomous-Statistical Explanations and Natural Selection: Figure 1.André Ariew, Collin Rice & Yasha Rohwer - 2015 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 66 (3):635-658.
Galton, Reversion and the Quincunx: The Rise of Statistical Explanation.André Ariew, Yasha Rohwer & Collin Rice - 2017 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 66:63-72.

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