Twenty-first-century biology rejects genetic determinism, yet an exaggerated view of the power of genes in the making of bodies and minds remains a problem. What accounts for such tenacity? This article reports an exploratory study suggesting that the common reliance on Mendelian examples and concepts at the start of teaching in basic genetics is an eliminable source of support for determinism. Undergraduate students who attended a standard ‘Mendelian approach’ university course in introductory genetics on average showed no change in their (...) determinist views about genes. By contrast, students who attended an alternative course which, inspired by the work of a critic of early Mendelism, W. F. R. Weldon, replaced an emphasis on Mendel’s peas with an emphasis on developmental contexts and their role in bringing about phenotypic variability, were less determinist about genes by the end of teaching. Improvements in both the new Weldonian curriculum and the study design are in view for the future. (shrink)
Physics matters less than we once thought to the making of Mendel. But it matters more than we tend to recognize to the making of Mendelism. This paper charts the variety of ways in which diverse kinds of physics impinged upon the Galtonian tradition which formed Mendelism’s matrix. The work of three Galtonians in particular is considered: Francis Galton himself, W. F. R. Weldon and William Bateson. One aim is to suggest that tracking influence from physics can bring into focus (...) important but now little-remembered flexibilities in the Galtonian tradition. Another is to show by example why generalizations about what happens when ‘physics’ meets ‘biology’ require caution. Even for a single research tradition in Britain in the decades around 1900, these categories were large, containing multitudes. (shrink)
Concentrating on genetics, this paper examines the strength of the links between our biological science -- our biology -- and the particular history which brought that science into being. Would quite different histories have produced roughly the same science? Or, on the contrary, would different histories have produced other, quite different biologies? One emphasis throughout is on the kinds of evidence that might be brought to bear from the actual past in order to assess claims about what might have been. (...) Another emphasis is on the implications for debates on realism and antirealism about genes. (shrink)
Advocates of “Mendelism” early on stressed the usefulness of Mendelian principles for breeders. Ever since, that usefulness—and the favourable opinion of Mendelism it supposedly engendered among breeders—has featured in explanations of the rapid rise of Mendelian genetics. An important counter-tradition of commentary, however, has emphasized the ways in which early Mendelian theory in fact fell short of breeders’ needs. Attention to intellectual property, narrowly and broadly construed, makes possible an approach that takes both the tradition and the counter-tradition seriously, by (...) enabling a more complete description of the theory-reality shortfall and a better understanding of how changing practices, on and off the Mendelians’ experimental farms, functioned to render that shortfall unproblematic. In the case of plant breeding in Britain, a perennial source of lost profits and disputes over ownership was the appearance of individual plants departing from their varietal types—so-called “rogues.” Mendelian plant varieties acquired a reputation for being rogue-free, and so for demonstrating the correctness of Mendelian principles , at a time when Mendelians were gradually taking control of the means for distributing their varieties. Mendelian breeders protected their products physically from rogue-inducing contamination in such a way that when rogues did appear, the default explanation—that contamination had somehow occurred—ensured that there was no threat to Mendelian principles. (shrink)
The naturalist and geologist Charles Darwin ranks as one of the most influential scientific thinkers of all time. In the nineteenth century his ideas about the history and diversity of life - including the evolutionary origin of humankind - contributed to major changes in the sciences, philosophy, social thought and religious belief. This volume provides the reader with clear, lively and balanced introductions to the most recent scholarship on Darwin and his intellectual legacies. A distinguished team of contributors examines Darwin's (...) main scientific ideas and their development; Darwin's science in the context of its times; the influence of Darwinian thought in recent philosophical, social and religious debate; and the importance of Darwinian thought for the future of naturalist philosophy. New readers will find this a most convenient and accessible guide to Darwin. Advanced students and specialists will find a conspectus of recent developments in the interpretation of Darwin. (shrink)
When it comes to knowing about the scientific pasts that might have been – the so-called ‘counterfactual’ history of science – historians can either debate its possibility or get on with the job. The latter course offers opportunities for engaging with some of the most general questions about the nature of science, history and knowledge. It can also yield fresh insights into why particular episodes in the history of science unfolded as they did and not otherwise. Drawing on recent research (...) into the controversy over Mendelism in the early twentieth century, this address reports and reflects on a novel teaching experiment conducted in order to find out what biology and its students might be like now had the controversy gone differently. The results suggest a number of new options: for the collection of evidence about the counterfactual scientific past; for the development of collaborations between historians of science and scientific educators; for the cultivation of more productive relationships between scientists and their forebears; and for a new seriousness and self-awareness about the curiously counterfactual business of being historical. (shrink)
In the early 1890s the theory of evolution gained an unexpected ally: the Edison phonograph. An amateur scientist used the new machine—one of the technological wonders of the age—to record monkey calls, play them back to the monkeys, and watch their reactions. From these soon-famous experiments he judged that he had discovered “the simian tongue,” made up of words he was beginning to translate, and containing the rudiments from which human language evolved. Yet for most of the next century, the (...) simian tongue and the means for its study existed at the scientific periphery. Both returned to great acclaim only in the early 1980s, after a team of ethologists announced that experimental playback showed certain African monkeys to have rudimentarily meaningful calls. -/- Drawing on newly discovered archival sources and interviews with key scientists, Gregory Radick here reconstructs the remarkable trajectory of a technique invented and reinvented to listen in on primate communication. Richly documented and powerfully argued, The Simian Tongue charts the scientific controversies over the evolution of language from Darwin’s day to our own, resurrecting the forgotten debts of psychology, anthropology, and other behavioral sciences to the Victorian debate about the animal roots of human language. (shrink)
As a defender of the fundamental importance of Mendel’s experiments for understanding heredity, the English biologist William Bateson did much to publicize the usefulness of Mendelian science for practical breeders. In the course of his campaigning, he not only secured a reputation among breeders as a scientific expert worth listening to but articulated a vision of the ideal relations between pure and applied science in the modern state. Yet historical writing about Bateson has tended to underplay these utilitarian elements of (...) his program, to the extent of portraying him, notably in still-influential work from the 1960s and 1970s, as a type specimen of the scientist who could not care less about application. This paper offers a corrective view of Bateson himself—including the first detailed account of his role as an expert witness in a courtroom dispute over the identity of a commercial pea variety—and an inquiry into the historiographic fate of his efforts in support of Mendelism’s productivity. For all that a Marxian perspective classically brings applied science to the fore, in Bateson’s case, and for a range of reasons, it did the opposite during the Cold War. (shrink)
Natural selection explains how living forms are fitted to theirconditions of life. Darwin argued that selection also explains what hecalled the gradual advancement of the organisation, i.e.evolutionary progress. Present-day selectionists disagree. In theirview, it is happenstance that sustains conditions favorable to progress,and therefore happenstance, not selection, that explains progress. Iargue that the disagreement here turns not on whether there exists aselection-based condition bias – a belief now attributed to Darwin – but on whether there needs to be such a bias (...) for selection to count as explaining progress. In Darwin''s own view, selection explained progressso far as more complex organisms have the selective advantage whenselection operates unimpeded. I show that these two explanations ofevolutionary progress, selection and happenstance, answer for theirobjectivity to different standards, and for their truth or falsehood todifferent features of the world. (shrink)
‘Morgan's canon’ is a rule for making inferences from animal behaviour about animal minds, proposed in 1892 by the Bristol geologist and zoologist C. Lloyd Morgan, and celebrated for promoting scepticism about the reasoning powers of animals. Here I offer a new account of the origins and early career of the canon. Built into the canon, I argue, is the doctrine of the Oxford philologist F. Max Müller that animals, lacking language, necessarily lack reason. Restoring the Müllerian origins of the (...) canon in turn illuminates a number of changes in Morgan's position between 1892 and 1894. I explain these changes as responses to the work of the American naturalist R. L. Garner. Where Morgan had a rule for interpreting experiments with animals, Garner had an instrument for doing them: the Edison cylinder phonograph. Using the phonograph, Garner claimed to provide experimental proof that animals indeed spoke and reasoned. (shrink)
The playback experiment -- the playing back of recorded animal sounds to the animals in order to observe their responses -- has twice become central to celebrated researches on non-human primates. First, in the years around 1890, Richard Garner, an amateur scientist and evolutionary enthusiast, used the new wax cylinder phonograph to record and reproduce monkey utterances with the aim of translating them. Second, in the years around 1980, the ethologists Peter Marler, Robert Seyfarth, and Dorothy Cheney used tape recorders (...) in a broadly similar way to test whether the different predator calls of one monkey species, vervet monkeys, warn about different kinds of predator. This paper explores the circumstances leading to the ca. 1890 invention and the ca. 1980 reinvention of the primate playback experiment. In both instances, I show, the experiment served as a riposte to those arguing, on scientific grounds, that an unbridgeable gap divides human language from animal communication. I also consider how far progress in technology explains the timing of invention and reinvention. I conclude with some reflections on sifting contingent from inevitable aspects of the history of the primate playback experiment, and of scientific achievements more generally. (shrink)
A familiar story about mid-twentieth-century American psychology tells of the replacement of behaviorism by cognitive science. Between these two, however, lay a borderland, muddy and much trespassed-upon. This paper relocates the origins of the Chomskyan program in linguistics there. Following his introduction of transformational generative grammar, Chomsky mounted a highly publicized attack on behaviorist psychology. Yet when he first developed that approach to grammar, he was a defender of behaviorism. His anti-behaviorism emerged only in the course of what became a (...) systematic repudiation of the work of the Cornell linguist C. F. Hockett. In the name of the positivist Unity-of-Science movement, Hockett had synthesized an approach to grammar based on statistical communication theory; a behaviorist view of language acquisition in children as a process of association and analogy; and an interest in uncovering the Darwinian origins of language. In criticizing Hockett on grammar, Chomsky came to engage gradually and critically with the whole Hockettian synthesis. Situating Chomsky thus within his own disciplinary matrix suggests lessons for students of disciplinary politics generally and – famously with Chomsky – the place of political discipline within a scientific life. (shrink)
After the Second World War, a renaissance in field primatology took place in the United States under the aegis of the ‘new physical anthropology’. Its leader, Sherwood Washburn, envisioned a science uniting studies of hominid fossils with Darwinian population genetics, experimental functional anatomy, and field observation of non-human primates and human hunter–gatherers. Thanks to Washburn’s stimulus, his colleague at Berkeley, the bird ethologist Peter Marler, took up the study of the natural communicative behaviour of apes and monkeys. When Marler’s first (...) primatological student, Thomas Struhsaker, reported in the mid-1960s that the vervet monkeys of Amboseli, Kenya, give acoustically distinct alarm calls to different predators, and respond to alarm calls as if to the sight of those predators, a debate broke out over whether the vervet calls thus function as names, translating as ‘leopard’, ‘eagle’ and ‘python’. Washburn and his students argued that no matter what the behavioural evidence, vervet calls could not be predator names, since monkeys had been shown to lack the neuroanatomical basis of naming. This controversy thus reveals, first, the persistence of older patterns of disciplinary allegiance within the new, synthetic physical anthropology; and second, the impotence of adaptationist Darwinism — common to both sides of the debate — as a force for unity. (shrink)
If I could talk to the animals Content Type Journal Article Category Book Symposium Pages 1-15 DOI 10.1007/s11016-011-9553-1 Authors Thomas Suddendorf, School of Psychology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia Mark E. Borrello, Program in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, Department of Ecology Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA Colin Allen, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, College of Arts and Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA Gregory Radick, Centre for History and Philosophy of Science, (...) Department of Philosophy, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796. (shrink)
What should human languages be like if humans are the products of Darwinian evolution? Between Darwin’s day & like the peoples speaking them are higher or lower in an evolutionarily generated scale This paper charts some of the changes in the Darwinian tradition that transformed the notion of human linguistic equality from creationist heresy., our own, expectations about evolution’s imprint on language have changed dramaticallyIt is now a commonplace that, for good Darwinian reasons, no language is more highly evolved than (...) any otherBut Darwin, in The descent of man, defended the opposite view: different languages. (shrink)
Pre-natal genetic tests prompt questions about when, if ever, it is legitimate to choose against a potential life. Philip Kitcher has argued that test-based decisions should turn not on whether a potential life would have a disease (understood as dysfunction), but whether that life would be of low quality. I draw attention to difficulties with both parts of this argument, showing, first, that Kitcher ignores distinctions upon which the case for disease as dysfunction depends; and, second, that his analysis of (...) quality of life tacitly, and controversially, links high quality to normal functioning. Kitcher's chief complaint about disease considerations-that they inappropriately privilege the functional goals of the body over the personal goals of the individual-turns out to bear much more directly upon quality-of-life considerations than disease considerations. (shrink)
This collection of essays explores different perceptions of space, taking the reader on a journey from the inner space of the mind to the vacuum beyond Earth. Eight leading researchers span a broad range of fields, from the arts and humanities to the natural sciences. They consider topics ranging from human consciousness to virtual reality, architecture and politics. The essays are written in an accessible style for a general audience.
When the Origins of Species was published on 24 November 1859, its author, Charles Darwin, was near the end of a nine-week stay in the remote Yorkshire village of Ilkley. He had come for the 'water cure' - a regime of cold baths and wet sheets - and for relaxation. But he used his time in Ilkley to shore up support, through extensive correspondence, for the extraordinary theory that the Origin would put before the world: evolution by natural selection. In (...) Darwin in Ilkley, Mike Dixon and Gregory Radick bring to life Victorian Ilkley and the dramas of body and mind that marked Darwin's visit. (shrink)
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