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Buffon (cnrs)

Buffon : une contribution importante vers le concept moderne de l’espèce.

Auteur : David N. Stamos, The Species problem. Biological species, ontology, and the metaphysics of biology, Oxford, Lexington Books, 2003. –  Extrait –

Buffon a proposé un concept de l’espèce qui repose sur le critère de la reproduction : le point le plus fixe que nous ayons en histoire naturelle. Stamos oppose cette conception à la conception dite « typologique » de l’espèce. « For the typologist, any reasonably distinguishable specimen may serve as a type specimen for a species. Thus membership in a species is determined by a somewhat arbitrary degree of overall similarity. […] The main advantage of Buffon’s concept was that it provided an objective criterion for the reality of species while at the same time adhering to a higher degree of parsimony. Instead of many species of dog there was only one, the entire species united by interbreeding relations. Buffon’s reproductive criterion marked an important turning point in the evolution of species concepts. Instead of admitting only monotypic species it now made allowance for polytypic species, the modern concept of species which includes subspecies divisions (including varieties and races). » (p. 49).

« In effect Buffon made an important contribution to what is today the dominant species concept, what Mayr has dubbed the biological species concept (a relational concept defined by internal mechanisms and reproductive isolations […]). But Buffon was not an evolutionist, so that we must agree with Mayr (1982) : ‘By introducing this entirely new criterion, Buffon had gone a long way toward the biological species concept. Yet, by considering species as constant and invariable, Buffon still adhered to the essentialistic species concept.’ » (p. 50)

La considérable influence de Buffon

Auteur : Ernst Mayr, The Growth of biological thought : diverstiy, evolution and inheritance, Cambridge (MA), The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1982. – Extrait –

« It is no exaggeration to claim that virtually all the well-known writers of the Enlightenment, and even later generations in France as well as in other countries were Buffonians, either directly or indirectly. » p. 330. « It makes no difference which of the authors in the second half of the eighteenth century one reads, their discussions are, in the last analysis, merely commentaries on Buffon’s work. Except for Aristotle and Darwin, there has been no other student of organisms who has had as far-reaching an influence. » p. 337. Cf. trad. Marcel Blanc, Histoire de la biologie. Diversité, évolution, et hérédité, Paris, Fayard, 1989.

Buffon, antidote à l’assèchement de la biologie

Auteur : Erik Nordenskjöld, Biologins Historia (1920-1924), tr. angl. Leonard Bucknall Byre, The History of biology. A Survey, Tudor Publishing Co., 1928. – Extrait –

Chapitre VIII. Buffon. « Buffon has played a fundamental part in the history of biology, not on account of the discoveries he made, but on account of the new ideas he produced. Those ideas that he brought out, which he was able only imperfectly to realize in detail, have since then been taken up by others, who, having better opportunities for obtaining actual scientific material, have applied them in a wider sense. » 228. (Cuvier, Bichat, ont adopté des idées de Buffon et les ont développées). Buffon fut souvent méprisé, en particulier hors de France, par les Linnéens, « who, for a long time, felt that they were the sole upholders of a truly exact natural science, looked compassionately down upon Buffon’s unsystematic descriptions and imaginative speculations. When, then, the dominion of Linnaeanism fell, the comparative and speculative lines of research which succeeded it already possessed entirely different material to build upon, and Buffon’s theories thereafter necessarily appeared vague and childish. His services, however, must in all fairness be duly acknowledged. » « In the purely theoretical sphere, he was the foremost biologist of the eighteenth century, the one who possessed the greatest wealth of ideas, of real benefit to subsequent ages and exerting an influence stretching far into the future. » 229.




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