‘Literatura’

Los gusanos en el sermón

 

 

-          La retórica permite analizar el discurso.

-          Y bien? -Dirán algunos-, nada nuevo bajo el sol.

 

Pero… cuidado! La retórica permite también analizar el discurso científico que también es discurso. Así,  quienes pensaban que la ciencia sigue su curso independiente de las llamadas “letras” se pueden llevar grandes sorpresas.

Una sorpresa nos llevábamos el otro día al realizar el análisis retórico de El Origen de las Especies y encontrar que de las tres finalidades que Ciceron atribuía al lenguaje: Docere, movere, delectare, la obra de Darwin se dedica a la segunda (movere, conmover) y no a la primera como correspondería a un texto científico. Dicho de otro modo, que el Origen de las Especies es obra de la Épica y no de la Ciencia.

Hay, en esta obra, párrafos y sentencias que son propios de un sermón. No en vano la formación académica de Charles Darwin era la de un clérigo. Así el párrafo final que comienza de esta manera:

 

Es interesante contemplar un enmarañado ribazo cubierto por muchas plantas de varias clases, con aves que cantan en los matorrales, con diferentes insectos que revolotean y con gusanos que se arrastran entre la tierra húmeda, y reflexionar que estas formas, primorosamente construidas, tan diferentes entre sí, y que dependen mutuamente de modos tan complejos, han sido producidas por leyes que obran a nuestro alrededor.

 

Ahí están esos gusanos. Ah! los gusanos, sempiternos gusanos, tan frecuentes a lo largo y ancho de la Biblia y presentes en multitud de sermones  como éste del predicador del Oeste  que encontramos en la novela Tierra de Gigantes de OE Rolvaag:

 

Se dijo el pastor que había descendido al terreno de los lugares comunes, pero siguió hablando, poniendo todo su corazón en las palabras… La gente le escuchaba con toda atención; la madre de los tres niños cesó de ahuyentar a la mosca; daban ganas de decirle que siguiera cumpliendo su deber y no prestara atención… Pero, de pronto, pareció convertirse en la propia madre del pastor, como si esta se hallara delante en carne y hueso; y el pastor recordó como su madre había luchado y sufrido, una de tantas precursoras, primero en Illinois y después en Minnesota. Se conmovió profundamente al percibir el reflejo del destino de la que le dio el ser; sus palabras brotaron ahora fluidas, sin el menor esfuerzo… “Pero cuando un amor así existe entre una madre inmigrante y sus hijos ¿Qué no será cuando el amor se eleva hacia la divinidad, cuando el amor de quien es fuente de todo amor, de quien cuida de toda vida, si, hasta de la vida del gusano que se arrastra por la tierra?…”

 

Lectura recomendada:

 

Está usted de broma Mr Darwin? La retórica en el corazón del darwinismo.

 

 

 

Imagen: “Early bird stereograph2″ by E.R. McCollister – Library of Congress[1]. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Early_bird_stereograph2.jpg#/media/File:Early_bird_stereograph2.jpg

Etiquetas:

Darwin y la tragedia griega

 

Tratando del lenguaje de OSMNS y refiriéndose a expresiones como selección natural, lucha por la vida y otras semejantes, Stanley Edgar Hyman escribe:

 

In fact, these terms are much more than metaphors. They people the world of nature with protagonists and antagonists where previously we had seen only a solitary cactus or a growing seed. Moreover, the dramatic action they summon up is tragic. In Gilbert Murray’s terms, the basic ritual stages of tragedy are agon or contest, sparagmos or tearing apart, then anagnorisis or discovery and epiphany or joyous showing forth of the resurrected protagonist. Darwin’s struggle for existence is clearly Murray’s agon and sparagmos, and his natural selection or survival of the fittest, anagnorisis and epiphany. For the final exultation that the Greeks felt at the affirmation of Reliving Dionysus, Darwin substitutes a quieter tragic satisfaction.He writes:

When we reflect on this struggle, we may console ourselves with the full belief, that the war of nature is not incessant, that no fear is felt, that death is generally prompt, and that the vigorous, the healthy, and the happy survive and multiply.” The Origin concludes: “Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life….


De hecho, estos términos son mucho más que metáforas. Ellos llenan a la naturaleza de protagonistas y antagonistas donde antes habíamos visto solamente un cactus solitario o una semilla que crece. Por otra parte, la acción dramática que convocan es trágica. En términos de Gilbert Murray, las etapas rituales básicas de la tragedia son agon o confrontación, sparagmos o lucha, anagnórisis o descubrimiento y la epifanía o final feliz, mostrando finalmente al protagonista resucitado. La lucha por la existencia de Darwin  es claramente agon y sparagmos de Murray, y su selección natural o supervivencia de los más aptos, son respectivamente anagnórisis y epifanía. Para la exaltación final que los griegos sentían en la afirmación de revivir a Dionisio, Darwin sustituye una más tranquila trágica satisfacción. Él escribe:

Cuando reflexionamos sobre esta lucha nos podemos consolar con la completa seguridad de que la guerra en la naturaleza no es incesante, que no se siente ningún miedo, que la muerte es generalmente rápida y que el vigoroso, el sano, el feliz, sobrevive y se multiplica.

Y OSMNS termina:

Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life,

Referencia

DARWIN THE DRAMATIST [1]

Stanley Edgar Hyman [2]

The Centennial Review of Arts & Science

Vol. 3, No. 4, 1859-1959: Darwin-Marx Centennial (FALL 1959), pp. 364-375

 

The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life appeared in 1859, and immediately caught the imagination of the world.

The first edition sold out on the day of publication, and the second shortly after. Within a few years most of the thinking world was convinced[3] of the evolution of species, as it had not been by Buffon, Lamarck, Darwin’s grandfather Erasmus, Robert Chambers’ Vestiges of Creation, or anyone else. It has rarely been doubted that this enormous effect was achieved by the power of scientific argument, that is, by the book’s rhetorical organization[4]. This was certainly Darwin’s view[5]. He begins the book’s final chapter: “As this whole volume is one long argument.” One of Darwin’s latest biographers, Sir Arthur Keith, in Darwin Revalued, best states the prevailing view: “In the Origin he had assembled such a solid mass of observation” that conviction followed inescapably. There can be no doubt that the book’s rhetorical effectiveness is great.

Darwin states his theories simply and plausibly[6], bolsters them with a great deal of convincing evidence (beginning close to home with domestic animals) and scrupulously notes the difficulties and puzzles remaining. Yet the problem remains. The evidence to establish the idea of evolution by natural selection inductively was not really available in 1859[7], and many of Darwin’s processes[8] turn out on closer examination to be plausible hypotheses[9], and his causes tautologies[10]. Nor does the vehemence of the reaction pro and con suggest the characteristic effect of a scientific demonstration.

 

I

 

I would submit that The Origin of Species caught the imagination of its time as a dramatic poem, and a dramatic poem of a very special sort. This view would certainly have surprised Darwin. He was under no illusions about his literary powers, and although he worked quite hard at the writing and rewriting of this book, he saw its prose as “incredibly bad.” [11] His effort was to produce the straightest possible piece of factual writing, and he was only dissuaded by the publisher, John Murray, from calling the book An Abstract of an Essay on the Origin of Species. It is the judgment of a popular textbook that Darwin’s work “cannot be said to belong to literature, if in the definition of literary work is presupposed an effort toward artistic expression.”

Theodore Baird, whose “Darwin and the Tangled Bank” is one of the few efforts I know to correct this conventional estimate, boldly claims that the Origin is not only a work of literature, but “the complicated literary expression known as tragedy.” It is here that any literary consideration should begin. The Origin is much less overtly dramatistic than the Journal of Researches, with the act-scene fitnesses of the earlier book here confined mostly to the great historical pageant of palaeontology, as when Darwin notes that the geological strata mark “only an occasional scene, taken almost at hazard, in an ever slowly changing drama.” The key term in the Origin is “the struggle for existence.” Darwin explains:

In looking at Nature, it is most necessary to keep the foregoing considerations always in mind—never to forget that every single organic being may be said to be striving to the utmost to increase in numbers; that each lives by a struggle at some period of its life; that heavy destruction inevitably falls either on the young or old, during each generation or at recurrent intervals.

All through the book, he refers to “a constant struggle going on,” “the constantly-recurring Struggle for Existence,” “victory in the battle for life,” and so on. From this struggle comes “natural selection,” or, in Herbert Spencer’s more vivid phrase that Darwin adopted, “the survival of the fittest.” Darwin was quite aware that all these terms were ‘metaphoric, a heightening of much less dramatic processes. He writes of “struggle for existence”:

 

I should premise that I use this term in a large and metaphorical sense including dependence of one being on another, and including (which is more important) not only the life of the individual, but success in leaving progeny. Two canine animals, in a time of dearth, may be truly said to struggle with each other which shall get food and live. But a plant on the edge of a desert is said to struggle for life against the drought, though more properly it should be said to be dependent on the moisture. A plant which annually produces a thousand seeds, of which only one of an average comes to maturity, may be more truly said to struggle with the plants of the same and other kinds which already clothe the ground. The mistletoe is dependent on the apple and a few other trees, but can only in a far-fetched sense be said to struggle with these trees, for, if too many of these parasites grow on the same tree, it languishes and dies. But several seedling mistletoes, growing close together on the same branch, may more truly be said to struggle with each other. As the mistletoe is disseminated by birds, its existence depends on then, and it may methodically be said to struggle with other fruit-bearing plants, in tempting the birds to devour and thus disseminate its seeds. In these several senses, which pass into each other, I use for convenience’ sake the general tetra of Struggle for Existence.

 

He writes similarly of “natural selection”:

 

In the literal sense of the word, no doubt, natural selection is a false term; but whoever objected to chemists speaking of the elective affinities of the various elements?—and yet an acid cannot strictly be said to elect the base with which it in preference combines. It has been said that I speak of natural selection as an active power or Deity; but who objects to an author speaking of the attraction of gravity as ruling the movements of the planets? Everyone knows what is meant and is implied by such metaphorical expressions; and they are almost necessary for brevity.

 

In fact, these terms are much more than metaphors. They people the world of nature with protagonists and antagonists where previously we had seen only a solitary cactus or a growing seed. Moreover, the dramatic action they summon up is tragic. In Gilbert Murray’s terms, the basic ritual stages of tragedy are agon or contest, sparagmos or tearing apart, then anagnorisis or discovery and epiphany or joyous showing forth of the resurrected protagonist. Darwin’s struggle for existence is clearly Murray’s agon and sparagmos, and his natural selection or survival of the fittest, anagnorisis and epiphany. For the final exultation that the Greeks felt at the affirmation of Reliving Dionysus, Darwin substitutes a quieter tragic satisfaction. He writes:

 

When we reflect on this struggle, we may console ourselves with the full belief, that the war of nature is not incessant, that no fear is felt, that death is generally prompt, and that the vigorous, the healthy, and the happy survive and multiply.” The Origin concludes: “Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life….

 

We realize that this dramatic and tragic vision of life comes from Darwin, rather than from his subject matter, when we see how undramatic most contemporary formulations of natural selection are. A typical one is that of George Gaylord Simpson in The Meaning of Evolution in 1949: “In the modern theory natural selection is differential reproduction, plus the complex interplay in such reproduction of heredity, genetic variation, and all the other factors that affect selection and determine its results.” Darwin was aware of differential reproduction as early as his draft for the Origin in 1844, but always within a larger context of struggle: a fleeter fox would survive better and “rear more young,” but “the less fleet ones would be rigidly destroyed.”

 

The archetypal image of the Origin is the war of nature, an image Darwin at first believed he had borrowed from Alphonse de Candolle. The 1841 outline for the book begins the section on “Natural Selection”: “De Candolle’s war of nature.—seeing contented face of nature,—may be well at first doubted.”

 

These notes are amplified in the 1844 essay into: “De Candolle, in an eloquent passage, has declared that all nature is at war, one organism with another, or with external nature. Seeing the contented face of nature, this may at first be well doubted; but reflection will inevitably prove it is too true.”

When Darwin had to choose a few pages from his manuscript to accompany Wallace’s paper in the historic presentation of the new theory to the Linnean Society in 1858, he began with that passage which he clearly recognized as the heart of his message. By the time the passage appeared in the Origin the next year, Darwin had recognized that De Candolle had no patent on the war of nature, and lumped him in with others. The important thing now was tearing off the pacific mask that life wears, and Darwin writes of the illusion concealing the tragic reality like a Melville narrator:

 

We behold the face of nature bright with gladness, toe often see superabundance of food; we do not see or we forget, that the birds which are idly singing round us mostly live on in-sects or seeds, and are thus constantly destroying life; or we forget how largely these songsters, or their eggs, or their nest-lings, are destroyed by birds and beasts of prey; we do not al-ways been in mind, that, though food may be now super-abundant, it is not so at all seasons of each recurring year.

 

The flatness at the end is almost deliberate; Darwin’s vision is tragic, but it is not hysterical. It never rises in pitch to melodrama, as in the “Nature, red in tooth and claw” of Tennyson’s “In Memoriam,” or the Grand Guignol vision of some of Darwin’s followers. After millions of years of evolution, Romanes writes typically in 1892:

 

We find that more than half of the species which have survived the ceaseless struggle are parasitic in their habits, lower and insentient forms of life feasting on higher and sentient forms; we find teeth and talons whetted for slaughter, hooks and suckers moulded for torment—everywhere a reign of terror, hunger, and sickness, with oozing blood and quivering limb, with gasping breath and eyes of innocence that dimly close in deaths of brutal torture!

 

Darwin is aware of the tragic ambivalence of life and death, that for use thousand years “pigeons have been watched and tended with the utmost care, and loved by many people,” and for just as long have been as considerately raised and tended for the pot. In the Journal of Researches, Darwin was moved to horror and revulsion by the fact that the natives of Tierra del Fuego, in times of hunger, kill and eat the old women of the tribe sooner than their dogs[12], because “Doggies catch otters, old women no.” By the time of the Origin, this is accepted with calm objectivity:

We see the value set on animals even by the barbarians of Tierra del Fuego, by their killing and devouring their old women, in times of dearth, as of less value than their dogs.

 

II

 

When the Origin appeared, it was reviewed in the American Journal of Science and Arts by Asa Gray, perhaps the shrewdest (as Huxley was the most brilliant) of the Darwinians. Gray noted that Darwin’s frankness about objections and unsolved problems gave the book the character of a mythic quest. He writes: “The interest for the general reader heightens as the author advances on his perilous way and grapples manfully with the most formidable difficulties.” In the Origin, Darwin tends to make the imperilled knight not himself but his theory: a difficulty would be “fatal to the whole theory,” an argument is “a fatal objection,” “Such objections as the above would be fatal to my views,” and so on endlessly. But Darwin’s imagery in correspondence makes it clear that the life at stake is Darwin’s own. Sending an advance copy of the book to Hugh Falconer in 1859, he wrote: “Lord, how savage you will be if you read it, and how you will long to crucify me alive!” He wrote to H. G. Bronn in 186o: “The objections and difficulties which may be urged against my view are indeed heavy enough almost to break my back, but it is not yet broken!” When Lyell refused to come out in support of the theory publicly, Darwin wrote to him: “You cut my throat, and your own throat; and I believe will live to be sorry for it.” In later years Darwin’s correspondence is full of “It is clear to me that I ought to be exterminated,” “I know well that I deserve many a good slap on the face,” “If I am wrong, the sooner I am knocked on the head and annihilated so much the better.” He seems to have seen himself as the scapegoat, the sacrificial victim, sometimes the Judaeo-Christian blameless victim without blemish, but sometimes the guilty pagan slayer who must himself be slain. When the theory of evolution first took publishable form, in 1844, Darwin wrote to Hooker “I am almost convinced (quite contrary to the opinion that I started with) that species are not (it is like confessing a murder) immutable.”

 

If Darwin’s tragic vision embraced bloodshed and murder, it also embraced beauty and joy. The Origin is as full of the word “beauty” as the Journal of Researches, but now it is a utilitarian beauty. Sometimes it is a “beautiful adaptation” to function, like that of the woodpecker, the mistletoe, or the giraffe; sometimes it has a visual loveliness too, as in “the beautifully plumed seed of the dandelion”; sometimes it is an abstraction, like the power engaged “in slowly and beautifully adapting each form to the most complex relations of   life”; sometimes it is pure exultant generalization, “there is so much beauty throughout nature.” The last sentence of the book, beginning “There is grandeur in this view of life,” concludes “from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.” The “wonderful” means, of course, “wonderfully adapted to survive.” In 1863, Darwin wrote to Huxley: “With a book, as with a fine day, one likes it to end with a glorious sunset.”

The Origin, although it resolutely postpones consideration of human origins for a later work, is oddly anthropocentric. One reason is that Darwin constantly humanizes animals in what used to be called the “pathetic fallacy”: male alligators have courtship rites “like Indians in a war dance”; frightened ants “took heart” and a single ant stood “an image of despair over its ravaged home”; in the consolatory statement quoted above, the surviving animals are not only vigorous and healthy, but “happy.” Man is always on Darwin’s mind as he talks of the lower orders. The criteria for an “advance in organization” among the vertebrate are “the degree of intellect and an approach in structure to mats.” When the Origin announces the descent of man, he is not named, simply lumped in: “According to this view it may be inferred that all vertebrate animals with true lungs are descended by ordinary generation from an ancient and unknown prototype, which was furnished with a floating apparatus or swimbladder.” Later in the Origin Darwin concludes in more detail that the higher vertebrates “are the modified descendants of some ancient progenitor, which was furnished in its adult state with branchiae, a swim-bladder, four fin-like limbs, and a long tail, all fitted for an aquatic life.” (More explicitly, Darwin wrote to Lyell in 186o: “Our ancestor was an animal which breathed water, had a swim bladder, a great swimming tail, an imperfect skull, and undoubtedly was an hermaphrodite! Here is a pleasant genealogy for mankind.”).

 

III

 

The chief thematic metaphor in The Origin of Species, constituting the book’s principal imaginative design, is a visual figure that develops in richness and complexity as it goes through a series of metamorphoses. It begins as the ladderlike polity of life, a form of the medieval Great Chain of Being (so exhaustively studied by A. 0. Lovejoy in his book of that title). Early in the book, Darwin writes of “places in the polity” of nature, “places which are either unoccupied or not perfectly occupied by other beings,” “a place in the natural polity of the country,” “new places in the polity of nature.” Eventually this progresses from simple to complex, and becomes a vision of “one long and branching chain of life,” of which we know from the past only a few links (the nonsense of the “Missing Link” apeman seems to be based on this passage). As the book goes on, the figure modifies from the chain, either simple or complex, to that of a living tree, in a remarkable extended metaphor (earlier used in a letter to Gray that was one of the documents presented to the Linnean Society):

 

The affinities of all the beings of the some class have some-times been represented by a great tree. I believe this simile largely speaks the truth. The green and budding twigs may represent existing species; and those produced during former years may represent the long succession of extinct species. At each period of growth all the growing twigs have tried to branch out on all sides, and to overtop and kill the surrounding twigs and branch., in the some manner as species and groups of species have at all times overmastered other species in the great battle for life. The limbs divided into great branch, and these into lesser and lesser branches, were themselves once, when the tree was young, budding twigs, and this connection of the former and present buds by ramifying branches may well represent the classification of all extinct and living species in groups subordinate to groups. Of the many twigs which flourished when the tree was a mere bush, only two or three, now grown into great branches, yet survive and bear the other branches; so with the species which lived during long-past geological periods, very few have left living and modified descendants. From the first growth of the tree, many a limb and branch has decayed and dropped off; and these fallen branches of various sizes may represent those whole orders, families, and genera which have now no living representatives, and which are known to as only in a fossil state. As we here and there see a thin straggling branch springing from a fork low down in a tree, and which by some chance has been favoured and is still alive on its summit, so we occasionally see an animal like the Ornithorhynchus or Lepidosiren, which in some small degree connects by its affinities two large branches of life, and which has apparently been saved from fatal competition by having inhabited a protected station. As buds give rise by growth to fresh buds, and these, if vigorous, branch out and overtop on all sides many a feebler branch, so by generation I believe it has been with the great Tree of Life, which fills with its dead and broken brandies the crust of the earth, and covers the surface with its ever-branching and beautiful ramifications.

 

Darwin continues to use the tree figure, later referring to the variety of species as “like the branching of a great tree from a single stem.” Even this image, however, ultimately will not contain the infinite richness of ecological relationships in nature, which he describes as progressing “onwards in ever-increasing circles of complexity.” The book’s final paragraph achieves the ultimate transformation. It begins:

It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us.

 

With the image of the tangled bank, so reminiscent of Shakespearean lyric, Darwin embraces all the rich complexity of life. The image of the great Chain of Life is ordered, hierarchic, and static, essentially medieval; the great Tree of Life is ordered, hierarchic, but dynamic and competitive, a Renaissance vision; but the great Tangled Bank of Life is disordered, democratic, and subtly interdependent as well as competitive, essentially a modern vision.

 

The minor metaphors in the work fall into place within this great organizing metaphor. “Struggle for existence” and “survival of the fittest,” noted above, are other ways of looking at the tangled bank. The metaphors are epiphanies or showings forth; for the most part they image process in dramatic action, provide scenes “in an ever slowly changing drama”: “as with mariners shipwrecked near a coast”; “to feel no surprise at sickness, but, when the sick man dies, to wonder and to suspect that he died by some deed of violence”; “when we no longer look at an organic being as a savage looks at a ship.” A constant metaphor is language itself: “a breed, like a dialect of a language”; “It may be worthwhile to illustrate this view of classification, by taking the case of languages”; “Rudimentary organs may be compared with the letters in a word”; and so on. J. Arthur Thomson, in Dar-win and Modern Science, praises Darwin’s “clear visions” and they are all metaphors: “visions of the web of life, of the fountain of change within the organism, of the struggle for existence and of its winnowing, and of the spreading genealogical tree.” Darwin says of morphology, defined in the Origin’s Glossary as “The law of form or structure independent of function”: “This is one of the most interesting departments of natural history, and may almost be said to be its very soul.” Similarly, Aristotle says in the Poetics (in By-water’s translation): “But the greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor. It is the one thing that cannot be learnt from others; and it is also a sign of genius, since a good metaphor implies an intuitive perception of the similarity in dissimilars.” By this criterion Darwin displayed genius as morphologist and metaphorist alike.

 

Perhaps the most surprising thing in The Origin of Species, to those who think of Darwin as the type of the prosaic scientist, is that it repeatedly calls not for an act of understanding but for an act of the imagination. Darwin writes: “It is good thus to try in imagination,” “How strange are these facts!” “no one with the most vivid imagination would ever have thought,” “no one can have marvelled more than I have done,” “the fact is a marvelous one,” “But these cases are so wonderful,” “Glancing et instincts, marvellous as some are,” “We see the full meaning of the wonderful fact,” and so on. The call is not only for imagination, marvel, wonder, but for the sort of immersion in nature that led Emerson to say “Books are for the scholars’s idle hours.” Darwin writes:

It is hardly possible for me to recall to the reader who is not a practical geologist, the facts leading the mind to comprehend the lapse of time…. Not that it suffices to study the Principles of Geology, or to read special treatises by different observers on separate formations, and to mark how each author at-tempts to give an inadequate idea of the duration of each formation, or even of each stratum. We can best gain some idea of past time by knowing the agencies at work, and learning how deeply the surface of the land has been denuded, and how much sediment has been deposited…. Therefore a man should examine for himself the great piles of superimposed strata, and watch the rivulets bringing down mud, and the waves wearing away the sea-cliffs, in order to comprehend something about the duration of past time, the monuments of which we see all around us. It is good to wander along the coast, when formed of moderately hard rocks, and mark the process of degradation.

 

Perhaps not to far as it might seem from Proust’s comparable venture in comprehending the duration of past time.



[1] The article entitled Darwin the dramatist, was written by Stanley Edgar Hyman and published in The Centennial Review of Arts & Science in 1959. The annotations contain my commentaries to it. Information about the author is taken from Wikipedia (Newspeak dictionary).

[2] Stanley Edgar Hyman (1919–1970) was a literary critic who wrote primarily about critical methods: the distinct strategies critics use in approaching literary texts.  He was influential for the development of literary theory in the 1940s and 1950s. Equally skeptical of every major critical methodology of his time, he worked out an early instance of a critical theory, exploring ways that critics can be foiled by their own methods. “Each critic,” Hyman wrote in The Armed Vision, “tends to have a master metaphor or series of metaphors in terms of which he sees the critical function. This metaphor then shapes, informs, and sometimes limits his work.” Hyman saw it as his own critical task to point out these overriding themes by which, tacitly, other critics organized their work and their thinking.

Hyman was born in Brooklyn, New York and graduated from Syracuse University in 1940. He was a staff writer for The New Yorker for much of his life, and although he did not possess a graduate degree, taught at Bennington College in Bennington, Vermont. From 1961 to 1965, Hyman was the literary critic of The New Leader.

[3] A rather curious sentence: most of the thinking world was convinced of the evolution of species. It shows:  1) how little evidence is required to convince so many people, 2) How scarcely thinking is the thinking world. Perhaps the non-thinking world may be clever.

[4] Confusion between scientific argument and rhetorical organization. These are here shown as equivalent, but indeed these are quite different things. OSMNS is very weak in the first, but strong in the second.

[5] Please see footnote number 11.

[6] In a strict sense there is not a scientific theory that may be attributed to Darwin.

[7] Establish an idea? Is this a scientific objective?

[8] What are those Darwin’s processes?

[9] Is it possible to confuse processes with hypotheses?

[10] First, Darwin confused selection with breeding (a methonimy). To escape this mistake he uses the expression natural selection (an oxymoron). To escape this he defines it as survival of the fittest (pleonasm). Then he starts constructing several prosopopeyas, attributing actions to these constructions. The rhetorical analysis of chapter IV of OSMNS shows an accumulation of mistakes. Tautology is only a small part of it. Please see the book Está usted de broma Mr Darin? La retórica en el corazón del darwinismo for an explanation (English version in progress).

[11] He may have had the help of others, such as for example Thomas Henry Huxley. Adrian Desmond, the biographer of both, Darwin and Huxley, points to a paragraph in OSMNS as being a product of Huxley. There are very probably some more paragraphs in OSMNS due to Huxley.

[12] This has been repeated in many instances but never confirmed by any anthropology study or even the simplest evidence.

 

Etiquetas:

Naturalistas en Debate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La obra articula diferentes debates científicos en torno a la labor de los principales naturalistas de los siglos XIX y XX: Lamarck, Darwin, Casimiro Gómez Ortega, Antonio José Cavanilles, el padre Vicente Solano, Mariano de la Paz Graells, Casiano de Prado, Víctor López Seoane, José Arévalo Baca, Ramón y Cajal, y Eduardo Hernández-Pacheco.

La Ciencia no se basa en la autoridad, sino en la razón; y, sin embargo muchos científicos a lo largo de la Historia han sido criticados, denostados, perseguidos,… en una palabra proscritos.

La situación del proscrito es el resultado de un debate anterior en el que intervienen elementos de distintos campos. Muchos investigadores se han visto involucrados en debates, disputas y polémicas en los que, los argumentos de la razón venían a mezclarse con la autoridad, ésta a interferir con aquellos. Incluso en el caso tan peculiar de los debates internos, es decir, disputas entre distintas opciones dentro de la mente de un mismo investigador, con frecuencia la autoridad se impone a la razón. A lo largo de la Historia, los debates han tenido distintos protagonistas y han versado sobre temáticas diferentes, pero en todos ellos y a pesar del transcurso del tiempo, podemos apreciar ciertas constantes. La autoridad ha ejercido a menudo su poder que, con cierta frecuencia, es incompatible con la más elemental lógica, con la más pura razón.

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¿Está Usted de Broma Mr. Darwin?: La retórica en el corazón del darwinismo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Es un placer anunciar la publicación en Amazon del libro:

¿Está Usted de Broma Mr. Darwin?: La retórica en el corazón del darwinismo

Del que somos autores:

de Emilio Cervantes (Autor), Guillermo Pérez Galicia (Autor)

Ver el libro en Amazon.com

 

Descargar el PDF gratis en la web del editor

 

 

Lectura aconsejada:

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El estructuralismo en Biología: Curiosos motivos para rechazar el comentario de un libro

Hace un año escribí el comentario del libro “El laboratorio de Foucault (Descifrar y ordenar)” de Mauricio Jalón (Editorial Anthropos, número 46. CSIC, Madrid 1994) enviándolo para su publicación  a Llull, Revista de la Sociedad Española de Historia de las Ciencias y de las Técnicas, en donde fue rechazado y después a Asclepio, Revista de Historia de la Medicina y de la Ciencia, en donde fue asimismo, rechazado.

Uno de los motivos aducidos por estas revistas para rechazar el comentario,  era que se refería a un libro ya antiguo (el libro es de 1994) y que, por lo general, en dichas revistas se publican comentarios de libros recientes, como si la historia de la ciencia fuese el ouroboros, la serpiente autofágica que va desapareciendo a medida que genera nuevos contenidos . Pero además, entre los comentarios recibidos se encontraban los siguientes párrafos:

 

En realidad, el libro indicado es utilizado como pretexto para abordar el tema central de la Nota, la defensa por el autor de la aplicación del estructuralismo a la Biología (en contra del positivismo y del evolucionismo).

En ese punto focaliza como una de las raíces del Estructuralismo a las aportaciones de Cuvier en el ámbito de la Historia Natural. Concretamente, en apoyo de sus tesis describe, con una muy extensa cita, el principio de las correlaciones orgánicas de Cuvier. Este principio, como otros que defendía el naturalista, parte de un a priori metafísico,  la adaptación perfecta y la armonía de órganos y funciones del ser vivo, de lo que deriva sus conclusiones.

Efectivamente, tiene razón el anónimo evaluador. Confieso haber usado el libro como pretexto para defender la aplicación del estructuralismo a la Biología (en contra del positivismo y del evolucionismo). Considero esto una gran necesidad en el momento presente.  El evolucionismo, y más concretamente el darwinismo, se ha encumbrado a sí mismo como única opción en Biología y esto ha ocasionado un daño de grandes proporciones en esta disciplina. Prueba de ello es el maltrato sistemático a toda opinión o escuela que el darwinismo haya considerado ajena a sus principios.  En particular, es notorio el maltrato a Lamarck, reiteradamente discutido y comprobado en este blog y surge ahora a la vista el maltrato a Cuvier, que aquí se pone de manifiesto y cuyo análisis dará mucho que hablar.

Sigue acertando el  anónimo evaluador cuando dice:

En ese punto focaliza como una de las raíces del Estructuralismo a las aportaciones de Cuvier en el ámbito de la Historia Natural.

Y es que basta con leer algunos párrafos de Cuvier para reconocer en ellos el estructuralismo más puro y original. Es precisamente por eso que utilicé en mi comentario la muy extensa cita, mencionando el principio de las correlaciones orgánicas de Cuvier, que parece haber molestado al evaluador.

Pero si hasta aquí estoy de acuerdo con lo que dice el evaluador anónimo, en lo que sigue sólo veo un gran disparate:

Este principio, como otros que defendía el naturalista, parte de un a priori metafísico,  la adaptación perfecta y la armonía de órganos y funciones del ser vivo, de lo que deriva sus conclusiones.

A nadie le puede parecer razonable que el principio de las correlaciones de Cuvier parta de un a priori metafísico. Esto es un disparate porque  el principio de las correlaciones de Cuvier parte de la más elemental observación de la naturaleza. Pero el darwinismo, la creencia en la entidad inventada que es la selección natural, ha generado una enorme confusión en la ciencia. Las más elementales observaciones se confunden con metafísica. Del mismo modo, el año pasado el (también anónimo) evaluador del libro “Manual para detectar la impostura Científica: Examen del libro de Darrwin por Flurens” me indicaba:

Edición crítica ideologizada y anecdótica, falta de rigor filosófico, la crítica debería contextualizarse históricamente, carente de bibliografía. 

¿Falta de rigor filosófico?

El darwinismo ha conseguido sembrar la confusión hasta extremos insospechados……

 

El final de los comentarios del evaluador anónimo que rechazó el comentario del libro “El laboratorio de Foucault (Descifrar y ordenar)” de Mauricio Jalón (Editorial Anthropos, número 46. CSIC, Madrid 1994) se encuentra al final de dicho comentario que acabo de publicar en Digital CSIC.

 

Referencias

La biblioteca como laboratorio. Comentario del libro “El laboratorio de Foucault (Descifrar y ordenar)” de Mauricio Jalón. Editorial Anthropos , número 46. CSIC, Madrid 1994.

Manual para detectar la impostura científica: Examen del libro de Darwin por Flourens. Digital CSIC, 2013. 225 páginas.

Etiquetas:

Charles Darwin en El Club de los Suicidas, de Stevenson

 

 

Nos encontramos inmersos en  el primer capítulo. El príncipe Florizel de Bohemia y el coronel Geraldine se encuentran en el Club de los suicidas. Cada uno de los personajes explica sus motivaciones para encontrarse en el mismo:

 

¡A la eterna memoria del baron Trenck, ejemplo de suicidas! -gritó uno-. Pasó de una celda pequeña a otra más pequeña, para poder alcanzar al fin la libertad.

-Por mi parte -dijo un segundo-, sólo deseo una venda para los ojos y algodón para los oídos. Sólo que no hay algodón lo bastante grueso en este mundo.

Un tercero quería averiguar los misterios de la vida futura y un cuarto aseguraba que nunca se hubiera unido al club si no le hubieran inducido a creer en Darwin.

No puedo tolerar la idea de descender de un mono -afirmaba aquel curioso suicida.

Sí. Hemos leído bien. A un miembro del club le habían inducido a creer en Darwin. No es que él se hubiese convencido naturalmente o como fruto de sus propias lecturas independientes. Al parecer había sido el resultado de un lavado de cerebro: Lo indujeron. Seguro que no fue el único. Algo habría oído Stevenson para ponerlo tan claro…………

 

 

Lectura aconsejada:

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Antidarwinismo: La tercera vía

 

En su novela titulada Morpho Eugenia, incluida en el volumen “Ángeles e Insectos”, Antonia S. Byatt describe a una familia de clase alta en la sociedad victoriana. William Adamson es un entomólogo aventurero que ha regresado a Inglaterra después de un naufragio y se dispone a ordenar la colección de objetos de Historia Natural de sir Harold Alabaster, a quien ha vendido algunos ejemplares.

En las conversaciones entre los protagonistas aparecen a menudo citados Darwin y Wallace,  de modo que, durante la lectura la sensación es contradictoria.   Por un lado,  el lector se ve sumergido en la época.  Así ocurre cuando se describe el incendio del barco que transportaba al aventurero Wallace en 1852.  No obstante,  en otras ocasiones da la impresión de que la autora no ha sabido situarse en el contexto  histórico y, ahorrando esfuerzo,  ha transportado a la época victoriana ideas y situaciones actuales. Así por ejemplo cuando,  en mención tomada por los pelos,  habla de Darwin como si fuese una celebridad:

Un amigo de Charles Darwin le había contado una vez que casi ninguna mujer estaba preparada para cuestionarse las verdades de la religión.

En una conversación entre los protagonistas aparece un interesante razonamiento incompleto que hoy vamos a completar. El protagonista, William Adamson, ha dejado unas páginas que él mismo ha escrito a la señora Matty Crompton, la institutriz,  para que las lea y las comente. Dice la señora Crompton refiriéndose a unos hipotéticos seres de generaciones futuras:

 

-       Muchos, la mayoría,  no tendrían su humildad y su prudencia espiritual.

 

 

Y el señor Adamson le contesta:

 

-         ¿Eso cree? Los que no aceptan los descubrimientos del señor Darwin se dividen en los que están muy enfadados y completamente seguros de que tienen razón (los que dan patadas a piedras imaginarias, como el doctor Johnson cuando refuta a Berkeley), y aquellos como sir Harald, cuya búsqueda de garantías, de confirmaciones de su fe está cargada de problemas, de angustia en realidad.

 

Curioso párrafo que se antoja más propio de una mentalidad bien anclada en el  presente que de la  época que la novela pretende describir y que, como indicaba, vamos a corregir hoy.

 

Entre aquellos que no aceptamos  los descubrimientos del señor Darwin,  tanto hoy como hace ciento cincuenta años, podemos establecer además de los indicados por Adamson (Byatt) un tercer grupo.  La tercera vía está formada por quienes no estamos ni enfadados o seguros de tener razón , ni tampoco particularmente angustiados buscando garantías de nada.  Simplemente ocurre que no nos gusta que nos tomen el pelo y no vemos descubrimiento alguno en la obra de Darwin, sino más bien mixtificación científica. Es decir, juegos de palabras.

 

Esta tercera vía, que  la señora Byatt  ignora, pudo haber sido precisamente la principal en la época que ella pretendía describir en su novela. Ahora bien, de haberla tenido en cuenta, su novela habría tenido mucho menos éxito, puesto que tal realidad no es del gusto de las editoriales. Podemos decir casi con seguridad que su ignorancia ha salvado a la novela del olvido, sumiéndola en la vulgaridad.

 

Referencia

 

AS Byatt. Ángeles e Insectos. Anagrama Barcelona. 1992.

 

 

Etiquetas:

Los ingleses y la moral

 

Ya hemos ido viendo acá y  allá ciertas peculiaridades del temperamento inglés según las descubren algunos de sus más destacados literatos.  Veíamos cómo David Herbert Lawrence, en su obra Mujeres Enamoradas, indicaba que en Inglaterra nunca se bajaba el pistónHenry James nos hacía ver que a los ingleses no les gustan las situaciones netas, observación que resultaba de gran interés en el ámbito de la Biología EvolutivaOrwell nos recordaba su mundialmente famosa hipocresía, su sonambulismo y su incapacidad para la filosofía.

Abundando en el tema de la idiosincrasia del carácter inglés,  volvemos hoy a disfrutar con la lectura de un fragmento de Henry James, en donde de nuevo viene a dar en el clavo al mencionar un aspecto de gran importancia y que tanto tiene que ver con las versiones al uso de la Evolución. Tan importante cuestión  es ni más ni menos que la moral. En la lucha por la supervivencia propuesta por el darwinismo como motor de la evolución,  la moral se esfuma. Ya vimos como en el párrafo de Francis Bacon elegido para la presentación de El Origen de las Especies  había ocurrido una amputación en este sentido, eliminando el contenido moral de una sentencia que originalmente era una sentencia moral.  En su obra “La Copa Dorada”,  Henry James relaciona la moral de los ingleses con aquello  que puede ser su base y sustento:  las tazas de té. La relación es sencilla y directa:  A más té, más moral:

 

On this, for a little, they sat face to face; after which, without comment, she asked him if he would have more tea. All she would give him, he promptly signified; and he developed, making her laugh, his idea that the tea of the English race was somehow their morality, “made,” with boiling water, in a little pot, so that the more of it one drank the more moral one would become.

 

En esto, un poco, se sentaron frente a frente, tras lo cual, sin comentarios, ella le preguntó si iba a tomar más té. Todo lo que le daría, dió a entender; y desarrolló, haciéndole reir,  su idea de que el té de la raza inglesa, de alguna manera era su moral, “hecha”, con agua hirviendo, en una olla pequeña, de modo que cuanto más se bebía, en más moral uno se convertiría.

 

Aquí hay un debate de  esta entrada.

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La incapacidad de los ingleses para la filosofía

 

George Orwell,  cuya capacidad profética ha desbordado toda expectativa, no habría apostado un penique  por la capacidad de sus compatriotas en filosofía.  En su obra El León y el Unicornio, dice:

He aquí un par de generalizaciones acerca de Inglaterra, que serían aceptadas por casi todos los observadores. Una es que los ingleses no están dotados artísticamente. Ni son tan musicales como los alemanes o los italianos, ni la pintura y la escultura han florecido nunca en Inglaterra como lo han hecho en Francia. Otra es que, comparados con los europeos, los ingleses no son intelectuales. Tienen horror al pensamiento abstracto, y no sienten necesidad de filosofía alguna o de ninguna “visión del mundo” sistemática.  Y esto no es debido a que sean “prácticos”, como tan orgullosamente proclaman de sí mismos. No hay más que mirar a sus métodos de planificación urbana y abastecimiento de agua, su apego obstinado a todo lo que está pasado de moda y constituye una molestia, un sistema de pronunciación que desafía el análisis, y un sistema de pesos y medidas que es inteligible sólo para los compiladores de los libros de aritmética, para darse cuenta de lo poco que les importa la mera eficiencia. Pero tienen un cierto poder de actuar sin reflexión previa. Su mundialmente famosa hipocresía – su actitud de doble cara hacia el Imperio, por ejemplo – está ligada a esto. Además, en los momentos de crisis suprema la nación entera de repente puede actuar al unísono poniendo en práctica una especie de instinto, en realidad un código de conducta que es entendido por casi todo el mundo, aunque nunca formulado. La frase que acuñó Hitler para los alemanes, “un pueblo sonámbulo”, habría sido mejor aplicada al inglés. No es que haya algo de qué enorgullecerse en ser llamado un sonámbulo.

 

Here are a couple of generalizations about England that would be accepted by almost all observers. One is that the English are not gifted artistically. They are not as musical as the Germans or Italians, painting and sculpture have never flourished in England as they have in France. Another is that, as Europeans go, the English are not intellectual. They have a horror of abstract thought, they feel no need for any philosophy or systematic ‘world-view’. Nor is this because they are ‘practical’, as they are so fond of claiming for themselves. One has only to look at their methods of town planning and water supply, their obstinate clinging to everything that is out of date and a nuisance, a spelling system that defies analysis, and a system of weights and measures that is intelligible only to the compilers of arithmetic books, to see how little they care about mere efficiency. But they have a certain power of acting without taking thought. Their world-famed hypocrisy – their double-faced attitude towards the Empire, for instance – is bound up with this. Also, in moments of supreme crisis the whole nation can suddenly draw together and act upon a species of instinct, really a code of conduct which is understood by almost everyone, though never formulated. The phrase that Hitler coined for the Germans, ‘a sleep-walking people’, would have been better applied to the English. Not that there is anything to be proud of in being called a sleep-walker.

 

 

 

Orwell anda, como de costumbre,  acertado.   Y si no, para muestra un botón, veamos algunos desatinos de uno de los considerados “grandes de la filosofía inglesa”, Bertrand Russell. En su libro “Sobre el Poder” dice:

 

Varios deseos han dominado la labor de los filósofos. Está el deseo de conocer, y, lo que no es de modo alguno la misma cosa, el deseo de demostrar que el mundo es conocible. Están el deseo de la felicidad, el deseo de la virtud y-síntesis de ambos-el deseo de la salvación. Está el deseo del sentimiento de unión con Dios o con los demás seres humanos. Está el deseo de la belleza, el deseo del goce y, finalmente, el deseo del poder…………

 

Las grandes religiones aspiran a la virtud, pero generalmente también a algo más. El cristianismo y el budismo buscan la salvación y, en sus formas mas místicas, la unión con dios o con el Universo. Las filosofías empíricas buscan la verdad mientras que los filósofos idealistas, desde Descartes hasta Kant, buscan la certidumbre. Prácticamente todos los grandes filósofos, hasta Kant inclusive, se relacionan principalmente con los deseos correspondientes a la parte cognoscitiva de la naturaleza humana. La filosofía de Bentham y de la escuela manchesteriana consideran el placer como fin, y la riqueza como el medio principal. Las filosofías del poder de los tiempos modernos han surgido en gran parte como una reacción contra el “manchesterismo”, y como una protesta contra la opinión de que el objeto de la vida es una serie de placeres, finalidad que condenan como fragmentaria y como insuficientemente activa.

…………………

Y más adelante una frase que viene a concretar todo esto:

 

Las ilusiones altamente similares, si son expresadas por hombres cultos en un lenguaje oscuro llevan al profesorado de la filosofía.

 

Hay otros disparates, pero por hoy sirvan éstos como ejemplo. Lo dicho, tenía mucha razón Orwell.

 

Imagen de previsualización de YouTube

 

 

Referencias

Orwell G.  Essays. The lion and the Unicorn.

Bertrand Russell.  El poder. Un análisis social. RBA

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Apacibles generaciones

Al igual que en la época de Plinio y Columela hoy florece el jacinto en la Galia, la vinca en Iliria, la margarita sobre las ruinas de Numancia y mientras a su alrededor las ciudades han cambiado de dueños y de nombres, entrando algunas en la nada, mientras que las civilizaciones han sufrido choques, conmociones y rupturas,  apacibles  sus  generaciones han cruzado los siglos llegando a nosotros, frescas y sonrientes como en los tiempos de las batallas

Aujourd’hui comme au temps de Pline et de Columelle la jacinthe se plaît dans les Gaules, la pervenche en Illyrie, la marguerite sur les ruines de Numance et pendant qu’autour d’elles les villes on changé de maîtres, et de noms, que plusieurs sont entrées dans le néant, que les civilisations se sont choquées et brisées, leurs paisibles générations ont traversé les âges et sont arrivées jusqu’a nous, frâiches et riantes comme aux tours de batailles

Edgar Quinet. Citado en Richard Ellman. Joyce 2 p 316. Tel Gallimard 1987.

Imágenes:

Jacinto de linternaute,   Vinca de Visoflora,  margarita de IES Dolmen de Soto

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