Every pitcher tells a story

C D Darlington (plant geneticist and historian of human society) said:

The twentieth century has been devoted to submerging impartially nature and civilisation, art and individuality, under the festering sores of economic growth.

Not bad for the man who ‘invented’ the chromosome – more accurately dicovered the mechanics of the chromosome. The University of Adelaide has digitised copies of the correspondence between Sir R.A. Fisher and C.D. Darlington (John Innes Horticultural Institution, University of Oxford Botany Department and Heredity office), from 1944 to 1956.

In terms of the ‘nature or nurture’ question, Darlington seemed clear. Nature. The environment – nurture – was largely irrelevant.

According to cycad.com:

In his history, Darlington is especially aware of the distinctive contributions of certain populations (races) to their societies, and of their genetic adaptation to economic and cultural activities peculiar to them. Thus, Cornish tin miners, who were probably from Anatolia originally, were successful miners all over the world; not because of a fortuitous culture, but because they were genetically adapted to mining – that is, to those traits which tend to make better miners. Similarly, the ancient Beaker culture was spread throughout Europe, not by imitation, but by the migration of the Beaker people themselves.

My ancestry includes Cornish blood. I’m wondering if I have a genetic predeliction towards tin mining.

Darlington identified three taboos surrounding the study of man:

The European taboo on the discussion of man as an animal lasted until it was eventually broken by Darwin and Huxley. But in our dynamic world its place on the forbidden list was already being taken by another taboo, that on the discussion of sexual behaviour and this lasted, as we can still remember, more than another fifty years. In due course in the 1930s there followed a third taboo which now dominates the study of human problems and is likely to continue until another generation rejects and ridicules its parents’ prejudices. This third line of defence against the understanding of man is the taboo on the study of hereditary differences. The one belief or emotion that unites the jarring nations today appears to be the need not to notice, and certainly not to discuss, the existence of differences between them in terms of their permanent underlying causes. Innate hereditary or genetic differences must not be admitted between individuals or groups, between classes or races, or even between the sexes. But above all what must not be discussed, what must be rejected, are differences in the foundations of human behaviour, the study of brains, of instincts, and of intelligence. These foundations are complex and happily concealed from the public view. They must remain concealed. In a world already overcrowded and over-troubled they might cause more trouble. [The Little Universe of Man, pp. 81-2] from cycad.com

Me? I just like Darlingtonia californica – few things nicer than prime speciman.

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