Re: Logic + universal evolution

From: John Wilkins (wilkins@wehi.EDU.AU)
Date: Fri Aug 10 2001 - 00:53:34 BST

  • Next message: Wade T.Smith: "Re: Logic + universal evolution"

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    From: John Wilkins <wilkins@wehi.EDU.AU>
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    Subject: Re: Logic + universal evolution
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    On Thursday, August 9, 2001, at 10:50 PM, Chris Taylor wrote:

    > Do we mean evolution as in a literal 'coming out of what preceded', or
    > do we mean biological evolution based on differential reproductive
    > success (which would, as Wade says, be a complete misapplication)?
    The term "evolution" derives from the Latin word for the unfolding of a
    scroll, and it was used in the epigenesis/preformationist generational
    debates in the late middle ages through to the 18th century to mean

    Buffon's view of transmutation of species was a degenerational one -
    each species in a genus bar at most one was a degeneration from the
    "prime stock" or "primary stem" (premiere souche). His pupil and friend
    Lamarck applied a *generational* view to species transmutation, but
    because he thought it was an internal impulse or drive that caused it,
    he used the term "evolution", which Geoffroy, *his* pupil, carried on
    into the 19th century debates.

    By the time Darwin wrote the Origin, the term was tied up closely in
    Spencer's, Geoffroy's and Robert Grant's notion of transmutation, which
    Darwin sought to evade. He did not use the word "evolution" in the
    modern sense in his first edition, although by the third, IIRC, he was
    effectively forced to by common usage. He preferred "transmutation", and
    "common descent" or "descent with modification" to express his ideas.

    Interestingly, the word "evolution" was used independently by geologists
    and mineralogists, and by astronomers. The term "stellar evolution"
    predates the biological sense, and in this case it is appropriate.

    RA Fisher started his _Genetical Theory_ with the sentence "Evolution is
    not Natural Selection", an d it is a point worth recalling from time to

    John Wilkins
    Head Communication Services, The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of
    Medical Research, Melbourne Australia
    Personal page: <>

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