Evolution by the Numbers: The Origins of Mathematical Argument in Biology

SKU: 978-1-60235-216-2

James Wynn

Rhetoric of Science and Technology
Series Editor: Alan G. Gross

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978-1-60235-216-2 (paperback, $32, £22, $33 CAD, €26, $32 AUS); 978-1-60235-217-9 (hardcover, $65, £43, $67 CAD, €52, $65 AUS); 978-1-60235-218-6 (Adobe ebook on CD, $25; £17, $26 CAD, €21, $25 AUS). © 2012 by Parlor Press. 287 pages with illustration, appendices, notes, and bibliography.

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In Evolution by the Numbers: The Origins of Mathematical Argument in Biology, James Wynn examines the confluence of science, mathematics, and rhetoric in the development of theories of evolution and heredity in the nineteenth century. Evolution by the Numbers shows how mathematical warrants become accepted sources for argument in the biological sciences and explores the importance of rhetorical strategies in persuading biologists to accept mathematical arguments.

Evolution by the Numbers: The Origins of Mathematical Argument in Biology is an important addition to the growing corpus of work treating the historical and mathematical concerns behind the rhetoric of science. By tracing the genesis of the mathematical hegemony in biology through a rhetorical lens, Wynn has contributed to our understanding of how past debates in the scientific community have helped establish the dominant epistemology of contemporary society. More than that, it supplies an intriguing and little-known narrative starring some of the biggest names in biological naturalism, unveiling for the reader one of the many significant dramas of scientific history. Wynn has managed to activate the imagination of both the scholar and the interested layperson in an area of inquiry that is too often seen as remote, restrictive, and esoteric. —David J. Tietge, author of Rational Rhetoric: The Role of Science in Popular Discourse and Flash Effect: Science and the Rhetorical Origins of Cold War America

About the Author

James Wynn is Associate Professor of English at Carnegie Mellon University. He has published articles in Rhetorica, Written Communication, and 19th Century Prose. His recent interests have been in rhetoric, science, mathematics, and public policy with a focus on nuclear power. He is a founder and current director of the Pittsburgh Consortium for Rhetoric and Discourse Studies.


Foreword: Variation, Evolution, Heredity and Mathematics in the 21st Century

1 Introduction
2 A Proper Science: Mathematics, Experience, and Argument in Nineteenth Century Science
3 Evolution by the Numbers: Mathematical Arguments in The Origin of Species
4 Hidden Value: Mendel, Mathematics, and the Case for Uniform Particulate Inheritance
5 Probable Cause: Rhetorical Strategies and Francis Galton’s Arguments for a Mathematical Model of Inheritance
6 Behind the Curve: Karl Pearson and the Push for Theoretical Mathematical Biology
7 Weightless Elephants on Frictionless Surfaces: The Ethos of Biometry

Works Cited
About the Author

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