Thursday, 21 May 2015

...such collateral matter as...the question regarding species... (Matthew 1831)

Some plagiarism theorists try to argue that natural selection was the central theme of the book On Naval Timber and Arboriculture by Patrick Matthew (1831) and that the idea that it was a side issue that could easily be overlooked was a myth created by Charles Darwin, because he had plagiarised Matthew. Any scrap mentioning that the book contains ideas on species and varieties is taken as evidence that natural selection was central to On Naval Timber and could not be overlooked including what Matthew, speaking of himself in the third person, said in his preface: "The very great interest of the question regarding species, variety, habit, has perhaps led him a little too wide."
     However, in the very sentence preceding the one thus quoted, Matthew admits that it's a collateral issue put in only to spice up an otherwise insipid book on planting and timber. Here's the full passage (Matthew 1831, v-vi):
"It may be thought presumptuous in a person who has never had the curiosity to peruse the British classic authors on planting and timber—Evelyn, Hanbury, Marshall, Miller, Pontey—to make experiment of the public sufferance. The author does not, however, think any apology necessary; as, if the public lose time unprofitably over his pages, he considers the blame attachable to them, not to him. A writer does not obtrude as a speaker does, but merely places his thoughts within reach.
       As the subject [planting and timber], notwithstanding its great importance, might, per se, be felt dry and insipid by the general reader, accustomed to the luxuries of modern literature, the author has not scrupled to mix with it such collateral matter as he thought might serve to correct the aridity. The very great interest of the question regarding species, variety, habit, has perhaps led him a little too wide."

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Lamarck's analogy/homology of nature with culture

Types of comparison
Biologists distinguish analogous traits from homologous traits. Analogous traits are similar, because of convergent adaptation towards similar environmental conditions. An analysis of the fine structures of these traits, however, will show differences proving that they have been derived from different ancestral traits. The similarity is only superficial. The eyes of vertebrates and octopuses often serve as an example of analogous traits. Although they look extremely similar, superficially, analysing the fine structure reveals, for example, that the innervation of the retina is inverse in vertebrates, but not in octopuses.  
      Homologous traits can look similar or different, depending on the similarity or difference in environmental conditions to which they have been adapted. An analysis of their fine structure, however, will show identities proving that they have been derived from the same ancestral trait. The standard example for homologous traits are the limbs of vertebrates. Although they can look as different (divergent) as the wings of bats and birds or the legs of horses and humans, the fine structure (of bones, tendons, muscles) reveals that they have been derived from the same ancestral limb.
     With this distinction, we can categorise comparisons as follows. If a comparison highlights differences in effects but does not compare the underlying causes, it will be a superficial contrast. If it highlights similarities in effects but does not compare the underlying causes, it will be a superficial analogy. If it highlights similarities in effects but also shows that these are due to the different underlying causes, it will be a deep analogy. Finally, if effects are similar or divergent, but the underlying causal machineries are identical, it will be a homology.

Categories of comparisons

superficial analogy deep analogy superficial
contrast
homology

effects

similar


similar


different

similar
or divergent

causes

--

different


--


identic
"--" means that the causal relations are not being compared.

Lamarck's homology
As shown in the previous post, Charles Naudin proposed that natural and artificial selection were not only superficially similar (analogous) in their effects, but also that this similarity was due to homologous causes. Alfred Wallace and Charles Darwin had not yet published and Matthew (1831. On Naval Timber and Arboriculture) had proposed a difference and conflict in the effects of of natural and artificial selection and did not explicitly compare the causal machineries of both processes (see taxonomy of comparisons below). Matthew's proposal was either a superficial contrast or an implied homology with divergent effects. That is, even as a homology, it was different from Naudin's homology of causes with similar effects. Therefore, Matthew (1831) is an unlikely source of inspiration for Naudin's proposal. But Lamarck (1809. Philosophie Zoologique) explicitly proposed a similarity of the effects of nature and culture due to homologous causes.

Ironically, the first English translation of Lamarck's Zoological Philosophy that is digitised and available online (via Archive.org, but not via books.google) is that of Hugh Elliot from 1914. Therefore, books.google will generally fail to identify Lamarck as a possible source of inspiration for English literature. 

For simplicity (and sparing the reader the pleasure of my translations from French into English), I will quote from the translation of Elliot. As Lamarck did not publish later editions of his Philosopie Zoologique that could have differed from his first, taking Elliot's translation is just as well as translating from the French would have been. 

The homology between nature and culture is at page 109 of Elliot's translation. The passage begins with a Buffonism:     
"Those who have observed much and studied large collections, have acquired the conviction that according as changes occur in environment, situation, climate, food, habits of life, etc., corresponding changes in the animals likewise occur in size shape, proportions of the parts, colour, consistency, swiftness and skill.
What nature does in the course of long periods we do every day when we suddenly change the environment in which some species of living plant is situated."
The original passage is at page 225-26 of Lamarck (1809, vol. 1):
"Ceux qui ont beaucoup observé, et qui ont consulté les grandes collections, ont pu se convaincre qu'à mesure que les circonstances d'habitation, d'exposition, de climat, de nourriture, d'habitude de vivre, etc., viennent à changer; les caractères de taille, de forme, de proportion entre les parties, de couleur, de consistance, d'agilité et d'industrie pour les animaux, changent proportionnellement.
Ce que la nature fait avec beaucoup de temps, nous le faisons tous les jours, en changeant nous-mêmes subitement, par rapport à un végétal vivant, les circonstances dans lesquelles lui et tous les individus de son espèce se rencontroient."

Conclusion
In contrast to later comparisons of natural with artificial selection, Lamarck had use-inheritance in place of selection. Charles Naudin merely recombined the strong homology claim already present in French science with the also already present idea of selection (see previous post).

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Naudin's analogy/homology of natural and artificial selection.

Types of comparison
Biologists distinguish analogous traits from homologous traits. Analogous traits are similar, because of convergent adaptation towards similar environmental conditions. An analysis of the fine structures of these traits, however, will show differences proving that they have been derived from different ancestral traits. The similarity is only superficial. The eyes of vertebrates and octopuses often serve as an example of analogous traits. Although they look extremely similar, superficially, analysing the fine structure reveals, for example, that the innervation of the retina is inverse in vertebrates, but not in octopuses.  
      Homologous traits can look similar or different, depending on the similarity or difference in environmental conditions to which they have been adapted. An analysis of their fine structure, however, will show identities proving that they have been derived from the same ancestral trait. The standard example for homologous traits are the limbs of vertebrates. Although they can look as different (divergent) as the wings of bats and birds or the legs of horses and humans, the fine structure (of bones, tendons, muscles) reveals that they have been derived from the same ancestral limb.
     With this distinction, we can categorise comparisons as follows. If a comparison highlights differences in effects but does not compare the underlying causes, it will be a superficial contrast. If it highlights similarities in effects but does not compare the underlying causes, it will be a superficial analogy. If it highlights similarities in effects but also shows that these are due to the different underlying causes, it will be a deep analogy. Finally, if effects are similar or divergent, but the underlying causal machineries are identical, it will be a homology.

Categories of comparisons

superficial analogy deep analogy superficial
contrast
homology

effects

similar


similar


different

similar
or divergent

causes

--

different


--


identic
"--" means that the causal relations are not being compared.

M. L. Vilmorin's contrast
The house of Levêque de Vilmorin is a famous family of botanists, seed dealers and breeders (note: one French synonym for breeder is "sélectionneur"). Its history reaches back to the Parisian seed store of Claude Geoffroy and her husband Pierre Andrieux, who were the chief seed suppliers for king Louis XV. Their daughter, Jeanne Marie Adélaïde Andrieux (1756-1836), married Philippe Victoire Levêque de Vilmorin (1746-1804). They created the Vilmorin-Andrieux house (1775), which grew into the Vilmorin-Andrieux company (1815). Today Vilmorin & Cie is, according to its own website, the fourth biggest seed producer in the world.

At 6 January 1847, M. Trochu wrote a letter to L. Vilmorin, describing his experiments in trying to fix a variety of Gorse without thorns, which he had found near his house. He Failed, but inspired M.L. Vilmorin to write to an article in turn (Vilmorin, M.L. 1851. "Notes sur un projet d'exprérience ayant pour but de créer une variété d'ajonc sans épines se reproduisant par graines; par M. L. Vilmorin, membre correspondant de la Société Industrielle, à Paris. Bulletin de la Société Industrielle d'Angers 22: pp. 253-261). 

After describing the efforts of his colleague, Vilmorin speculates about species and varieties, about the forces that keep the species fixed in nature, and of the spectre of breeding and fixing new varieties. Vilmorin thought that a balance of forces prevailed in nature keeping the species close to its type, but that humans could upset this balance in favour of the force that pulled varieties away from the type. He therefore thought of these two forces as a centripetal and a centrifugal one pulling away or towards the type respectively. He also referred to these "forces" as "laws," calling the centripetal one the law of atavism (or similarity to species type) and the centrifugal one the law of individual variation or idiosyncrasy. Here's my translation: 
"From what we know about the power of nature in the law of individual variations, it must look very likely that there exists on the extent of the Bretagne any number of Gorse individuals without thorns in the middle of an immense number of thorny individuals. However, it is sufficient that one of these individuals to print direct descent from seed a little more pronounced character, and as any part of its products were unarmed like him, that it was then possible to arrive quickly enough by a well-understood selection, completely free the new breed. But if we think that individuals more or less devoid of thorns which were met so far were from thorny parents, we will conceive the chance to get spineless relatives of products that are likewise is necessarily slightly larger, and that this opportunity will increase as the number of successive generations will grow for the modified plant.
     If we consider a seed when planted and will create a new individual, we can look at it as attracting two distinct and opposing forces, regarding the characters that will present the plant that must be born. These two forces, which act in the opposite direction and balance each other results in the fixity of species that can be considered as follows: The first, or centripetal force, is the result of the law of similarity for children to fathers, or atavism; its action results in maintaining the species within the assigned limits of variation, while the differences is produced by the opposing force.
     The former, or centrifugal force, resulting from the law of idiosyncrasy that each individual in a species, although it may be supposed born of an individual (or couple), features unique differences that constitute its own physiognomy and produce the infinite variety in unity that characterizes the works of the Creator.  
     For simplicity, we first consider atavism as constituting a single force; but if you think about it, we will see that it is rather a bundle of forces acting approximately in the same direction and is composed of the individual attraction of all ancestors. In order to facilitate the understanding of the action of this force, however, we first have to abstractly consider the force of similarity in/as the mass of ancestors, which can be considered to constitute the attraction of the species type, and to which we will reserve the name of atavism; then separately and in a more special way, the attraction or force of similarity to the direct father, which, less powerful but closer, tends to perpetuate in the child the proper characters of the immediate parent.  
     As long as the father is not appreciable far from the type of the species, these two forces act in parallel and blend, and changes that may occur in this case, by virtue of the law of idiosyncrasy, may occur in all directions without altering any particular. It is no longer so if the direct parent is significantly distant from the species type; the force of similarity to the direct parent now combines with the one of individual variation leading to excessive deviation in the direction of the resultant of the two forces, or, if one prefers, the new changes then radiate, not around the species type as center, but around a point placed on the line, which separates the type from the first deviation [variant] obtained.  
     Abandoned to nature, individual variants almost always die in the overflowing mass of individuals that it [nature] sacrifices continually. Hence the fixity of natural species. But obtained by humans, these variations are protected; their descendants multiply; while obeying the more complex laws governing now, they produce the many changes he was able to fix for his use. It was then also the influence of man, choosing to multiply through offspring only the modified individuals, counterbalancing, by constant efforts, the constant force of atavism, and comes to free or fix the modified races." (p. 255-257)
We can here see a specimen of a what might be called a physicalistic 'force paradigm.' Herbert Spencer' Synthetic Philosophy also had a lot of forces keeping each other in a moving equilibrium. In Vilmorin's case, these forces are called Atavism and Idiosyncrasy (the law of individual variations). After pseudo-Newtonian speculations about pseudo-forces, however, he arrived at the insight that artificial selection can transform species. 
     That is, humans can protect variants or sports from nature that would otherwise eliminate them. As Vilmorin also thinks that more complex laws are governing under the human regime than under nature, he sees a contrast, not an analogy or homology.

Naudin's homology
A reprint of Vilmorin's article (Vilmorin, L. 1852. "Ajonc sans épines1. Notes sur un projet d'expérience ayant pur but de créer une race d'Ajonc sans épines se reproduisant de graines." Revue Horticole, Ser. 4, Tome 1: 22-29 [the footnote (1) in the title states that this article is an extract from the earlier one]), however, inspired Charles Naudin (1852 Considérations philosophiques sur l'espéce et al variété. Revue Horticole, Ser. 4, Tome 1: 102-109) to ponder the species problem in turn. He opened as follows:
"No doubt, the readers of the Revue Horticole have read with interest, in the issue of January 16, an article of M. L. Vilmorin about a variélé of thornless Gorse, whose fixation would be of great importance for agriculture, where this clever experimenter develops a theory already confirmed by the experience of the possibility of creating, in species such as nature provides us with, varieties, races, or even new artificial species most directly relevant to our needs. This theory, we say, is confirmed by experience; strictly speaking, it is a statement of the methods used empirically for centuries, and those used today by horticulturists almost instinctively, and without really realizing it, to obtain new varieties in useful and ornamental species that are introduced every day in our gardens." (p. 102f)

"We do not think that Nature has made its species in a different fashion from that in which we proceed ourselves in order to make our varieties; or better, we carried it's [Nature's] process into our practice." (p. 104)

"Such is, in our ideas, the course followed by nature; like us, it wanted to form races appropriate for their needs; and with a relatively small number of primordial kinds, she gave birth in succession and at various times, to all plant and animal species that inhabit the globe." (p. 104)

"Nature has operated on an immense scale and with immense resources; we, on the contrary, we do so with extremely limited means; but between its processes and ours, between his results and those we get, the difference is in any amount; between its species and those we create, there are only the more and less." 
Naudin even mentions Lamarck, praises and criticises him, and improves his scala naturae into a tree of life (p. 105f). Thereafter follows a long discussion of the implications for classification.

Conclusion
Now, Wallace and Darwin had not yet published and it is highly unlikely that the French horticulturist Naudin had read the book On Naval Timber and Arboriculture by Matthew (1831). Furthermore, Naudin's comparison observes that the effects of natural and artificial selection are similar and claims that this is due to a homology of the causal relations underlying both processes. Matthew (1831), on the other hand, observed that effects of natural and artificial selection are in conflict with each other and did not explicitly compare the causal machineries of both processes. His proposal is either a superficial contrast or an implied homology of causes with divergent effects.
      Therefore, it is more likely that Naudin's inspiration for the strong homology with similar effects came from Lamarck's observation that nature and culture had similar effects that were due to homologous causes (see next post).

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

A mammoth literary mystery

Just saying. Blogger Archie used Google Books in 2009 to ferret out Lyell as the original source of a succession of uncited reproductions. (I know, Mike Sutton anticipated such anticipators of this method, but its interesting nevertheless and strikes straight back home, that is, to one of the best friends of Charles Darwin.)

Why do I find this interesting? On the one hand, it is quite clear that at least on of the persons involved simply copied the words of a source verbatim without marking it as a quote, though he does mention his source in a footnote. On the other hand, the passage in question and its replications are clearly only reporting about the discovery by M. Middendorf of a mammoth in excellent condition. None of the reporters, including Lyell's, claims the discovery to be his own. That is, all reporters, including the parrots, respect the priority of Middendorf.

According to our standards, this would probably be plagiarism, because copying the words of a source without marking it as a quote is probably enough, even if a footnote refers to the source. Nevertheless, it is not a theft of a discovery or an invention.

According to past standards this sort of parroting was probably borne with nonchalance signifying only that the parrot was not able to improve on the language of his source. This parroting of sensational findings also occurs today in what is called science journalism (though journalists usually mark their quotes properly). Anyway, I disagree with Archie on the interpretation of this case. Words were copied, but no idea or discovery or invention stolen. I do not think the Victorians cared.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

The Cider Crisis, the crab apple and the Golden Pippin

Here is Mike Sutton on the opening of Charles Darwin's Zoonomia notebook (see here):


The answer is No!, because the Golden Pippin was one of the most famous apple varieties of the country. But to suggest that Charles Darwin must have gotten his musings on Golden Pippins from Matthew (1829) is not convincing. What Matthew (1829) has sent to the Caledonian Horticultural Society (vol. 4, pp. 467-477) was a mere list of apple and pear varieties grown in Gurdie Hill with some additional remarks praising the qualities of a variety called Scarlet Golden Pippin, which Matthew believed to have been derived from THE Golden Pippin.

Now this is not convincing, because scientific literature on the status of the Golden Pippin as a variety of the wild crab apple, its incipient decay, and what could be done against it, was as important an issue in the 18th century as naval timber used to be. The sailors were fine with Rum, but the rest of the population needed its cider. The decay and degeneration of cider apple varieties was at least as severe a crisis as the lack of oak forest trees for naval timber.

This is a tale of the crab apple, the Golden Pippin, and what Darwin may actually have meant by his cryptic note: "They die; without they change; like Golden Pippens. it is a generation of species. Like generation of individuals." 

Let's go straight for Thomas Knight (1801. A Treatise on the Culture of the Apple & Pear, and on manufacturing of Cider and Perry. 2nd Edition. London: Longman, Rees; and White). This book opens with a salvo: stating up front that animals and plants vary more strongly under domestication than in nature and that humans profit from this by artificial selection:
"The effects of cultivation on the animal and vegetable system are extremely similar. A change in form, in colour, and in size or stature, takes place in each; and in each those changes appear to arise from similar causes—from a more abundant and regular supply of nourishment than is afforded in a state of nature, with a favourable climate, or protection from the bad effects of an indifferent one. The offspring of every plant and animal, when unchanged by cultivation, bears a very close resemblance to it's parents; but amongst the cultivated kinds of each, it is extremely various; still, however, generally shewing some similarity to them. By taking advantage of incidental variations, and by propagating from those individuals which approach nearest to our ideas of perfection, improved varieties of fruit, as well as of animals, are obtained." (p. 3)
From there, he directly plunges into the topic of Apple cultivation.
"The Apple (on the culture of which I propose to offer some observations in the following pages) is not the natural produce of any soil, or climate; but owes its existence to human art and industry; and differs from the crab, which is a native of every part of England, only in the changes which cultivation has produced in it." (p. 5)
Alas, the best varieties of apples trees are in decay and degeneration.
"The Moil, and its successful rival the Redstreak, with the Musts and Golden Pippin, are in the last stages of the decay and the Stire and Foxwhelp are hastening rapidly after them." (p. 6f)
After pointing out the difference to animals, which cannot be propagated by vegetative (asexual) means, he advances an explanation that could, with anachronism, be called one of cloning the trees through grafting.
"The art of the planter readily divides a single tree into almost any number that he wishes; but the character of the new trees, thus raise, is very essentially different from that of a young seedling plant; they possess a preter-natural maturity, and retain the habits and diseases of the tree of which they naturally formed a part." (p. 8)
The cure, of course, is breeding afresh from seeds and crossing breeds (p. 37). Astonishingly, Knight also provides a qualitative observation that is strikingly reminiscent of Mendel's later quantitative proof of segregation:
"If the male and female be taken from two permanent varieties of different characters, the immediate offspring will present a mixture of both characters, in nearly an equal proportion; but the progeny of this offspring will be extremely various. Some will take nearly the form of their male, and others of their female ancestry, and it will be long before a new permanent character is acquired." (p. 88f)
Let's leave Thomas Knight, here, and see how Sir Humphry Davy (1815. Elements of Agricultural Chemistry. New York: Eastburn, Kirk & Co.) picked up the ball and ran with it. After recapitulating the experiments and findings of Knight (1801), he continues with the selection that is necessary after crossing breeds:
"The power of the horticulturist extends only to the multiplying excellent varieties by grafting. They cannot be rendered permanent; and the good fruits at present in our gardens, are the produce of a few seedlings, selected probably from hundred of thousands; the result of great labour and industry, and multiplied experiments.
Given all this, what could Charles Darwin have been thinking about, when he wrote in his notebook about Golden Pippens that die without change and the generation of species being like generation of individuals?

The answer should be clear now. Thomas Andrew Knight (1801) claimed that apple varieties that were propagated by grafting were nothing more than parts of the trees they stemmed from. Nothing rejuvenated them and they died from old age ("they die, without they change"), no matter on what youthful stock they were grafted. What Knight (1801) had argued quite forcefully was that they were not to be counted as two generations but merely as one individual having been divided by horticulturists ("It is a generation of species. Like generation of individuals"). What does that mean? It means that Charles Darwin has read Thomas Knight's Treatise shortly before he made his cryptic note.