Posted: 05 Oct 2016 06:07 AM PDT
Following up on last year’s post about academic presentations and going into rooms and saying things, here’s a recording of some things I said in a room.
In order for it to thrive, the first geneticists made promises about their new science. The most significant of these, in terms of immediate public recognition and reward, was that their discipline would revolutionise plant breeding. Not only would new, better, improved varieties emerge, so they argued, but problems facing earlier breeders (and farmers) would be systematically eliminated. This paper focusses on the latter, and the many-sided problem of rogues. Rogues, known to Darwin and Darwinians as atavisms and more colloquially as throw-backs, were out-of-type plants. The appearance of such tall, short or otherwise deviant plants in farm fields pointed, on a Darwinian account, to the re-emergence of a wild ancestral form. Varieties of plants which ‘rogued’ were said to be unfixed. Opposed on principle to the notion of ancestral influence, the first geneticists recast the appearance of such plants as a mundane issue of contamination, not from within, but from outside. The appearance of rogues pointed on this account to seeds having been accidentally mixed, not to wild ancestral influence.