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Maxime Sainte-Marie

The concept of evolution in the Origin of Species: a computer-assisted analysis

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DOI

  • Maxime B. Sainte-Marie
  • Jean-Guy Meunier, Univ Quebec Montreal, University of Quebec, University of Quebec Montreal, LANCI
  • ,
  • Nicolas Payette, Univ Quebec Montreal, University of Quebec, University of Quebec Montreal, LANCI
  • ,
  • Jean-Francois Chartier, Univ Quebec Montreal, University of Quebec, University of Quebec Montreal, LANCI

At the time Darwin first published the Origin of Species, the word 'evolution' was used by most biologists of the time to refer not only to specific development, as is the case today, but also to embryological development. Darwin's own stance in that matter is however open to debate, his rare use of the word making it hard to determine whether it is strictly specific or dual, and thus whether the author's conception of evolution is representative or ahead of its time. While this situation certainly stimulates philological, historical, and philosophical debates, it however complicates any attempt to settle the matter on a strict lexical basis, thus making standard text-mining techniques ineffective. To address this specific issue, a computer-assisted method for 'reading Darwin between the lines' is here attempted and described: by using an iterative concordance clustering algorithm, this approach aims at 'digging' into Darwin's concept of evolution as found in the sixth edition of the Origin of Species, regardless of any proper designation. In light of the results thus obtained, the concept of evolution in the sixth edition of the Origin of Species appears closer to its modern and strictly specific interpretation, inferences made to words related to embryological development being rather rare.

Original languageEnglish
JournalLiterary and linguistic computing
Volume26
Issue3
Pages (from-to)329-334
Number of pages6
ISSN0268-1145
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2011
Externally publishedYes

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