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Re: organic conversations

--- "Mickey Rowe;893-2446" <mrowe@lifesci.ucsb.edu>

> When a conversation drifts far afield from dinosaurs
> and keeps
> generating messages I usually just shut it down by
> declaring it
> verboten.  


Far afield indeed. This whole mess started from a
tangent, that was in itself, a tangent of another
thing. None of which really had anything to do with
the original subject. 


I'm going to take a different tack with
> the "organism"
> thread.  First I'd like to point out that (in my
> reading anyways)
> nobody is arguing about concepts; you're only
> arguing about word
> useage.  Personally I think that sort of argument
> doesn't merit a lot
> of attention (it's different from David's objection
> to Tim's useage of
> "homology" because -- as many people tried to point
> out 20 years ago
> -- molecular biologists did the world a disservice
> by clouding the
> concepts that the word "homology" was coined to
> describe...)  Given
> that the converation about "organism" really is just
> about word
> useage, I'd like to shut down that thread by
> providing you with a
> definitive source.  If you'd really like to know
> whether it makes
> sense in terms of historical useage to apply the
> word "organism" to
> single-celled... er... organisms, you should write
> to Tobias Cheung
> (tobias.cheung@staff.hu-berlin.de).  He is the
> author of:
> Cheung, T. (2006).  "From the organism of a body to
> the body 
>      of an organism: occurrence and meaning of the
> word 'organism'
>      from the seventeenth to the nineteenth
> centuries", _British
>      Journal for the History of Science_,
> 39(3):319-339.


Well the meaning couldn't have been that clear cut, if
it warranted a paper. I'm glad someone bothered to
actually address it. I look forward to reading it.

> He doesn't address the specific point there; there
> are all sorts of
> other variations in the useage of the word during
> the time period in
> question, and he doesn't get into microbiology at
> all except with
> reference to development.  However, I think Jason is
> wrong in thinking
> that "organism" derives from the word "organ"
> because with a couple of
> rare exceptions (e.g., the definition provided in
> the 1878 edition of
> the _Dictionnaire de l'Academie francaise_) origins
> and definitions of
> the word are tied to "organization" rather than
> "organ".  This is from


No, no, no. Nowhere in my arguments did I suggest that
I thought organism meant: "having organs." I'm fully
aware that the term organism is derived from organize
(coined way back in the 1600's). I stated a few times
that the [multicellular] term was based on a
hierarchical organization of life. An organization
that is still very prevalent in the literature. My
argument has always been about organization, not the
presence of organs (whether an organism necessitated
the existence of organs was another matter entirely). 


> Cheung's abstract:
>    At the end of the eighteenth century the term
> became a generic name
>    for individual living entities.  From around 1830
> the word
>    'organism' replaced the expressions 'organic' or
> 'organized body'
>    as a recurrent technical term in the emerging
> biological
>    disciplines.
> *Individual living entities*.  Not 'a hierarchical
> level consisting of
> a collection of organs'.


I can live with that. I'm now more interested in the
pre-18th century meanings, but that statement is fine.
The only problem now lies in fixing the problem of
using organism as a level of hierarchical

Either have the name mean one thing, or have it mean
the other. Using the same name used for conflicting
definitions in the same field is just

My last thoughts on this matter on-list.


"I am impressed by the fact that we know less about many modern [reptile] types 
than we do of many fossil groups." - Alfred S. Romer

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