Darwin and Pangenesis

P. Kyle Stanford

in Exceeding Our Grasp

Published in print May 2006 | ISBN: 9780195174083
Published online May 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780199786367 | DOI:
  Darwin and Pangenesis

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This chapter focuses on the history of our theorizing about the phenomena of generation and inheritance. It attempts to show that according to historical records, our efforts to theorize about inheritance and generation continued to be plagued by the problem of unconceived alternatives long after we came to embrace substantive evidential, metaphysical, and methodological constraints essentially continuous with those of the present day. It is argued that Darwin shows no evidence of having considered and rejected the idea that similarities between ancestors and offspring might be results of a common cause rather than links in a causal chain, and indeed shows no evidence of even having been able to understand this line of thought when it was explicitly presented to him directly by Galton. Instead the most natural conclusion to draw from the historical evidence is that Darwin simply failed to conceive of or consider the entire class of theoretical alternatives to pangenesis picked out by this idea, notwithstanding the fact that it offered an equally promising strategy for explaining what he took to be the central phenomena of inheritance and generation.

Keywords: scientific theory; Galton; inheritance; generation; unconceived alternatives; Darwin; Galton

Chapter.  14627 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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