Biology and Philosophy 7 (2): 135–160 (1992)
Accounts of the evolutionary past have as much in common with works of narrative history as they do with works of science. Awareness of the narrative character of evolutionary writing leads to the discovery of a host of fascinating and hitherto unrecognized problems in the representation of evolutionary history, problems associated with the writing of narrative. These problems include selective attention, narrative perspective, foregrounding and backgrounding, differential resolution, and the establishment of a canon of important events. The narrative aspects of evolutionary writing, however, which promote linearity and cohesiveness in conventional stories, conflict with the underlying chronicle of evolution, which is not linear, but branched, and which does not cohere, but diverges. The impulse to narrate is so great, however, and is so strongly reinforced by traditional schemes of taxonomic attention, that natural historians have more often abandoned the diverging tree than they have abandoned the narrative mode of representation. If we are to understand the true nature of the evolutionary past then we must adopt tree thinking, and develop new and creative ways, both narrative and non-narrative, of telling the history of life.
|Keywords||cladistics evolutionary history historical sciences narrative natural system phylogeny progress systematics tree-thinking teleology|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
References found in this work BETA
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Citations of this work BETA
Histories of Molecules: Reconciling the Past.Maureen A. O'Malley - 2016 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 55:69-83.
The Threefold Parallelism of Agassiz and Haeckel, and Polarity Determination in Phylogenetic Systematics.Harold N. Bryant - 1995 - Biology and Philosophy 10 (2):197-217.
Synthesizing Disciplinary Narratives: George Gaylord Simpson's Tempo and Mode in Evolution.Debra Journet - 1995 - Social Epistemology 9 (2):113 – 150.
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