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Patrick Matthew’s unique synthesis of ideas by Cuvier and Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire

Dagg, Joachim L. and Derry, J. F. (2022) Patrick Matthew’s unique synthesis of ideas by Cuvier and Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. [Preprint]

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Abstract

Patrick Matthew (1790-1874) combined the contrary ideas on species of Cuvier and Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire by adding contemporary knowledge on plant breeding. This unique synthesis is of historic interest on its own. Yet, the historiographic mainstream portrays it as an obscure anticipation of Darwin’s theory, while the fringe sees it as ahead of its time and hence ignored/plagiarised. Both views are anachronistic in that they view Matthew’s ideas through the lens of Darwin’s. Both miss the differences between their evolutionary mechanisms. The resulting images are obscure (impressionistic) or biased (expressionistic), but instances of presentism anyway. Mainstream and fringe formed diverging lines of presentism over the years. The only perspective avoiding such anachronism sees Matthew’s book in its own context of 1831 and not as a harbinger of future theories.
Matthew understood natural selection but regarded it as a force of conformity keeping species from merging into one chimeric chaos. Catastrophes knocked this force out, but also species that had previously competed with the surviving species. This led to no chaos either, but to ramification of the remnant species in the absence of competitive natural selection. Matthew thus united elements of Cuvier (catastrophes) and Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (transmutation) in a unique way. His mechanism of evolution differed from Darwin’s or Wallace’s in that speciation occurred, while competitive natural selection was inactive.
The mere presence of natural selection and species transformation in different writings does not entail the equivalence of their evolutionary mechanisms. How, then, did the ostensible equivalence of Matthew’s mechanism with Darwin’s become the majority view, a view that the mainstream and the fringe share alike? The roots of this misconception turn out to lie in original publications by Thomas Huxley, Patrick Matthew, and Charles Darwin. Later writers propagated and elaborated the divergent presentisms in their narratives. One became the obscure, unconscious, and nondescript presentiment. The other became the prescient, wrongly ignored, and plagiarized anticipation. In conclusion, the basic error lies in taking any juxtaposition of natural selection and species transformation as equivalent with Darwin’s theory.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Dagg, Joachim L.jdagg@gmx.de0000-0002-7310-5431
Derry, J. F.jfderry@ed-alumni.net
Keywords: evolution through natural selection; evolution despite natural selection; anticipators.
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Evolutionary Theory
Specific Sciences > Historical Sciences
Depositing User: Dr. Joachim L. Dagg
Date Deposited: 20 Mar 2022 03:49
Last Modified: 20 Mar 2022 03:49
Item ID: 20370
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Evolutionary Theory
Specific Sciences > Historical Sciences
Date: 2022
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/20370

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