VIDEO: Darwin’s Sleepwalkers: Taxonomic Evidence in the Presentation of Darwin’s Species Theory

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Darwin in the journals

Peter Dear, “Darwin’s Sleepwalkers: Naturalists, Nature, and the Practices of Classification” Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 44:4 (Sept. 2014): 297-318.

Abstract Darwin used taxonomic arguments widely in his work on transformism and natural selection, especially in attempts to persuade other (typically non-transformist) naturalists of the correctness of his ideas in Origin of Species. But, as has long been noticed, classificatory practices in natural history were by no means turned on their head in the wake of his work. Darwin succeeded in coopting, or else leaving untouched, the taxonomic conclusions of his colleagues, because he needed to use their conclusions as evidence for his transformist views: time and again, he made points by referring to what a typical naturalists would make of things. By telling them that the kind of knowledge that their taxonomy produced was really about genealogical relationships, Darwin tried to tell naturalist that their judgments were correct even though they had not previously known why this was so: they were sleepwalkers, finding their way in the dark, and Darwin would illuminate them. His argumentative style continually attempted to draw existing practices of classification to his assistance, and made the judgments of his colleagues into surrogate phenomena that would provide evidence for his views. Those colleagues thus constituted a society that established nature by its own practices.

Aydin Örstan, “Two early nineteenth-century uses of the term “evolution” to denote biological speciation” Archives of Natural History 41:2 (Oct. 2014): 360-362.

No abstract

Vassiliki Betty Smocovitis, “Charles Darwin” In Oxford Bibliographies Online: Ecology, 2014.

This is a monumental undertaking – a 24,000 word bibliography looking at Darwin and how he is studied from many angles.

BOOK: Ordering Life: Karl Jordan and the Naturalist Tradition

Ordering Life: Karl Jordan and the Naturalist Tradition, by Kristin Johnson (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012), 376 pp.

For centuries naturalists have endeavored to name, order, and explain biological diversity. Karl Jordan (1861–1959) dedicated his long life to this effort, describing thousands of new species in the process. Ordering Life explores the career of this prominent figure as he worked to ensure a continued role for natural history museums and the field of taxonomy in the rapidly changing world of twentieth-century science.

Jordan made an effort to both practice good taxonomy and secure status and patronage in a world that would soon be transformed by wars and economic and political upheaval. Kristin Johnson traces his response to these changes and shows that creating scientific knowledge about the natural world depends on much more than just good method or robust theory. The broader social context in which scientists work is just as important to the project of naming, describing, classifying, and, ultimately, explaining life.

Chicago Darwin videos

Videos of some talks from the University of Chicago’s Darwin celebration have been put online:

Jerry Coyne (University of Chicago): “Speciation: Problems and Prospects”

Paul Sereno (University of Chicago): “Dinosaurs: Phylogenetic Reconstruction from Darwin to the Present”

David Jablonski (University of Chicago): “Paleontology and Evolutionary Biology: The Revitalized Partnership”

Neil Shubin (University of Chicago): “Great Transformations in Life: Insights from Genes & Fossils”

Robert J. Richards (University of Chicago): “Darwin’s Biology of Intelligent Design”

Via Why Evolution Is True.

ARTICLE: Darwin’s Emotions: The Scientific Self and the Sentiment of Objectivity

In the current Isis (Vol. 100, Dec, 2009, pp. 811-26):

Darwin’s Emotions: The Scientific Self and the Sentiment of Objectivity

Paul White

Abstract Darwin’s emotional life has been a preoccupation of biographers and popularizers, while his research on emotional expression has been of keen interest to anthropologists and psychologists. Much can be gained, however, by looking at Darwin’s emotions from both sides, by examining the relationship between his emotional experience and his scientific study of emotion. Darwin developed various techniques for distancing himself from his objects of study and for extracting emotional “objects” from feeling subjects. In order to investigate emotions scientifically, his own emotional life, his feelings for others, had to give way—or did it? This question has implications well beyond the life of Darwin, moral implications about the effects of scientific discipline on those who practice it and on the animals and people subjected to it. This dual approach to Darwin’s emotions also allows us to address a conundrum of recent histories of “objectivity”—namely, the status of the scientific self as a feeling subject.

Also in this issue, essay reviews of The Tragic Sense of Life (about Ernst Haeckel) and Worlds Before Adam: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Reform, and a short review of Imperial Nature: Joseph Hooker and the Practices of Victorian Science.

ARTICLE: In the field: exploring nature with Carolus Linnaeus

In the journal Endeavour:

Hodacs Hanna, “In the field: exploring nature with Carolus Linnaeus” Endeavour (2010) Article in Press.

Abstract Teaching his students the art of observing nature outdoors was central to the Swedish naturalist Carolus (Carl) Linnaeus (1707–1778). These exercises came to influence both their progress and his work. The open-air classroom was a stage where Linnaeus could demonstrate his skills and mobilize support. It was also a testing, training and recruitment ground: the students’ field observations helped Linnaeus to develop his new scientific nomenclature, and it was in the field that students could train their observational skills and progress from novices to naturalists.